1903 Wright Flyer Replica Construction & Dedication

Howard DuFour directed the construction of the 1903 Wright Flyer Replica working from drawings made by the Smithsonian Institution of the original Wright Flyer housed in the National Air and Space Museum. Since the drawings were of the finished Flyer, there were no tolerances given for any dimensions of any part or assembly. Howard set the accuracy of construction or tolerances to within .010± of an inch.

The replica is constructed of basswood rather than the spruce used on the original. Spruce was unavailable in the lengths required. Muslin covers the wings and all metal parts were custom-made from drawings of the originals. The propellers were constructed and donated by Hartzell Propeller. The engine is a mock-up of the original, made by Howard's son, Larry DuFour.

The specifications of the 1903 Wright Flyer Replica match those of the original, with the exception of the overall weight of the machine. The replica weighs 550 lbs. due to the difference in the weight of the engine and its auxiliary parts.

side view drawing of the 1903 Wright Flyer
front view drawing of the 1903 Wright Flyer

Specifications of the 1903 Wright Flyer

Span (Length of Wings): 40 ft. 4 in.
Chord (Width): 6 ft. 6 in.
Gap (Vertical Distance Between Wings): Approximately 6 ft. 2 in.
Camber (Curvature of the Wing): Approximately 1/20
Wing Area: 510 sq. ft.
Horizontal Rudder Area: 48 sq. ft.
Vertical Rudder Area: 21 sq. ft.
Length of Fuselage: 21 ft. 1 in.
Weight of Original: 605 lbs.
Weight of Replica: 550 lbs.

Construction Photos

National Composite Center Worksite

National Composite Research Corporation, located on the former Defense Electronics Supply Center grounds, donated space for the construction of the 1903 Flyer replica.

Volunteers working on wing spars

The original 1903 Flyer was built of spruce, which is no longer available in the quantities needed. In its place, basswood was selected for its straight grain in order to resist warping.

Volunteer using sewing machine

Wing surfaces were covered in Pride of West muslin. The rolls of muslin were 43 inches wide with a thread count of 200 per square inch.

Volunteers coving wing with fabric

Each of the core volunteers brought a solid engineering, woodworking, or aeronautics background to the project. The group worked to maintain the measurement and angles from the original blueprints.

Volunteer working on propeller

The propellers, constructed and donated by Hartzell Propeller in Piqua, Ohio, were fashioned from pieces of poplar approximately 8 feet in length.

Volunteer hand sewing

Over 8,000 stitches were hand sewn by the volunteers. Howard DuFour, Project Director, remarked, "It's amazing how much those boys depended on the cloth to hold the plane together."

volunteers working on flyer

The accuracy of construction or tolerances are .010± of an inch. The specifications of the 1903 Flyer replica match those of the original, with the exception of the overall weight of the machine. The replica weighs 550 lbs. due to the difference in weight of the engine and its auxiliary parts.

replica engine

Charley Taylor, the Wrights' mechanician, built the engine for the original flyer. Using drawings for the original engine, a replica was made to the exact specifications except for the materials used. Fully assembled it weighs approximately 70 lbs., about half the weight of the original.

1903 Flyer replica

The 1903 Flyer Replica in the atrium of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library was dedicated on September 6, 2001, to the memory of Wilkinson "Wick" Wright, 1922-1999, great nephew of the Wright Brothers and generous friend and supporter of the Wright State University Libraries.

Dedication

Volunteers at dedication ceremony

It is also a tribute to the volunteers who donated their skills and nearly 4,500 hours of time to create the Flyer and encourage the spirit of invention in each of us.

University Librarian Victoria A. Montavon opened the dedication program featuring guest speakers Dr. Kim Goldenberg, 1903 Flyer volunteer Josephine Elliott Lucas, Flyer project chief Howard DuFour, and Marion Davis Wright. Volunteers honored at the dedication along with Howard DuFour were:

Jim Arehart
Rubin Battino
Jerry Beech
Dawne Dewey
Lawrence DuFour
Don Groves

Fred Hess
Virginia Hess
Bruce Hinkle
Hans Holtztrager
Constance King
Josephine Elliott Lucas

Jack Murphy
Jack Ohmart
Jay Phipps
Darrell Sevy
Gloria Sgro
Gary Stitzel

Peter Unitt
Don Yeager

Two plaques designed by Virginia Hess, one honoring Wilkinson "Wick" Wright and the other honoring the volunteers, hang on pillars flanking the airplane.

Marion Davis Wright speaks next to the plaque honoring Wick Wright

Marion Davis Wright speaks next to the plaque honoring Wick Wright.

Picture of the plaque honoring the volunteers

Picture of the plaque honoring the volunteers.