DAYTON, Ohio — Wright “B” Flyer Inc. has received another major gift to fund a new flying lookalike of the Wright brothers’ first production airplane.
The new Wright Model B lookalike will replace Wright “B” Flyer No. 1, also known as the “Brown Bird” or “Iron Bird,” which has been flying since 1982. The new airplane will be easier to transport to distant events and easier for the all-volunteer organization to maintain.
The need to begin planning an eventual replacement for the Brown Bird was in discussion for a year before an individual from outside Ohio — an engineer and amateur aircraft builder with a passion for aviation history — flew on the airplane this summer. Upon learning of plans for a new airplane, he immediately donated $50,000 to launch the project.
“We are extremely grateful to this individual not only for his financial support, but also for his recognition of the importance that a flying symbol of America’s aviation heritage has for Dayton, Ohio, and the nation,” said Jay Jabour, Wright “B” Flyer president.
“The challenge grant gives others the chance to double the impact of their donations, whether it’s a dollar or $10,000,” Jabour added.
Wright “B” Flyer’s volunteer pilots and ground crews have flown and displayed the Brown Bird at major events across the United States and in Germany. They have displayed its nonflying Wright “B” replica, the Valentine Flyer, at major aviation and industry shows, including the Farnborough International Air Show in England.
The organization estimates a total project cost of $250,000 in financial and in-kind donations. In-kind donations could include an aircraft engine and accessories, flight instruments, aircraft electronics, materials and machining and technical services.
Wright “B” Flyer volunteers designed and built the Brown Bird in the 1970s and early ‘80s as a flying example of America’s first mass-produced airplane, built in Dayton by the Wright brothers beginning in 1910. It resembles an original Model B from a distance, but it’s made of modern materials and meets modern airworthiness standards.
Individuals who join Wright “B” Flyer as Honorary Aviator or Lifetime members are eligible for a short orientation flight on the Brown Bird.
The new airplane project comes as two of Wright “B” Flyer’s heritage partners in the congressionally designated National Aviation Heritage Area, the nonprofit National Aviation Heritage Alliance (NAHA) and the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, are working to restore the original Wright Company factory buildings in Dayton as a new national park unit.
“Wright ‘B’ Flyer’s new airplane will ensure that visitors to the National Aviation Heritage Area will continue to see America’s aviation heritage on display in the sky as well as on the ground,” said Tony Sculimbrene, NAHA executive director.
Donations to the new airplane project may be made by sending checks or money orders to Wright “B” Flyer Inc. at 10550 Springboro Pike, Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport, Miamisburg, Ohio 45342.