a personal memoir

Memories of the Wright Brothers come alive through Ken Hyde's flight-capable reproductions

Retired USAF fighter pilot Gen George Sylvester tried out a Wright Flyer simulator while visiting Ken Hyde's reproduction facilities.

Under those conditions the aircraft simply could not fly. So the proposed flight on the anniversary day was not successful, but they did have 2 successful flights before the Centennial with an on-board flight data recorder.

Ken sold all 3 of the Wrights Flyers he built. The Kitty Hawk Flyer, sponsored by Ford Motor Co for the Centennial celebration, was acquired by the Ford Museum in Dearborn MI. The 2nd Flyer went to Harry Combs, who later donated it to the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk as a gift to the US.

For the 3rd airplane I contacted my old friend Bruce McCaw, then chairman of the Museum of Flight in Seattle. After some negotiations, which for me included 2 trips to Seattle, Bruce arranged to purchase the 3rd Wright Flyer reproduction for the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Reproduction of the Wright Vin Fiz airplane flown coast to coast across the US in 1911. The original Model EX aircraft survived16 crash landings enroute from New York to the West Coast.

Since then, Ken built a reproduction of the Wright Flyer B that was purchased by the US Army Signal Corps. The original aircraft crashed in 1908 during a demonstration at Fort Myers VA, killing Lt Thomas Selfridge and injuring Orville Wright, who walked with a limp after that. This was the first fatality attributed to a powered aircraft accident.
Ken also built a reproduction of the Vin Fiz aircraft.

Vin Fiz was a popular soft drink manufacturer who bought a Wright Brothers Model EX to gain publicity. In 1911 the aircraft was flown by CP Rodgers across the US. It flew from the East Coast to the West Coast in 49 days, and along the way it had 16 minor crash landings on unprepared fields.

The Vin Fiz aircraft was followed by a special train carrying mechanics, extra wings and other spare parts to rebuild the aircraft on the spot every time it had an accident. When it arrived at the West Coast, this Model EX contained only a few of the original parts from when it first began its journey in New York.

Ken still builds reproductions of other historical aircraft in his fabulous shop in Virginia, which is well worth a visit. I have taken a number of visitors there, including Al Higdon, who helps me with this series of articles,
captains Bruno Challe and Francois Rude, who flew the Concorde, Dave Collogan, a well-known aviation journalist, and the above mentioned Gen Sylvester. They were all favorably impressed.

Alex Kvassay has relocated from Wichita to Scottsdale AZ. At 88 most of his international traveling, which includes nearly 500 Atlantic crossings and nearly 100 Pacific crossings, is behind him. His some 300 scrapbooks documenting 60 years of global experiences provide much of the source for these remembrances.


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