Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Re-Creating Wright Brothers' Planes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Re-Creating Wright Brothers' Planes

Article excerpt

If Wilbur and Orville Wright had to find someone to build one of their airplanes today, they could hardly have done better than Ken Hyde. He is much like them -- a perfectionist, reserved and proprietary.

The Wrights took great pains to make sure nobody could copy the planes they built, but now along comes Hyde, with the same penchant for secrecy, almost a century later doing just that.

Nonetheless, the brothers would surely be pleased that a precise reproduction of their 1911 Wright B Flyer has arrived safely at the College Park Aviation Museum, at the tiny Maryland airport where three of the original Wright craft arrived in 1911 and 1912.

The reproduction -- do not call it a replica -- which will not fly, is the culmination of years of painstaking research and work at Hyde's Warrenton, Va., workshop, where he has built a reputation as the nation's premier restorer and builder of "antique" aircraft. A retired commercial airline pilot, he has already built one Wright B, also motorless, on display at Fort Rucker, Ala., and he is building a third, which he intends to fly this winter.

"It is an obsession," Hyde says. "I mean we're trying to figure out how they did this. . . . Everyone wants to modernize it for us, make it like a new design. We're not interested."

In the years after Orville Wright's historic 12-second flight Dec. 17, 1903, the brothers built several more planes, including the Wright B -- the first with landing wheels. The three delivered to College Park were used by the Army in the nation's first military aviation school there.

Now, the year-old College Park museum is paying Hyde $280,000 for what promises to be the centerpiece of its collection.

The Wrights' secrecy has made Hyde's work all the more challenging, as he strives for a level of authenticity the Wrights would have admired. The brothers were so worried about losing the rights to their invention that they left few blueprints and never even patented their first mechanically powered aircraft for fear their work would be stolen. …

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