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Ohio Today

The Wright path
  • Watch Video  (1.1MB QuickTime)

    See Wright Brothers Aeroplane Co., a nonprofit organization dedicated to telling the Wright story, conducting a test flight of one of the replicas.

    Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company Director Nick Engler (center) with cutouts of Orville (left) and Wilbur (right) in front of the Centennial Flyer, a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer.

    Photo courtesy of Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company

    Learn More:
    Watch for your fall edition of Ohio Today to read more about Engler and another Ohio University alumnus, Tom Crouch, AB '66, who's serving as chair of the First Flight Centennial Federal Advisory Board to assist in centennial of flight celebrations. To see a listing of events taking place nation- and worldwide, go to the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission's Web site and click on the "Events Calendar" link.

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  • Wright Brothers Aeroplane Co.

    Photo (top of page): Wright brothers look-alikes Tom Cherry (Wilbur) and Dave Thompson (Orville) launch the 1900 glider in a reenactment for the PBS documentary "Kitty Hawk, The Wright Brothers' Journey of Invention." Nick Engler acts the part of Dan Tate, a native of the Outer Banks who helped the Wrights, and producer David Garrigus looks on. The Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company provided the aircraft and supervised the flying for this two-hour documentary, which will be broadcast on PBS stations nationwide in September.

    Photo courtesy of Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company

  • By Joan Slattery Wall

    A native of aviation-rich Dayton, Ohio, Nick Engler III always wanted to build a replica of a Wright brothers' airplane.

    When he graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1973, however, he spent years honing his skill as a writer, sharing with others his expertise in woodworking. Occasionally, he'd get back to his love of airplanes; in 1984, for example, he earned his pilot's license.

    But after publishing his 50th book, he decided to take some time off to pursue his original dream, and in 1998, he began recreating Wright flying machines. This year will be especially meaningful for him, as the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight -- made by the Wright brothers.

    Of the brothers' 19 planes, Engler has completed four gliders and two powered airplanes, all of which have been test flown by pilots from the U.S. Air Force -- and piloted by Engler himself. All six will be on public display in Dayton July 17 for the centennial celebrations during the Dayton Air Show.

    "We're conducting this as an exercise in aviation archeology," says Engler, founder and director of the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Co., a nonprofit organization of aviators, historians, educators and others whose mission is to tell the Wrights' story. "It's a new discipline in archeology. The idea is to simply repeat a historical event in order to understand the people who lived through it."

    The group visits schools across the nation to show children one of the replicas, a 1902 glider with a 32-foot wingspan engineered so it breaks down to be moved through classroom doors. He also brings along videos of the replicas' flights as well as artifacts such as an 1899 Wright kite and replica of an 1893 Wright bicycle.

    "In many ways this is street theater," says Engler, BFA '73. "We're conducting this as a scientific investigation and following all the rules, getting kids excited about aviation."

    Engler, who is on sabbatical from his job as an aviation instructor at Dayton's Sinclair College, says the children respond to seeing his passion about his work.

    "Each new airplane is its own reward," says Engler, who despite his woodworking talents considers himself primarily a teacher. "In order to teach, you have to have a good story to tell, and this is one of the best."

    Joan Slattery Wall is assistant editor of Ohio Today.

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