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Transcript from AccessAerospace Video – “The Wright Brothers” by Ken Hyde of the Wright Experience – Getting to know Wilbur and Orville Wright

Transcript from AccessAerospace Video – “The Wright Brothers” by Ken Hyde of the Wright Experience – Getting to know Wilbur and Orville Wright

Contact Tel:(973) 694-3889 
Email:BillCress@AccessAerospace.com 
Website:www.AccessAerospace.com 
Subject:Transcript from AccessAerospace Video – “The Wright Brothers” by Ken Hyde of the Wright Experience – Getting to know Wilbur and Orville Wright

Bill Cress

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.  Today we have the distinct pleasure of doing an interview with Mr. Ken Hyde of the Wright Experience in Warrington, Virginia.  Ken has often been referred to as the third Wright Brother, because of his historical accuracy of everything he does in relation to the Wright brothers. So good morning, Ken, how are you today?

Ken Hyde

Morning, Bill, we’re fine. Fine. Good to be with you.

Bill Cress

Good to be with you as well. Now behind Ken, you’ll see that he’s in one of his warehouses. And his background happens to be the 1909 military flyer that was constructed by Wilbur and Orville, and it was the first plane that the US military bought. So, you know, Ken, what inspired you to originally pursue your interest in the Wright brothers? Why did you do that?

Ken Hyde

Well, I was restoring airplanes, and so many, Wright airplane enthusiasts build some kind of look alike, but with a modern engine and that sort of thing. And that didn’t fly with me. I wanted to get a customer that would sponsor the project. And luckily, the US Army contacted me to build a reproduction of the Wright model B. And I thought that I’d gave him an 18-month contract and thought that would be a piece of cake to build. And six months later, we were still trying to find blueprints and, and materials that we needed. But the drawings and things were just not there. So that meant we had to had to look at every Beat part we could get. We completed it in 24 months instead of 18. And after building it I realized it was much better airplane and I thought it was going to be I’d build one for myself as well.

Bill Cress

There you go. Now I know your background. As a captain for American Airlines for many years gave you the ability to fly all over the world and meet lots of people. I suspected that getting the materials for the Wright aircraft and trying to be as accurate as possible, especially with fabric, and struts and finishes and things of that nature. would be very difficult. And as you said, you know, you were sourcing materials for six months, how were you able to even find some of this stuff?

Ken Hyde

Well, there, it’s very difficult, and we’ve changed the manufacturing system. Now if you if you want an oval shaped tubing, as an example, which the Wrights used, to hold the chain guides, you contact the steel tubing company and they want up to $10,000 for the tooling. And they want you to buy a million feet of it and so forth and so on. And at night you wake up and you think “how did the Wrights make this”. So you come down to the hangar and you get a piece of one inch round tubing, but a half inch square bar in the middle of it, squeeze it with the vise and it comes out to the exact dimension.

Bill Cress

I’m sure the Wrights weren’t investing $10,000 in getting an oval tubing at that point. No, sir.

Ken Hyde

Well, the purpose of the Wright Experience basically is to make sure that we build the Wright airplane Wright flyer, that would be exactly the way they built it. So, when we put that airplane into a wind tunnel and evaluate it, we are getting good data. We know that this was the right product.

Bill Cress

But you really got into this because as you said there were no plans and there were no drawings. Basically, there may have been some sketches and a couple of photographs and letters back and forth between the Wright brothers and their sister and what have you. But you know I’m sure this was not an easy test because you know, you are known as producing the most historically correct and most accurate reproductions of the Wright aircraft anywhere in the world. Most of the stuff that you see out there is just a hodgepodge of stuff to give a visual that looks like something, but it’s not accurate at all. You even mentioned to me that one of the planes that was hanging in the Air and Space Museum in Washington had different deficiencies in it, and they weren’t correct.

Ken Hyde

Well, that’s true, but the Smithsonian strives to get as authentic airplanes as they can. And we’ve been very fortunate that they’ve invited us to put some of our reproductions on display for as long as eight years, which is not in their charter. They want real airplanes, but there are none. To save the Wrights a lot of times, cannibalized that last airplane they made to proceed with progress of the next airplane so they could exist.

Bill Cress

That was probably a cost saving measure on their end I’m sure

Ken Hyde

Oh, absolutely. The only thing that saves us is they kept meticulous notes. And these little giveaway vest pocket booklets the bank gives you and others.  They kept a log of everything they did.

Bill Cress

Well, tell me about the first one you ever built. How did you approach that and how difficult was it the first time?

