- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2002

The sky was not the limit yesterday when aviation-age pioneers honored the Wright Brothers on the 99th anniversary of their triumph at Kitty Hawk, N.C., looking past the wild blue yonder to Mars and beyond.

The one-year countdown to the centennial of flight was kicked off at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, where a Wright descendant received honors beneath the historic airplane her uncles flew four times on Dec. 17, 1903.

"On Wright Brothers Day, we celebrate the vision and determination of these innovators whose remarkable achievements changed the world forever," President Bush said in a proclamation read in the chamber housing vehicles that had traveled across the ocean and the sound barrier and into deep space.

Celebrations in North Carolina and Ohio will showcase the competition between those states to identify themselves as the birthplace of flight. The historic sites are Kill Devil Hills, N.C., where Wilbur and Orville Wright struggled to keep their craft aloft while traveling 120 feet in 12 seconds, and the Wrights' home base of Dayton, Ohio.

In Dayton, they developed, revised and tested their theories until they produced the world's first heavier-than-air plane. Their craft could take off under its own power, achieve sustained, controlled flight powered by its own engine and land under the direction of its pilot.

"They finally are being recognized as the scientists they were," said Ken Hyde, the Warrenton, Va., aircraft restorer who built a replica of the Wright Brothers Flyer, which he is to pilot in a re-creation of that flight at Kitty Hawk at 10:35 a.m. next Dec. 17.

"These are not two lucky bicycle mechanics; they were scientists who used wind tunnels and other techniques to get it right. That is one of the world's great untold stories," Mr. Hyde said in an interview.

"In the next 100 years, we really will have gone to Mars," said astronaut and former Sen. John H. Glenn Jr., now 81, the first American to orbit Earth. Mr. Glenn went into space a second time 36 years later, in 1998, aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

The pursuit of sciences that are not possible on Earth, not simply the drama of human space travel, should drive decisions on space-related goals, Mr. Glenn said. He predicted that advances in fuels and propulsion could cut in half the eight-month, one-way journey but joked that he didn't expect to live long enough to volunteer for the trip.

"We're not in space just to see how far we can go," he added.

Along with Mr. Glenn, others honored with medals yesterday were Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon; the black Tuskegee Airmen of World War II; "astronaut heroes" as a group; World War II ace fighter pilot Brig. Gen. David Hill; aviation pioneers Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart; NASA Chief Scientist Shannon Lucid; and the women's Ninety Nines pilot group.

The moderator was actor John Travolta, a pilot licensed to fly jumbo commercial airliners, who said he participated "to encourage the next generation of fliers, engineers and scientists to compete with this century's advances."

Representatives from Ohio and North Carolina, which expect to spend $40 million combined on the observances, said there was nothing more than friendly competition between two areas that are each home to national memorials to the Wright Brothers' achievements.

"There's some element of rivalry," said J. Bradford Tillson, chairman of Dayton's three-week-long "Inventing Flight" air show. "They were from Dayton and did most of their work in Dayton, and they did their first flight in North Carolina."

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