WARRENTON, Va., Oct. 3, 2003 (PRIMEZONE) -- With less than 80 days remaining before the re-creation of the Wright brothers' historic first flight, intensive pilot training is underway for the individuals who will attempt to re-create history.

Terry Queijo and Kevin Kochersberger along with their back up crew are following in the footsteps of the Wrights by training in a 1902 Wright glider reproduction, an authentic copy of the aircraft used by the Wright Brothers at the turn of the century to test their seminal theories of flight. The training is taking place along a grass landing strip in Warrenton, Va., home base for The Wright Experience, builders of the Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) 1903 Wright flyer reproduction. So, instead of taking advantage of the consistent winds of the Outer Banks, N.C., the pilots here in Warrenton are towed down the 2,100-foot grass landing strip for flights that take less than 60 seconds.

As part of EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk program this Dec. 17 near the dunes of Kitty Hawk, N.C., one of the pilots will lie down across the lower wing and attempt a feat that hasn't happened in 100 years. Training for this historic feat is being led by legendary aviation pioneer Scott Crossfield, the first man to fly at both Mach 2 and Mach 3, and Director of Pilot Training for the Wright Experience.

"This is the most critical stage of the training that we have been involved with over the past year," said Crossfield. "Our pilots are working with an unpowered glider that has been modified so that it has all the characteristics of the powered 1903 flyer. It's essential that the pilots fully comprehend just how unstable this aircraft will be before we undertake powered flights."

At EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2003 Crossfield narrowed the list of four pilots down to two. Just as the Wrights did in 1903, Queijo and Kochersberger will flip a coin to determine who will fly first. American Airlines pilot Chris Johnson and Ken Hyde, president of The Wright Experience, will serve as the back up crew and will continue to participate in the training.

Hyde said the training has been delayed due to very wet weather in Warrenton. As a result, training has intensified over the last month. "We have made a lot of progress in a very short time," he added.

"This training is critical because our modern day pilots need to unlearn everything they have been taught about flying in order to control the 1903 Wright flyer," said Rich Milburn, Corporate Director, Special Projects, of Northrop Grumman Corporation, sponsor of the flight training. "This glider has been reconfigured so that it responds to the pilots' inputs precisely as the 1903 flyer will when the historic attempt is made this December near Kitty hawk, N.C."

The Wright Experience is under contract with The Discovery of Flight Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to rediscover the Wright brothers' aviation breakthroughs. Hyde and his team aim to celebrate 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. The dedicated group of craftsmen and volunteers has been researching every aspect of the 1903 airplane for the past decade. The Wright Experience is recognized by the Wright Family Foundation as builders of a flyable authentic 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction.

More than just celebrating the monumental technological achievement of powered flight, the Wright Experience also seeks to gain insights into the creative spirit, scientific methods and developmental process employed by the intrepid bicycle mechanics from Dayton. "Today we see the magnificent evolution of the Wrights' original efforts," Hyde said. "Our quest is to discover how the first steps were made -- steps that are lost in history. We are confident that we will retrace those steps and finish the first century of flight as it began, by flying over the sands of Kitty Hawk. It will be an amazing end to a once-in-a-lifetime celebration of both the realization of dreams and the freedom of flight."

The National Park Service has issued a special use permit, making Hyde's Wright Flyer the only airplane permitted to fly over that hallowed ground near Big Kill Devil Hills. The 1903 Wright flyer reproduction serves as the centerpiece of EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk, presented by Ford Motor Company.

About EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk Presented by Ford Motor Company

EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk is a centennial celebration of the Wright brothers' first powered flight -- an innovation that forever changed our world. Led by EAA, presented by Ford Motor Company and supported by Microsoft Flight Simulator, Eclipse Aviation and Northrop Grumman Corporation. This yearlong series of inspirational events honors the innovation and determination it takes to make world-changing dreams a reality. Countdown to Kitty Hawk features an interactive touring pavilion and the world's most-accurate 1903 Wright flyer reproduction built by The Wright Experience. The countdown will culminate with the re-enactment of the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 2003 -- exactly 100 years later. For more information see www.countdowntokittyhawk.com , www.wrightexperience.com , www.discoveryofflight.org , www.firstflightcentennial.org or www.northropgrumman.com

  CONTACT:  Brian Ellis 
          (804) 512-4797
          bellis@crtpr.com

          Dick Knapinski
          (920) 426-4800
          dknapinski@eaa.org

          Randy Belote
          (703) 875-8525
          randy.belote@ngc.com