Ken Hyde

Well, I always wanted to get another customer that would be interested in me putting a airplane together. In Fort Rucker, Alabama, the Aviation Museum inquired about us building the Wright Model B. And so, we built the airplane, and, in the process, we realized it was really a good airplane. So, we built one for ourselves as well. Today, we’ve got that four Wright Model B’s out in museums across the country.

Bill Cress

So, the Wright model B was the first one.

ABC News World Headquarters in New York.

This world news tonight with Peter Jackson at the end of the broadcast tonight, the mission to chase history, recreating the beginning of flight. We’re coming up on 100 years later.

This was a story that was never told. And I consider it the world’s greatest detective story.

We find this evening tried to go 120 feet in 12 seconds. That’s how far the Wright brothers traveled during their first flight in 1903. As much as aviation has progressed, you might think that recreating that flight for the 100th anniversary this year wouldn’t be so hard. But nobody has ever figured out precisely how the Wrights did it. Which is humbling in this day and age. A year ago ABCs Ned Potter went to see the man attempting to recreate the first flight. Now he’s gone back again.

You have no idea how hard it was to get this far off the ground, towing a handmade glider behind a station wagon in the field near Warrenton, Virginia. 100 years ago at this time, the Wright brothers were also teaching themselves to fly on the way to their first powered airplane Ken Hyde has made it his mission to trace their steps.

It is literally much harder to re-engineer something and find out exactly how they did it in many ways rather than invent it.

Hyde is the retired airline pilot who has been chasing the Wrights for 10 years now copying their plane with the same tools and materials they would have used and this propeller was so efficient that they were able to carry with only 12 horsepower they were able to fly.

Many parts have had to be reconstructed from photographs and letters since the Wrights fearful of copycats left few other records. But Hyde says his group’s plane is authentic. They’ve even copied the fabric for the wings. Pride of the West brand Muslim originally meant for ladies undergarments. All this should culminate at Kitty Hawk North Carolina on December 17. The 100th anniversary of the first flight. If luck is with them, they will fly. At the very same hour the Wrights did but that may not be easy. Their test flights have shown them that while the Wrights plane was a work of genius, it was terribly unstable in the air. This is as difficult an aeroplane is to fly as I have ever flown. Hyde’s group has now made a computer simulator of the glider. I’m sliding my hips to steer, and it hurts. It is as unforgiving as the real thing going down and there’s nothing I can do. nothing you can do. I just crashed.

That’s right.

But for the sake of accuracy, Hyde says he will have to take his chances.

It is hard to fly. But once you get used to it, and you get used to the fact that it is a very unstable airplane, it’s becoming much more easy.

Which is why whenever the weather cooperates, Ken Hyde and his fellow dreamers are up in the air again, chasing history.

Bill Cress

So, the Wright Model B, you said it was a good airplane. Why?

Ken Hyde

Well, they had learned a great deal of more about stability of the airplane. Most of the Wright airplanes are very unstable. You can’t let go of the control at any time. And you’re very busy. Keeping it right, right side up, you know, but the B was one of the best and most balanced airplanes that they built. And Orville said they built 138 of the two pusher type airplanes. And we believe about 65 of those were Wright Model B’s. So it was the most popular in the factory.

Bill Cress

Oh, wow. Wow, that’s the one that everybody wanted. And I guess, right.

Ken Hyde

And that was a really practical airplane to own.

Bill Cress

You know, a few weeks back, I had a conversation with somebody down in Kitty Hawk, where you’ve been involved for many years and have various aircraft and demonstrations and things. And right now, today, they tell me that they have one of your gliders out there. And what they’re actually doing is they’re allowing people to come and for a fee, train on how to fly that glider and then actually flying it. So, they’re getting some experience on an actual reproduction of a Wright glider. Tell me about that a little bit because you produce that glider.

Ken Hyde

Yes, the best of I just bragged about how good the Model B was.  But the best and most stable airplane they built was that 1902 glider. And then even from their wind tunnel test, they kind of split the numbers to build that as a training airplane. And we have flown that airplane quite a bit. It’s been at Kitty Hawk Kites at Jockeys Ridge State Park just down from Kitty Hawk. John Harris and his crew have a lot of ultralights flying off of the sand dunes there. And then we put them in charge of taking care of the customers there. And so, it’s been there since 2003. And it’s it attracts all kinds of people. Oh, Paul Glenshaws’ son flew the 1902 when he was seven and a half years old. So, it’s a very safe airplane. And so they’re still flying it today. And that’s a long time since 2003.

