Tag Archives: AIrflight

A WIng and a Prayer

A Wing and a Prayer

September 09, 2004An airborne ballet of soaring tricks and flirtations with disaster will dash through the sky at the Wings and Wheels 2004 air show September 25 and 26 at the Shelby County Airport . Led by AeroShell Aerobatic Team daredevils flying North American T-6 Texans (World War II trainer aircrafts known as “pilot-makers”), the show will feature graceful loops and rolls trailed by white plumes of smoke in a display of precision flying maneuvers. Barnstorming ace Greg Koontz will lead the festivities with an inverted mid-air ribbon-cutting stunt in his Super Decathlon flyer. Koontz, who currently operates an aerobatic school in Birmingham, started performing in air shows in 1974 as a member of Colonel Moser’s Flying Circus, a comedy airplane troupe. He is credited with resuscitating the World’s Smallest Airport routine years ago when he landed a Piper Cub on a moving pickup truck. Koontz puts on a dazzling array of snaps and tumbles, vertical rolls, and outside loops. And, most thrilling of all, Koontz is fond of performing at extremely low altitudes.




The gates open at 10 a.m. each day, and admission is $10 for adults, $2 for youths, and children younger than 5 are admitted free. For more information, call 1-866-246-2376 or visit www.birminghamaeroclub.org for details.

Wright Brothers Replica Coming to Town

Wright Brothers Replica Coming to Town

John Reynolds spent four years building this replica of the Wright Brothers first airplane, which will be in Birmingham on November 15.

A replica of the first engine-powered airplane that Wilbur and Orville Wright successfully flew will be on display at the Southern Museum of Flight from November 15 to 30. Built by John Reynolds and his wife, Carol, the Wright Flyer celebrates the 100th anniversary of the maiden voyage of an aircraft in sustained, controlled flight. Reynolds describes the project as an all-consuming, “almost religious” task that took four years to complete, much longer than he expected. “I thought I could knock it out in about six months. If I knew then what I do now, I probably could have,” he laughs. The biggest obstacle was visualizing the finished airplane in his mind, explains Reynolds, who completed the project with his wife in 1994. “When you’re working off a set of plans, it’s hard to translate that into a three-dimensional image. I found you just had to make it according to the drawings and it would come to itself, so to speak.” Reynolds relied on drawings supplied by the Smithsonian, where the original is on display. The Wright Brothers left no detailed sketches behind, so the Smithsonian had plans drawn when the plane was restored in 1985.

Reynolds was determined to approach problems of construction much as the Wright Brothers did. “I built the aircraft as authentically as I could, if we assume the Smithsonian is the standard. Some of the [original] fabric and pieces of wood just weren’t practical. The Wright Brothers used Pride of the West Muslin [for the wings] and I just used pima cotton, which approximated the same thread count and density.” He’s amazed that many people don’t realize the lasting impact the Wrights had on the future of airflight. “They were scientists and engineers even though they’d never had any formal training in those areas, and the airplane alone has probably seven or eight inventions that are original ideas developed by them. The propeller, they originally invented that. There was no data on aviation propellers. They started their invention using boat props . . . that just goes to show you how amazing these guys were. They weren’t a couple of kids who got lucky. A lot of people think they just kinda cobbled this thing together and just went out there and flew. But that’s not the case at all.”

John and Carol Reynolds will be at the Southern Museum of Flight on November 15 to introduce the Wright Flyer to Birmingham in honor of the First Flight Centennial at Kitty Hawk on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. And yes, Reynolds’ aircraft was built to fly, though it’s powered by a different engine than the Wrights employed. Reynolds has an 18 horsepower Briggs and Stratton tractor engine because he wanted to fly his plane repeatedly. According to Reynolds, the Wright Brothers’ engine can be made “fairly reliable, but it just doesn’t have the reliability to where I felt comfortable with climbing in the plane.” In the decade since he completed the project, he has yet to try it out. “I built it to fly and I plan to, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to put it in the air,” he says. “I think it’ll be best to wait until after the Centennial celebration (December 12 through 17) that way if I break it, I won’t let anybody down who wants to see it.” Reynolds claims he will fly it himself, eventually. “I don’t think I can find anybody else crazy enough to do it.”

Call 833-8226 for details.
Ed Reynolds