The Wrightness of one man’s dream
On December 17, 2003, Tom Ivicevich’s Wright Flyer won’t represent the only attempt to recreate the brothers’ famous accomplishment. Nor will he be the only Wright pilot flying cross-country to arrive at the sand dune shrine in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. But Ivicevich will do it all without major sponsorships. And he intends to fly coast to coast in his enhanced version of the original Wright Flyer.
This is one man’s dream, and he is well underway to reaching his goal.
In January this year, Ivicevich’s 5¼8-scale Flyer flew while being towed by a 1930 Model A pickup truck at Redding Municipal Airport in California. The 190-pound aircraft took readily to the air at 25 mph.
In February, Ivicevich announced, “I am now organizing the start of construction for the full-size Flyer.” Next year, he plans to launch from Torrance, California, and make his way across the country.
I plan to take my time meandering and barnstorming from town to town so this event can be witnessed by as many people as possible,” he says. Ivicevich plans to make appearances at airshows and county fairs. He adds that he is working with educators to develop a program to interest students.
In fact his plan suits more than a pilot’s natural interest in aviation. “I’m a master craftsman and sometimes a bit of a showman,” Ivicevich says, “and I have everything I need to build the plane and barnstorm it across the country.” The artist in him blends nicely with his building skills.
Phase I of Ivicevich’s dream is now complete. Phase II involves building and flying a full-size Wright Flyer. Phase III, starting next year in the summer, is the flight from California to the East Coast.
Wright Flyer Redux
Ivicevich has taken pains to use much of the same technology, equipment and materials available to Orville and Wilbur Wright. He started with drawings obtained from the Smithsonian Institution so he could build his replica to resemble as closely as possible the original Flyer.
“I will keep it as historically accurate as possible,” he says, “but with some necessary aerodynamic changes to make the machine capable of the cross-country flight.” To improve comfort on his long aerial trek, he will sit upright as pilots did in the later Wright models. The famed first pilots were lying down (a drag-reduction technique that the Wrights continued for a few years).
Ivicevich’s first flight in January was notably authentic, taking 15 seconds to cover 550 feet. Orville’s first flight lasted 12 seconds and flew 120 feet. After four successful flights on that famous day in December 1903, Wilbur managed an 852-foot flight that lasted 59 seconds.
The Wright brothers designed and built their own engine and propellers. Their engine produced a mere 12.5 hp yet weighed 152 pounds. Ivicevich will use a half-VW engine that generates about 30 hp. It will also have a throttle—a convenience missing on the original.
The Wright brothers’ sole engine control on the 1903 Wright Flyerwas a hand lever that allowed the pilot to open or close the fuel line. Once the engine had been started by helpers, a restraining line was released by the pilot, and the Flyer would start moving.
The brothers covered their wings and control surfaces with a finely woven cotton muslin, but Ivicevich will use commercially available polyester cloth and lightweight resin dope.
The original Flyerwas built mainly of spruce and ash. Ivicevich started with 6×8-inch Douglas fir beams. From this he drew strips used to fashion wingribs. Ivicevich also used poplar, hemlock and ash. Part of the effort meant creating his own wood steamer to bend the laminated wood strips.
Dreams into Reality
Originally, Ivicevich planned to power the Kitty Hawk, Jr., as he calls the 5¼8-scale towed version. However, it needs some rebuilding as a result of a recent hard landing, Ivicevich said. All developers including his famous predecessors have had setbacks.
“I plan to rebuild the Jr. to comply with [ultralight regulation] Part 103,” Ivicevich says.
For this aircraft, he will use a two-cylinder, four-stroke, 24-hp industrial engine weighing about 80 pounds. If he brings a Part 103-legal Wright Flyer replica to the country’s trade airshows in 2003, undoubtedly pilots will flock to it.
The 51-year old builder from Redding, California, remains humble despite increasing excitement over what he is accomplishing. “I know a lot about flying that [the Wright brothers] didn’t,” he says. “I’m standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Living the Dream
Other 2003 Wright projects have sponsorship by businesses such as Ford Motor Company and by the National Park Service, which operates the Wright Memorial at Kitty Hawk. In contrast, Ivicevich is using a borrowed shop plus donated materials from friends and members of the community. He works largely solo. Passion for flight and honoring the Wright brothers’ achievement are what drive him.
Reflecting on his project, Tom Ivicevich is cheerful. “I believe in living my dream…and this is part of it,” he says. All of aviation will revel in the attention aviation should generate next year, and Tom Ivicevich can say he did his part.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Tom Ivicevich at 7702 Thistle Lane, Redding,CA 96002; call 530/223-6535. To review all “Light Stuff” columns that have appeared in KITPLANES®, visit www.ByDanJohnson.com, which links to the KITPLANES® website with articles of interest.
The Wrightness of one man’s dream