Bill Cress

Yeah, you know, and I was fascinated to learn that they’re actually doing what they’re doing. Because what better place than Kitty Hawk where it all started basically, right?

Ken Hyde

Absolutely. It’s it they’ve got the right winds and they got the soft sand. If you do hit the ground hard, it’s not too bad.

Bill Cress

Okay, you know, Ken your aircraft are so well respected. That I mean, nobody in the world produces anything even close to what you do. And I know that many of the better museums have acquired one way or another your aircraft to put in their museum and showcase their displays on the Wright Brothers. Can you just tell us some of the museums that you have aircraft in?

Ken Hyde

Yes, sir. The Park Service invited us to build an authentic 1903 fleet. So, the flyer that said the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk is one of our reproductions of the 1903. We have a 1903 that we flew for the centennial, we just got up short hop on off the rail because of the rain that was sponsored by Ford Motor Company. So the Henry Ford museum has one of our 1903 flyers, the Seattle Museum of Flight also has one. So we’ve got three of those flyers out in the public.

Bill Cress

And then you have a Little Butch, where is that though?

Ken Hyde

Yes, Little Butch. Woody Edmondson was a well-known acrobatic pilot. In fact, in 1948, he won the world’s champion, acrobatic, with a little airplane called Little Butch. And little Butch was a cut down model of a moncoupe. And they put a bigger engine on it. And he was a local guy from Virginia and kept it here in Washington, DC. And that airplane ended up being donated to the Smithsonian, it hangs now in the Hazy Center in Dullas. And they found an aircraft and way up in New York State, called the Farmers Sport. For it was a 1922 airplane built in France by the farming company. And it was a little 2 place wooden airplane and it has this record for the slowest air speeds, it’s very safe. And I gave that to the Smithsonian because that was the only one in existence. And the 1900 Wright glider. The Smithsonian did not have that airplane in conjunction with the other Wright airplanes. So we, we donated that to the end, it’s at the Wright gallery downtown, and at the National Air and Space Museum.

Bill Cress

Then the Air and Space Museum and Chantilly had one of your aircraft, which moved recently, I believe.

Ken Hyde

Yes, they’ve been very gracious of allowing us to exhibit our plane. And so for about the last four years, we’ve had a 1908 military flyer in there, and because of a new Army Museum is being built at Fort Belvoir, and is completed now, I’m afraid is not open to the public, like all a lot of the museums are today until we get rid of this virus. We had a Wright Model B there for eight years. And we have parts and pieces in a shipping crate, we made the copy of the Wright shipping crate. And then we encourage the listeners to get the littlest kit to hand out wing ribs and half of a propeller and roller skate wheels that they use. And people want to touch things and they can’t touch original airplane items in the Smithsonian Of course, but they can touch our parts and pieces which are replaceable, and no one can get hurt. So, it’s been a very successful program for us. And we’ve had airplanes in there for seven or eight years. And they really are terrific to work with.

Bill Cress

Oh, that’s great. You know, when I visited you down in Washington, and actually was in the warehouse that you’re in right now, one of the planes that fascinated me the most was the VIN FIZ. I mean, that looked like you know, a luxury aircraft for the time. Between the seats and the engine and the radiator and the, you know, the way the components look, it was almost like jewelry, and then to see a bottle of a drink with the VIN FIZ label on it on the wing of the aircraft, really fascinated me. I’d like you to tell me a little bit about the history of the VIN FIZ, but can give me an idea about what was the story behind the VIN FIZ?

Ken Hyde

Well, the armor company came out with a new grape drink They called it the ideal drink. And so they wanted a lot of advertisement, because they wanted to topple Coca Cola if they could. So they put up a $30,000 Prize for the first person that would fly across the United States within 30 days. And they painted the VIN FIZ and the grapes and the advertisement all over the airplane. They provided a train and locomotive that they painted white. So whoever was flying cross country could follow that train if nothing else. And Cal Rogers of the naval Rogers Cal Rogers, what was the pilot and the Wrights built the airplane, they cut it down and weight and size made it single place, Wilbur flew, and he loved it, because it was a fast and turn quickly and, and so he had nothing but good comments about it. He crashed I believe 33 times going across the United States. And he had a box, he had railroad cars for spare parts and pieces and living quarters. His wife was on the train, his mechanic was on the train. Charlie Taylor, who had been working with the Wright brothers, he was on the train. It was quite an operation. And it’s a beautiful little airplane and it’s further back and you can’t see it behind my head. But it was not a successful drink. It was a syrup that they would send to the to the pharmacies and the soda jerks. And if they mixed it not exactly right. It had a laxative effect. So did not win out over Coca Cola.

