Experience aviation history at Wright B Flyer Museum

By Mark Luedtke

Six years after inventing powered flight in 1903, the Wright brothers established the Wright Company in Dayton, then produced the first practical airplane in 1910: the Wright B Flyer. That airplane might have been relegated to dusty books, if not for the efforts of the volunteers of Wright B Flyer Inc. and their Miamisburg museum.

Retired Air Force test pilot Jay Jabour, now the president of the museum, describes the mission of the museum. “At the museum, visitors will learn how the Wright Brothers evolved their airplane design, and how they produced and sold about 150 of the models,” he explains.

The Wright B Flyer Museum is not a traditional museum. It’s a working hangar full of history. Immediately upon entering the building, visitors will see a desk and historical documents in the front room, but through a large window, they will see the replica Wright B Flyer, nicknamed the Brown Bird, being worked on by volunteers in the back of the hangar. Its history is depicted in murals on the hangar walls.

The 1905 Wright Flyer was too unstable for mass production, so the brothers removed the front elevator and added a rear stabilizer to the design. Wheels were added to the landing skids. These changes made the plane production-worthy, and in it, you can see the beginnings of the classic biplane.

Available for passenger flights, the Brown Bird is the star of the show. Like the original, the Brown Bird has a passenger seat next to the pilot’s seat on the lower wing. The Brown Bird has other modifications from the original. “The airplane we fly is made to look like the original Wright B Flyer but incorporates modern technology so that we could gain FAA certification and safely fly passengers,” Jabour writes.

The Brown Bird includes a metal frame and modern aircraft engine, making it significantly heavier than the original, but Jabour informs, “Flying in our airplane gives the rider the same feeling of flight that the Wright Brothers experienced in 1911. This is an experience unlike any other available in the world. There is very little difference between what we experience and what the Wright brothers experienced.”

The Brown Bird is slightly faster than the original, cruising at 60 MPH compared to 45 MPH for the Wright B.

The Brown Bird flies all over the country, but shipping it is burdensome. To make transporting it easier, Jabour and his volunteers are building a second replica of the Wright B. “The new airplane will look very similar to the existing airplane but will be built so it is more easily transported. That means it will be built so we can, within two hours using two people, put it into a standard shipping container,” Jabour explains. “The current airplane can take six hours with many people involved to load it into a non-standard trailer. The new airplane will also be more maintainable than the current airplane.” The new plane will bring the history of the Wright Brothers to even more people.

Designing and building a new replica is a complex, demanding project, and Jabour praises his team of volunteers. “Our volunteers are the most valuable part of the organization. We can achieve nothing without them,” he reports. Volunteers include “engineers, builders, and draftsman who are working the design based on the original Wright Model B. The new airplane will be equipped to fly in the future FAA airspace environment. We are pretty much done with the design effort, and we have most drawings completed in our Computer Aided Design system. We also have experienced home-built airplane builders, many members of the Experimental Aircraft Association, who will do the assembly.”

This is good news for the public because it doubles the opportunities to fly in a replica, but not just anybody can fly in a replica. Jabour mentions, “To fly, an individual must join our organization, which can be done the day of the flight. We fly members from April to September three days a week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday when the weather allows.”

But the museum offers more than flights. It displays pictures, paintings, and memorabilia of the Wrights. Volunteers tell the story of the Wrights, the Model B, and their significance in history. The museum offers teaching aids for schools and offers a half-scale replica for parades and other events.

The museum also promotes Dayton. “Our organization is a member of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance, and we contribute a part of the historical story of how the Wright Brothers learned about flight in the Dayton area and how the innovative spirit that Dayton had in the early 19th century contributed to progress in flight,” Jabour says. “We do it because we believe Dayton is a key contributor to progress in aviation in the world.”

The Wright B Flyer Museum at Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport is located at 10550 N. Springboro Pike in Miamisburg. The museum is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, please visit wright-b-flyer.org or call 937.885.2327.


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Reach DCP freelance writer Mark Luedtke at MarkLuedtke@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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