Moffett Field, Calif. - On March 1, NASA began testing a full-scale replica of the historic 1903 Wright Flyer, in the world's largest wind tunnel here at the Ames Research Center. The test was expected to last two weeks.

“Testing the Wright Flyer gives us a chance to relive history,” said Craig Hange, Ames' wind tunnel test engineer. “By understanding its flight characteristics, we gain a better understanding of the Wright Brothers' science and engineering skills, as well as an appreciation of the process that led to the development of the airplanes we fly today.”

A team of volunteers from the Los Angeles section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics built the replica with donated materials. The Smithsonian Institute in Washington supplied the precise data taken from the original on display there. The new one replicates the original in design, size, appearance and aerodynamics, some changes were made to strengthen it to withstand the test. It features a 40' 4” wingspan reinforced with piano wire, cotton wing coverings, spruce propellers and a double rudder. Following the tests, the aircraft will be transported to Hawthorne, Calif., to become a permanent lobby display at the FAA Flight Deck museum.

Using the wind tunnel results, these AIAA engineers will build a second Wright Flyer replica to be flown on Dec. 17, 2003, commemorating the 100th Anniversary flight of Orville and Wilbur Wright at Kitty Hawk, N.C. During a recreation of that famous flight, the aircraft will fly low and travel at only 30 mph, the same speed the original flew during its initial flight of 120 feet, staying airborne for 12 seconds. Fred Culick, 63, of Altadena, Calif., will be the first to fly it. He is a private pilot and an aeronautics professor at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

Jack Cherne, TRW engineer and chairman of the Wright Project said, “The work of the Wright Brothers founded the science and technology of aeronautics, and their accomplishments form one of the grandest chapters in history.” In contrast to the Wright brothers, who took less than a year to build their biplane, AIAA volunteers spent their Saturdays for the past 18 years planning and assembling the replica.