The replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer that graces the atrium of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library celebrates the accomplishments of the Wright Brothers, who first achieved controlled powered flight on December 17, 1903, above the sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Wright State University is named for Wilbur and Orville Wright, printers and bicycle makers from Dayton, Ohio, whose curiosity about flight led to the research and development that culminated in the building of the 1903 Flyer.
The Wright 1903 Flyer Replica is dedicated to Wilkinson "Wick" Wright, great nephew of the Wright Brothers and generous friend and supporter of the Wright State University Libraries. It is also a tribute to the volunteers who donated their skills and time to create the Flyer and encourage the spirit of invention in each of us.
The full-scale replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer suspended in the atrium of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library was conceived and built by a dedicated group of volunteer model makers, mechanics, engineers, woodworkers, and seamstresses under the leadership of Howard R. DuFour. It began as a dream some eighteen years ago when Howard DuFour became fascinated with the construction of the engine that powered the 1903 Wright Flyer. Assisted by WSU retirees Rubin Battino and Jim Arehart, Howard set out to discover just how Charles Taylor built the engine.
After years of research and oral history interviews, Howard, with Peter Unitt, published Charles E. Taylor: The Wright Brothers Mechanician in 1997. In addition to unlocking the secrets of the engine's construction, Howard dreamed of building a replica of the Wright Brothers original 1903 airplane and hanging it in the atrium of the library.
The building of the 1903 Wright Flyer replica began in the fall of 1999 when grant funding made Howard's dream possible. The National Composite Center at the Kettering Business Park donated space for the project. With the help of friends and volunteers, all of the necessary tools and equipment were obtained. The first piece of the plane was made on December 7, 1999, in honor of Pearl Harbor Day.
Howard and seventeen dedicated volunteers worked tirelessly for the next two years. After over 4,000 hours of volunteer time, this close-knit group completed the 1903 Wright Flyer replica on September 4, 2001. As the plane made its ascent in the library atrium, Howard DuFour's dream of a lasting monument to the two brothers who invented powered flight and for whom Wright State University is named, became a reality.
An exact, full-scale replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer was constructed over a two-year period and then installed in Wright State University's Paul Laurence Dunbar Library in September 2001. Now a book, A Dream Fulfilled, about the details involved, the engineering questions overcome, and the many volunteers and supporters behind the project is available. A print copy can be purchased for $7.50 plus tax by contacting Special Collections & Archives, or the book can be viewed online in CORE Scholar.
Full-color photographs by Dayton-area aviation photographer Dan Patterson are scattered among photos taken by the airplane's volunteers. Long-time Miami Valley resident, engineer, author, aviation enthusiast, and dreamer Howard DuFour spearheaded the project and spent over a decade bringing the idea to fruition. Construction began December 7, 1999, and a expert group of retired engineers, woodworkers, seamstresses, hobbyists, and more evolved into a streamlined team dedicated to perfecting every detail.
Since no original drawings existed for the plane, Mr. DuFour worked off of finished dimensions from the National Air and Space Museum which had measured its specifications from the actual 1903 Flyer displayed in its collection. This book describes how Mr. DuFour and his team matched the materials and methods as closely as possible, substituting only when absolutely necessary. For example, spruce used in the original plane is no longer easily available, so oak and bassword took its place. Many original items like flax cord and bicycle hubs from 1903 materialized from area basements and garages, seemingly saved just for this project.
To learn more about the exacting science behind creating the 1903 Wright Flyer replica, stop by the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library Circulation Desk. The $7.50 book makes a great gift for anyone interested in aviation, replica-building, and realizing long-held dreams. A print copy can be ordered by contacting Special Collections & Archives, or the book can be viewed online in CORE Scholar.
For additional information about the book, please contact Special Collections & Archives.