KILL DEVIL HILL, N.C., Dec. 2, 2003 (PRIMEZONE) -- The Wright Experience today announced that it has resumed proof-of-concept tests with its reproduction 1903 Wright Flyer here at The Wright Brothers National Memorial in advance of the planned Dec. 17 re-enactment of the world's first powered flight.

The reproduction 1903 flyer is as close to the original flyer as can be engineered and was assembled by The Wright Experience with painstaking detail over the past four years. On Nov. 25, the aircraft was damaged during tests here, but repair work by The Wright Experience crew during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend returned the airplane to operational status in less than four days.

"Fortunately, the airplane's damage was not as severe as first feared and we have resumed our testing program," said Ken Hyde, founder of The Wright Experience. "In recent days we've learned a tremendous amount on operational processes and in reading the wind, so we will be well prepared for the re-enactment.

"In many ways, our experience last week walked in the footsteps of the Wright brothers, who also conducted extensive tests prior to their first flight and suffered a setback similar to ours just three days before they made history."

The Wright Experience was contracted by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) to build an authentic reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer. The reproduction is the centerpiece of EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk presented by Ford Motor Company, which will culminate with its flight at 10:35 a.m. on Dec. 17, 2003, 100 years to the minute of the Wright brothers' first flight.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is the major sponsor for the yearlong training of pilots who will re-enact the first flight. The company also sponsored the reproduction of a 1902 Wright glider, which was a key element of the pilots' training regimen. The training is vital because modern pilots must unlearn nearly everything they have been taught about aviation in order to control the airplane.

On Nov. 20, the 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction piloted by Dr. Kevin Kochersberger was successful in a 97-foot proof-of-concept test flight. The test program is part of an encampment, which involves extensive preparation and rigorous training and is being completed under the direction of legendary test pilot Scott Crossfield. It has also been vital to validating the innovative genius of the Wright brothers.

Hyde and his crew from The Wright Experience are attempting to recreate the Wright Brothers' first flights in every detail. However, the growing popularity of the Outer Banks of North Carolina has complicated the challenge.

"In 1903, this area was a desolate piece of sand with nothing to interrupt the flow of air all the way to the ocean," said Hyde. "Today, houses and buildings abound and trees have been planted to stabilize the dunes. This creates more turbulence, but we're learning to live with that.

"We've also learned that the hospitality and support extended to the Wright brothers so many years ago continues today. We're grateful for the warm reception and we are excited to be at this historic site where we will repeat the magnificent accomplishment of the Wright brothers."

About The Wright Experience

The Wright Experience celebrates the achievement 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, visit www.wrightexperience.com

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 Corp., 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 that will exclusively re-enact the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 2003 -- exactly 100 years later. www.countdowntokittyhawk.org

Members of the news media may receive our releases via e-mail by registering at: http://www.northropgrumman.com/cgi-bin/regist_form.cgi

LEARN MORE ABOUT US: Northrop Grumman news releases, product information, photos and video clips are available on the Internet at: http://www.northropgrumman.com

  CONTACT:  Randy Belote
          Northrop Grumman Corporation
          (703) 875-8525