Alum wants to seal Ohio's spot in aviation history

William Burnett, BFA '73, wants the world to know Ohio's place in aviation history. That's why he's pushing to ad d an icon of the Wright Brothers' biplane to the Great Seal of Ohio.

William Burnett with modified Ohio seal.

Photo: Skip Peterson, Dayton Daily News

He's gotten the idea all the way to the Ohio Legislature. Bills sponsored by Sen. Charles Horn and Rep. Donald Mottley, both Republicans from Kettering, are in committee. If they survive hear ings and votes at that level, both houses would decide on the measures this spring, aides to the two legislators say.

"My interest is in preserving the true historical facts about Ohio's aviation history," says Burnett, a mortgage loan officer who lives and works in his hometown of Dayton.

North Carolinians' license plates brag that they were "first in flight" because Ohio brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright made history there in 1903 with the world's first manned airplane flight.

Bu t Burnett points out that the brothers did all their research and testing at Huffman Prairie, where Wright-Patterson Air Force Base now stands near Dayton. They only traveled to the coastal town of Kitty Hawk, N.C., for that first flight on the advice of the U.S. Weather Bureau.

Burnett says the timing of his push fits right in with the 200th anniversary of Ohio winning state-hood in 1803 and the 100th anniversary of the Wrights' first flight in 1903. Burnett says a couple of precedents may help his proposal succeed.

First, in a move that angered plenty of folks in North Carolina, the Ohio General Assembly voted in 1996 to change the slogan on the state's license plates to "Birthplace of aviation." And secondly, Ohio's state seal already has been modified four times since it was adopted in 1812, Burnett says. Changes have included adding a canal boat in 1861 and removing it in 1901, and reducing the number of rays on the rising sun from 17 (Ohio was the 17th state in the Union) to 13 (fo r the original 13 colonies).

- Mary Alice Casey

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