Wright family welcomes Solar Impulse pilots to birthplace of flight
CINCINNATI, Ohio-A descendent of the Wright brothers' family was on hand to greet the pilot of the sunlight-powered Solar Impulse airplane when it landed Friday evening at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati.
Stephen Wright, great-grandnephew of airplane inventors Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, welcomed pilot and Solar Impulse co-founder André Borschberg shortly after he touched down for the airplane's only landing in Ohio.
Wright, who lives in the Dayton area, greeted Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, fellow pilot and co-founder, as a representative of the Wright family and an ambassador of Dayton's and Ohio's aviation heritage. Wilbur and Orville Wright lived in Dayton and invented the airplane in their West Third Street bicycle shop.
Both Stephen and his sister, Amanda Wright Lane, spoke to the pilots by phone while they were in flight. Solar Impulse broadcast the conversation live on its website, solarimpulse.com.
Solar Impulse is a project to demonstrate advanced solar power technology with a long-range airplane powered only by sunlight. The airplane is making the first solar-powered, coast-to-coast flight from California to New York. A more advanced airplane for an around-the-world flight is in development.
Solar Impulse originally planned to fly nonstop from St. Louis to Washington, D.C., but changing weather patterns dictated an overnight stop in Ohio. Piccard took off Saturday morning and landed at Dulles Airport near Washington just after midnight on Sunday.
Stephen Wright called Borschberg Friday afternoon as he was en route to Lunken Airport.
"I'd like to be the first to welcome you to Ohio... even though you're not in Ohio yet," Wright said. He said the spindly, single-seat, sunlight-powered airplane "quite a beautiful machine."
Wright said his great-granduncles would have been fascinated by a solar-powered airplane. "I wish they could be here to see your machine because they would have never anticipated that an airplane could fly on the power of sunlight," Wright said. "If they could be there, they would be under the cowling in a few minutes, and you would have to answer a whole lot of questions."
Amanda Wright Lane phoned Piccard on Saturday as he was en route to Washington, D.C. They discussed how their ancestors made modern flight possible. (Piccard's grandfather, Auguste, explored high-altitude flight with a balloon and pressurized gondola.) "I am sitting in the middle of the sky" because of their advances, Piccard said.
The National Aviation Heritage Alliance worked with Solar Impulse to arrange the greeting and interviews. Stephen Wright and Amanda Wright Lane are NAHA trustees.
The National Aviation Heritage Area is the center of aviation and aviation history in the United States, where the Wright brothers invented the airplane in 1903, perfected and patented their invention in 1906 and built the world's first aircraft manufacturing plant in 1910. The National Aviation Heritage Area was established by Congress in 2004 when President George W. Bush signed the National Aviation Heritage Act into law. The National Aviation Heritage Alliance (NAHA), a private non-profit corporation is the designated management entity of the National Aviation Heritage Area.