Bill Cress

So much for the VIN FIZ.

Ken Hyde

Yeah.

Bill Cress

When I visited you several times, I was very impressed seeing some of the original Wright Brother engines. They seem to be just way ahead of their time. And you happen to have several of them. And not only that, but Greg who works with you, okay, could have been working for the Wright Brothers because that guy knows those engines inside out. And he’s, he’s like a restoration artist. I’m sure that Wilbur and Orville would have loved to have Greg in their factory at that time. But tell me a little bit about their engine, their engine developments.

Ken Hyde

Absolutely. And I’m so lucky to have Greg Cohen because he is interested in the subject as much as I. The Wrights wrote to seven or eight automobile companies and engine companies when they were getting ready to build the 1903. And the requirement was that it would be eight, around eight and a half horsepower is what they needed. And all of the bids that came back. They want to sell them a one-cylinder engine, or a two-cylinder engine, and they were to have heavy cast iron and so forth. And as a result, they figured we were going to have to build our own. And they had Charlie Taylor, who was great machinist come on board and Orville would sketch the parts they wanted, and Charlie Taylor would manufacture the parts and they were successful. They were one of the first that used aluminum, Alcoa aluminum casting for the crankcase to keep the weight down. And they wanted eight and a half horsepower, and they ended up with 12. And they were elated, like any pilot would be you can never have enough horsepower. It’s not true with the right airplane. The airplane would have flown lot easier if it were 8 and a half horsepower. We’ve determined that with Norm Grable, who is a fine aeronautical engineer that extra horsepower causes the airplane to be right up against the point it’s almost uncontrollable. So more horsepower is not good.

Bill Cress

But I saw an eight-cylinder engine that you were restoring of theirs there, that was pretty progressive for the time, wasn’t it?

Ken Hyde

Very progressive.  There was a contest, speed contest in St. Louis, that they decided to compete in. And they built up a lightweight version of the EX model basic, baby grand is what they called it. And they very stubby short wings. And it was a real tricky airplane. And they married two of the four-cylinder engines together to make a V8. And that’s 60 horsepower, 65 horsepower. And they had a young pilot that worked with them, and they put him on it while moving back up. Orville flew the airplane twice. Once it’s 72 miles an hour one at 74 miles an hour.  Merkins, the young kid that was going to fly the airplane for them.  He lost a fuel pump, in the process of flying and the airplane crashed and didn’t finish the program. But to show you how advanced the Wrights were, Graham White from England won that contest at 62 miles an hour. So that’s a big difference in what the Wright airplane is doing.

Bill Cress

You know, you’ve built a lot of Wright aircraft, what’s it really like to fly one?

Ken Hyde

It’s, well, the best one is the 1902 glide is very comfortable, it’s stable, it’s easy to fly. And you’re so close to the ground, landing and so forth, that everything seems very fast and it’s not, you know, it’s very, very slow and very careful. The right Model B is a bit of a tricky airplane, in the sense that you’ve got to be able to coordinate rudder and with the airplane is very, very touchy. And but it’s probably the best of the lot. And they had the safest record. They were doing high altitude climbs, 11 to 12,000 feet. Really Wow. And run out of fuel and then glide back down and land. You know,

Bill Cress

I’m surprised that they were able to get to those kinds of altitudes, though, really, that’s unbelievable. You know, in your career, you’ve flown every kind of aircraft there is, you know, when you were with American Airlines and all that kind of stuff. And you know, from everything that I’ve learned, it’s very difficult to fly the Wright Brothers aircrafts, they’re not easy, and they’re not forgiving. From what I’ve heard. Is that true?

Ken Hyde

That’s absolutely true. You know, they invented the airplane. But it was years later that they had stable airplanes and safe airplanes in the sense that they needed a great deal of skill to fly them. Now they were fortunate, and for years, the years prior to the first 1903 airplane, they were flying gliders, and some of those were not exactly stable. But they had the feel of the airplane. So they could fly the 1903 for that same for that first powered flight.

Bill Cress

You know, we’re going to talk about propellers in a minute because I know you’ve done a lot of research and a lot of development, a lot of testing. But I want to talk about the propeller that I saw in your office which is hanging on the wall all smashed up. Behind that one, what’s the story with that smashed up propeller?

