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Wright Monument and 1,000 Cherry Trees
By George Mongon and Meghan Malone

Like great trivia questions? Here’s a good one for you: “Where is the birthplace of aviation?” Answer: Ever since December 7, 1903 when the Wright Brothers soared their flyer under its own power on the sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they have successfully defended their status of “First in Flight” among all other claims throughout the world. Now over a century later their status is rock-solid. Few Americans realize, however, that the Wright Brothers did all of their inventing in Dayton, Ohio, the true birthplace aviation. Dayton’s Huffman Prairie became their 84-acre flying field and in 1905, they are credited with developing “the world’s first practical aeroplane” that could take off, turn, and fly until it ran out of fuel (usually about a half an hour in length). The flying field activity grew into a major hub of American aviation research and continues to this day in the form of Wright Patterson Air Force Base and its many important operations.

So, let’s fast-forward to the present and see what has happened beyond the Wright Brothers first flights. Ohio has continued to grow in the size and stature of its aviation and now aerospace industry. Ohio native John Glenn became the third astronaut in space and the first to orbit the earth. He also became the oldest astronaut when, at 77, he flew on a shuttle mission (STS-95). Also from Ohio, astronaut Neil Armstrong was known world-wide for being the first man to step on the moon, and was a shining example of Ohio’s approach to aerospace; quiet, methodical and ever-productive. Ohio has maintained a continually powerful presence in aviation and aerospace such that the industry ranks as one of the five most important in the state. Virtually every significant Ohio city has some form of aerospace-related business.

BRANDING OUR IDENTITY

In 2003 cities and citizens all across the globe celebrated the Centennial of Aviation. The impact that aviation has made is undeniable and universal--from commercial use to combat and everything in between, the airplane has connected people and cultures in ways unimagined. During one of these celebrations in Dayton, three people imagined a way to permanently recognize the invention that changed the world. They felt that a new American monument was fitting and achievable.

Their purpose was not just to honor the past, but to provide a base for supporting the future as well. What the Wright Brothers did was well-deserving, to be sure, but their impact continues to grow with each flight made today. Any monument to their achievement, therefore, must promote today and the future as much as it will honor the past. This monument must be as much about Ohio’s industrial and technological capabilities as it is about any invention of the past. It must be inspirational and not just a placid memorial.

See for yourself. The design is stunning. An artistic reproduction of the now famous 1905 Wright flyer will be placed high upon a tilted mast at the crossroads intersection of Interstates 70 and 75, just north of Dayton, Ohio. Not coincidentally, it will be adjacent to over 30 historically significant aviation sites and within a federally-recognized National Aviation Heritage Area. There are also plans for planting cherry blossom trees around the memorial, a gift from Japan through a service called “Operation 1000 Cherry Tree Project.”  The trees serve as a thank you to both the US Military and American citizens for aiding in relief efforts for Japan after the earthquake (the strongest to ever hit the nation at 9.0 magnitude) and tsunami of March 2011 took its toll on the country. Multiple military ships, helicopters, and planes along with their service men and women were deployed to the nation with over 1.7 gallons of water, 172 tons of food, 10 tons of medical supplies, and 34 tons of other relief supplies--yet another example of the capability and  powerful influence aviation has had in the modern world. Over 100 trees have already been planted at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and more will be placed throughout the Dayton Region. The Wright Brothers monument, as a future spectacle and grand representation of the state and aviation, will be graced with the trees as well.

So, how do you prepare a monument for construction in today’s environment? The specific monument design is now being studied by some of the best minds throughout the State. Engineering faculty and students from the University of Dayton and from the Ohio State University have conducted preliminary wind tunnel testing on scale models, since this plane is one that must be designed not to fly. Expert engineers from NASA – Glenn Research Center in Cleveland will conduct higher-level testing on the effects of wind and they will do a thorough examination of the effects of winter weather ice loading.

One of the wonderful benefits to all of the pre-construction research and analysis is the many lessons that can be developed for all levels of school students throughout the state and nation. The construction research will be turned into a broad spectrum of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) lessons in such high demand today, particularly by the aerospace industry. Many fascinating lessons also can be developed for classes in History, Art, Business, Government, and even Law.

The proposed Monument is certain to attract world-wide attention, standing not only as a symbol of State pride and long-standing State leadership in technology, but also of international friendship with the addition of the Japanese cherry trees. Similar to the significance of the cherry blossoms that have flanked Washington, D.C. since 1912, the Monument will serve as a beautiful reminder of aviation’s global magnitude.  These elements combined will certainly help attract visitors to other State sites as well, such as NASA Glenn in Cleveland and the National Museum of the United State Air Force in Dayton, each a national treasure in its own right.

And if you answered our initial trivia question incorrectly, it will help you and the rest of the world recognize that Ohio is home to many valuable but unnoticed assets of our country.

MONUMENT FACTS

Flyer wingspan: 140 ft. (slightly longer than the original Wright B. Flyer)
Monument Height: Over 250 ft. (Approx. the height of the Statue of Liberty)

Location: The Southwest corner of the I-70/I-75 intersection. This intersection is newly redesigned and has one of the highest American interstate vehicle counts at
53 million per year.

 

 

 


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