Photo of William Burnett testifying to the House State Government Committee in favor of HB 386, adding a Wright Flyer to the Great Seal of Ohio.
William Burnett testifies to the House State Government Committee in favor of adding a Wright Flyer to the Great Seal of Ohio.

AOPA, OAA support Wright Flyer on Great Seal of Ohio

In NAHA News /

COLUMBUS, Ohio—The largest association of American pilots and the largest group supporting Ohio aviation have endorsed a bill that would add the Wright Flyer to the Great Seal of Ohio.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and the Ohio Aviation Association (OAA) submitted written testimony in favor of House Bill 386 to a House State Government Committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 3. The bill is sponsored by Ohio Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, with 40 co-sponsors.

William Burnett of Oakwood, who first proposed adding the iconic Wright Flyer image to the seal in the 1990s, spoke in favor of the bill, as did a representative of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance (NAHA).

AOPA is the world’s largest aviation organization representing general aviation aircraft owners and pilots, including more than 12,000 members in Ohio, according to the statement submitted by Bryan Budds, AOPA’s Great Lakes regional manager. In the written statement, he said putting the world’s first successful powered airplane on the seal would “ensure Ohio continues to recognize its incredible aviation history with a watchful eye on a promising aviation-supported future.”

Budds added that Ohio’s 104 publicly-owned, public-use airports generate an economic impact exceeding $13.3 billion, and nearly 13,000 pilots conduct more than 2.7 million operations per year on Ohio’s general aviation airports.

OAA’s members include commercial and general aviation airports, airport operators and sponsors, engineers, pilots and enthusiasts, according to testimony submitted by OAA President Greg Heaton. Noting the seal is “a symbolic expression of Ohio’s history,” including its place as the 17th U.S. state and an agricultural leader, Heaton said, “the Wright Flyer is the perfect addition to this image. …. as a testament to the past and the future of aviation in Ohio.”

Burnett presented his testimony as the artist/designer of the proposed modification. Burnett said his interest in boosting Ohio’s aviation heritage stemmed from an encounter on a ferryboat ride to Martha’s Vineyard many years ago, when he introduced himself to a stranger as being from “the birthplace of aviation.” The stranger replied, “Oh, you must be from the Carolinas,” Burnett said.

Wilbur and Orville Wright lived in Dayton and did most of their research in the back of their bicycle shop. They tested their first gliders and powered flyer on North Carolina’s outer banks because of its steady winds and soft sand, but they concluded their research and built America’s first airplane factory in Ohio.

An editorial about Ohio’s bill that appeared in several North Carolina newspapers this week showed why it’s important for Ohio to promote its aviation heritage, said Tim Gaffney, NAHA’s director of communications.

Appearing in the Gaston Gazette and elsewhere, the editorial said, “Ohio is again ramping up its claim to the Wright brothers’ heritage that rightfully belongs to North Carolina,” and it claimed Wilbur and Orville “decided to abandon the Buckeye State for the flight-friendly sandhills of Kitty Hawk.”

Links to downloadable PDF copies of the bill and prepared testimony are available on the committee’s web page.