Ken Hyde

I deny I know anything about it. No. No, I was test flying a Wright Model B. And I ran out of altitude, speed and experience all at the same time and I put it in a tree and I woke up with some fireman the bottom, a lady calling my name and I had a goose egg on my head and I had a broken arm and I was in this tree.

Bill Cress

It’s a great conversation piece. Let me tell you.

Ken Hyde

Yeah, it is.

Bill Cress

Okay, in your in your work with the Wright Brothers propellers. I know that you’ve put an inordinate amount of time into configuring them. And, you know, researching the way that they were able to manufacture their propellers they were way ahead of their time. And I know that in what you were doing to reproduce them, you actually went and had your propellers, wind tested at various wind testing tunnel facilities to make sure that you were getting them as accurate as possible. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Ken Hyde

Yes, we’re very fortunate to have a lot of universities and test facilities interested in what we were doing. The propeller was the last thing that they left on their attack to learn about, they left it to the very last moment, because they knew it’s going to be complicated. There was a blade element theory and as a momentum theory that people use to help build props, the Wrights for the first to marry those two theories together to come up with a prop. And the propellers are the same airfoil shape as the wing. And they got that information from their little wind tunnel that they used in their shop. But they never patented the propeller, because they laborer, a lot of other people in France and other places, we’re all coming up with props. Some good, mostly bad. But when they when they saw the Wright brothers fly, or Wilbur fly in France, the cat was out of the bag. So everyone was successful now with, with the propeller, that that first 03 propeller is 84%. efficient. And the best we can do with a wooden propeller today is between 82 and 84%.

Bill Cress

They were really ahead of the game at that point, then.

Ken Hyde

They really were and they knew it. And it’s probably one of their biggest inventions and greatest gifts that they gave us.

Bill Cress

I know that you were very impressed with the mathematic developments of the rights. And most people don’t even realize what was involved in what they did. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Ken Hyde

Yeah, so people like to say that the Wright Brothers were high school dropout. And that’s not totally true. Wilbur completed high school. But the family moved to Dayton. And he never went back and got his certificate. But he graduated from high school. Orville was so interested in other things. and about the eighth grade, he decided he didn’t need any more school. But their father, the bishop was very smart, and he had all of these good math books. And they were dealing with calculus and trigonometry which was a piece of cake for them to do and all of that tied into inventing the airplane. Not only just the propellers, but the rest of the airplane is well.

Bill Cress

Ken, my last question is that when you visited the original Wright Brother manufacturing factories in Dayton, Ohio, recently, the head of the National Park Service, asked you to sign a poster of the Wrights. Tell me about how that felt, being asked to do that in that place, that you spent a good part of your life, you know, learning about reproducing and being involved with. How did you feel? How did you feel when you’re in the buildings? How did you feel when you signed the poster, of the Wrights where other people that are of a stature that were invited to do that? You joined an elite crowd by being on that poster. Tell me about it.

Ken Hyde

Well, it was quite exciting. For sure. But the you can almost feel their presence at the factory buildings. They were used for other things after their company was sold for automobile parts and pieces. And for the war effort, of course in World War Two, but they had two buildings and they were cranking out airplanes and doing very well.  Sadly, Wilbur died of typhoid fever, and Orville lost a great deal of his interest. And, and also the ability to do what they were doing. These guys would argue into the night over a subject, and then get up in the morning and say, I think you were right last night. No, no, you were right. So, you could see how that that interaction back and forth, it was a great problem-solving ability of these two men. And when Wilbur died, half of that disappeared, you know, and Orville was just a normal human being. And he did get some patents, he did get a patent on a split flap that was used in World War Two. But mostly he just measured and went to his laboratory every day and worked. That’s part of the story.

Bill Cress

Well, can I want to thank you for spending the time with us this morning. It’s been very informative. And you know, there’s nobody else that knows the subject like you do. So, I want to thank you very much. This is going to be available for everyone in anyone to see on all of the social media channels. Copies can be obtained by contacting either Ken Hyde or myself. And also, I just want to mention that, you know, Ken spends a lot of time on the Wright brother aircraft, but their shop also restores historical aircraft. So if you have a historical aircraft that needs repair, or remanufacturing or replacements, the Wright Experience in Warrenton, Virginia and Mr. Ken Hyde are the right people to do the job for you. Thank you very much can have a great day.

Ken Hyde

Thank you. Great. We appreciate you too. Thanks much. Okay, and visit where you can.

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