News

The USU Wright Flyer Featured on the History Channel

USURF
December 1, 2003

LOGAN, Utah – The Utah State University Wright Flyer will be featured on The History Channel’s two-hour world premiere special presentation, The Wright Challenge, Tuesday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. MST.

The show follows four teams from around the country when they take up the challenge to build and fly replicas of the 1903 Wright Flyer to commemorate 100 years of flight.

“This show is an adventure story,” said Rick Beyer, producer of The Wright Challenge and owner of Smash Entertainment. “The most exciting part is the viewer gets to go on the same adventures as these people who are building these planes. It is exciting to watch and figure out which team to root for and see how it will work out in the end.”

The USU Wright Flyer story is a large portion of the special, as the audience anticipates whether the Utah State team has the “Wright stuff” to get its flyer off the ground. The documentary follows the Utah State team’s failures and successes.

“The thing that impressed me about the USU team was the incredible dedication and passion they brought to building the plane,” said Beyer. “It was fun to see the students as they learned and overcame problems and finally got the plane to the point where they could see if it would fly.”

Since the USU Wright Flyer’s first flight in March of this year, it has flown nearly 300 times. The longest flight, of 12 minutes, was recorded in a historic moment during the Inventing Flight Celebration in Dayton, Ohio. On July 5, 2003, the USU Wright Flyer became the first and only flyer to fly over Huffman Prairie Flying Field since the Wright brothers.

“There is nothing in my entire career of over 15,000 flying hours that compares to flying over Huffman Prairie Flying Field,” said Wayne Larsen, USU Wright Flyer pilot and Utah State alumni from Brigham City. “To fly where the Wright brothers learned to fly was a phenomenal experience.”

Larsen said that the tour over the summer and fall has been a wild ride. He said that the plane is still a Wright Flyer and flying it is a lot of work.

“It still makes me anxious every time I take it up, but it is also so rewarding to let people step back in time and see one of the greatest inventions of this century fly,” said Larsen.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of powered flight, Utah State students and faculty, working with the Utah State University Research Foundation, the Space Dynamics Laboratory, the National Composite Center and the U.S. Air Force, designed and built the Flyer using space-age materials, as if the Wright brothers were designing their plane today.

Kevlar and graphite, used in space shuttles, next-generation rockets and military aircraft, replaced the muslin and spruce used in the original Flyer. ATK Thiokol Propulsion, which built the 40-foot wing spars, was the largest material donor. A Harley Davidson twin-cam 88B engine functions as Utah State’s modern-day version of the engine originally built by Charles Taylor for the Wright brothers.

More than 10,000 hours of hard work from Utah State engineering and aviation technology students and faculty went into the USU Wright Flyer.

“It was great to work with the USU team,” said Beyer. “They redesigned the plane and built it with modern materials. That provided us with a great counterpoint to the people who were building accurate replicas and gave us chance to learn about the Wright brothers from a different angle.”

The USU Wright Flyer will also be featured on Tech TV on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2003. To see photos and video clips and find out more about the USU Wright Flyer, visit the web site at www.usuwrightflyer.org. To learn more about the History Channel special, see http://www.historychannel.com/wright/teams.html.