WARRENTON, Va., Jan. 29, 2003 (PRIMEZONE) -- The Discovery of Flight Foundation announced today a major gift from Northrop Grumman Corporation for pilot training as preparations continue for the Countdown to Kitty Hawk Celebration on Dec. 17, 2003. On that date, a pilot for The Wright Experience, which is under contract by the Foundation, will attempt to re-create Orville Wright's inaugural 120-feet flight in a precise reproduction of the original plane, 100 years later at the precise location of the original flight on the dunes of the Outer Banks in North Carolina.
The flight will be made in the authentic reproduction of the Wright brothers' original aircraft, the 1903 Wright Flyer. The aircraft is being built under the sponsorship of The Ford Motor Company and EAA. Ken Hyde, the founder of The Wright Experience, has been working for more than five years to research, redesign, remanufacture, test, analyze and document authentic Wright brothers' aircraft. He supervises a small army of engineers, mechanics and volunteers at his pristine shop near here between his home and a 2,100-foot grass landing strip. The gliders, powered flyers, original engines and propellers are made to exacting standards to ensure they share the precise characteristics of original Wright Brothers parts.
Weldon Britton, chairman of The Discovery of Flight Foundation and, along with Hyde, one of the charter members of this years-long endeavor, said the Northrop Grumman contribution will be key to the years of effort.
"The pilot training program is vital," Britton said. "Before that first flight 100 years ago, Orville and Wilbur Wright didn't know whether they would actually be able to fly their invention. We face many of their same risks, and this new gift will enable us to take some, but not all, of the risk out of the program."
Hyde and three other pilots picked for the training program have spent more than a year training on a glider, just as the Wright brothers did. Two of those four pilots will be selected to fly the '03 Flyer later this year, after wind tunnel testing on the aircraft has been completed, and after the training program has concluded. Scott Crossfield, a legendary aviation pioneer who was the first to fly at twice the speed of sound as a NASA test pilot, is in charge of the pilot training.
The glider being used as a trainer is also an exact reproduction of the Wrights that Hyde and his team of experts have constructed. Their reproductions are so precise that The Wright Experience is recognized by The Wright Family Foundation, descendants of the Wright Brothers who are involved in promoting the Wright brothers' aeronautical legacy. The Wright Experience was picked to attempt the 100th anniversary flight by the U. S. Park Service, which maintains the Kitty Hawk site.
Northrop Grumman's donation will fund the construction of the Wright Model B project, which they intend to fly and display for educational and promotional purposes throughout the country through 2008. Northrop Grumman's funding will also be a major part in a NOVA documentary, "Inventing the Flying Machine," that will air in October on public television. The Model B will also be on display as the centerpiece of Northrop Grumman Corporation's exhibit at the Paris Air Show this June.
"Northrop Grumman is proud to participate in this unique undertaking that will enable a reproduction of the original Wright Flyer to grace the skies," said Kent Kresa, Northrop Grumman chairman and chief executive officer. "The 100th anniversary of human flight reminds us of a seminal moment in aviation and American history. It is altogether fitting for Northrop Grumman, a company with an exceptional tradition of designing and building innovative aircraft, to contribute to this project."
The Discovery of Flight Foundation is a nonprofit organization which seeks to rediscover the Wright brothers' experimentation, discovery and methodology, provide for the reconstruction of original Wright Brothers aircraft and create a living classroom for people of all ages. The Wright Experience celebrates the achievements of Wilbur and Orville Wright by researching, reconstructing, testing, analyzing and documenting authentic full-scale reproductions of the Wright brothers' developmental aircraft and engines. For more information on both organizations, visit their websites: www.discoveryofflight.org or www.wrightexperience.com .
Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $25 billion global defense company, headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in systems integration, defense electronics, information technology, advanced aircraft, shipbuilding and space technology. With approximately 120,000 employees and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers. Its website: www.northropgrumman.com .
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