Photo of Connie Tobias piloting Nick Englers' replica 1903 Wright Flyer in January 2004.
Connie Tobias pilots Nick Englers’ replica 1903 Wright Flyer in January 2004. (Photo courtesy Timothy R. Gaffney)

Wright Flyer fleet bound for China

In NAHA News /

DAYTON, Ohio—A replica Wright Flyer fleet based in Dayton is bound for China after the entertainment arm of a Chinese aerospace company bought the collection for a museum in Xi’an, according to a Dayton company that said it brokered the deal.

Beijing Hangcheng International Investment Co. also ordered a second collection for AVIC, China’s state-owned aerospace and aviation firm, which is building major aviation complexes in Xi’an and Chengdu, according to the announcement from Wright Brothers USA.

Nick Engler of West Milton, a master craftsman and aviation history enthusiast, is refurbishing the fleet of kites, gliders and flyers he originally built in connection with the centennial celebration of powered flight in Dayton in 2003. His company, the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Co., is also to build the second set.

The first collection, due in China in mid-February, is to go on a multi-city tour before going on permanent exhibit in the main entrance of the Xi’an museum. The second set, due in early 2018, will go to the Chengdu museum. Each museum will feature a Wright brothers pavilion, according to the announcement.

“The sale of these sets of Wright replicas will have important impact on Dayton’s image in China, in perpetuity,” Dave Lightle, Wright Brothers USA’s chief executive, said in a prepared statement. “The pavilion will be front and center in these ‘Universal Studio’ type complexes, and it will be quite Dayton-centric, telling the Wright brothers’ full story.”

Each collection is to include the flying machines the Wright brothers built in their Dayton bicycle shop, including the 1999 kite; 1900, 1901 and 1902 gliders, and 1903 and 1905 flyers. In addition are to be a replica 1901 wind tunnel, bicycle balance and two ground-based simulators, which can be operated as either the 1903 or 1905 flyers.

Engler’s replicas gained widespread news coverage between 2000 and 2003 as he took the gliders and 1903 flyer to the Outer Banks to fly them. They formed the core of Engler’s Birth of Aviation Pavilion, which he displayed at the 2003 Dayton Air Show and later exhibited in several cities.