OSHKOSH, Wis.—The National Aviation Heritage Area’s assets are on display this week at EAA AirVenture 2015, the worlds’ biggest gathering of aviation enthusiasts.
Visitors from around the United States and from as far as Australia and Japan have snapped photos of the Wright B Flyer on Vintage Plaza or tried their hand at a 1903 Wright Flyer simulator at the National Park Service exhibit in the Federal Pavilion on Wittman Regional Airport, where the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA’s) annual fly-in convention is expected to draw approximately 500,000 people.
The displays have drawn some famous names.
Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a former NASA astronaut, lay belly down on the Wright Flyer simulator Wednesday morning, working a hand lever and a hip cradle the way the Wright brothers did as she tried to maneuver a virtual airplane on a large screen. Sullivan was the first American woman to walk in space. NOAA, parent agency of the National Weather Service, has an exhibit in the Federal Pavilion.
Across the field, Henry Ford III, great-great-grandson of Henry Ford, posed for photos in the right seat of Wright B Flyer’s “Brown Bird” airplane with a Ford Model T parked in front. Ford Motor Co. is a major AirVenture sponsor, and the first Henry Ford and Orville Wright were friends.
The National Park Service exhibit informs visitors about the history of the Wright brothers and promotes aviation-related national heritage sites such as the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, the National Aviation Heritage Area, the Wright Brothers National Monument in North Carolina and other locations. A meticulously restored 1928 Fairchild, the Park Service’s first airplane, is also on display in the pavilion.
Many AirVenture visitors are pilots or aviation professionals, and many have built their own airplanes. Rich Stepler, Wright B Flyer’s chief pilot, said the people he has talked to have asked detailed questions about the one-of-a-kind flying machine, built to resemble the Wright brothers’ first factory-built airplane. “These folks are very savvy,” he said.
Jim Vogt, a retired civil engineer and pilot from Cypress, Texas, said it was a treat to see the Wright B Flyer, which is making its first appearance at AirVenture to promote the nonprofit group’s project to build a new Wright B in the original Wright Company factory—America’s first airplane factory—in Dayton.
As he snapped a picture of the airplane Vogt said, “This is one of the things you tell folks back home about.”
The Wright B Flyer is scheduled to fly in AirVenture’s daily air shows at 2:30 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, July 23 and 26.