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Restoring History...
The Wright 1911 Model B Flyer

Restored 1911 Wright Model B
Larger view (246K)

2003: Tuesday, June 24 | Wednesday, June 25 | Thursday, June 26| Friday, June 27 | Monday, July 7 | Tuesday, July 8

In 2001, the Wright 1911 Model B Flyer departed the museum to undergo meticulous restoration at the Aeroplane Works in Ohio. Two years later—in time for the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight—the Flyer was returned to its newly refurbished home at The Franklin Institute.

The Model B Flyer arrived carefully packed into many boxes, and over the course of several weeks in late June and early July 2003, Aeroplane Works employees precisely reassembled this amazing artifact, and, together with Franklin Institute staff, hoisted the plane to its new location as a featured exhibit in The Franklin Air Show. This log documents the reassembly of the refurbished plane.

Mouseover the images for short descriptions. Click on the hyperlinked text below the thumbnails for larger images.

Log of the Wright Model B Reassembly

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

5:15 PM: The truck bearing the Model B Flyer arrives, and all of the components are carefully transported to the exhibit space. The wing sections are packed in huge, tailor-made cardboard boxes. The engine travels from the truck to the exhibit on a forklift.

The engine is removed from the truck.
   41K, 50K
The tail of the plane on the loading dock.
   44K, 207K
The wings in their transport boxes.
   32K, 151K
   Movie, 3.4M    Movie, 2.2M    Movie, 1.5M

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

8:45 AM: The body of the plane will be constructed while resting on its side, then the landing gear will be attached, and the plane will be turned down onto its skids. The team begins by fitting the struts to the lower center section of the wing. Temporary wood braces are added for stability during construction. During assembly, the wings remain covered by clear plastic, to protect the new muslin fabric.

Putting together the center section is the trickiest part, since it is the part of the plane that will bear the most weight, carrying the engine, the seats, and the propellers.

Once the bottom struts are fitted, the top struts are fitted next, with the outer struts being placed first, so the structure remains stable. Although they may look like metal, all of the struts are painted spruce wood, and are original.

During the take-down, every part was tagged to make sure it could be put back in the right place. Nearly all of the metal fittings, including the steel flying and landing wires, are original, and they were replated in the restoration process to look as they did when they were new.

The center section is assembled first.
   42K, 170K
Replated metal fitting and flying wire with ID tag.
   27K, 47K
The center section, seen from above.
   36K, 145K

11:00 AM: The suspension cables are hung from the ceiling. They will hold the cradle that was built to support the skids when the plane is upright. The cables need to be hung early in the process so there will be a lesser chance of ceiling debris falling on the plane later.

3:00 PM: The skid cradles are attached to the suspension cables. Later, when the plane is assembled, the cables will be lowered and the skids will be fitted into the cradles and then lifted.

4:45 PM: The fabric of the wing sections is tied together with strong twists of wire, and is pulled taut to prepare for sewing.

The skid cradles are attached to the cables.
   35K, 62K
Pulling the fabric taut with wire.
   36K, 150K
Attaching the skids.
   46K, 186K
   Movie, 1024K

Thursday, June 26, 2003

9:00 AM: Once the fabric is drawn together tightly with the pieces of wire, sewing begins. The stitch is a simple whip stitch, using a curved needle. It's likely that the Wright Brothers used a whip stitch on their models, because it's easy to do, and they'd have to make repairs in the field.

10:00 AM: The team pauses assembly to demonstrate the revitalized engine. Prior to the test, parts are oiled, the engine is fueled with gasoline, and water is added. Outside, in front of the museum, staff and visitors watch as the engine roars to life for a last hurrah. The engine runs for over a minute before it is halted.

1:45 PM: Stitching the wings continues, and the team begins to reconnect the wires within the tail section.

2:45 PM: The bottom right portion of the wing is attached, completing the wings.

Close-up of wing stitch.
     37K, 175K
Testing the engine.
     56K, 137K
Preparing the tail.
     42K, 181K
     Movie, 2.0M     Movie, 4.0M
Preparing the horizontal stabilizer.
     38K, 159K
Attaching the wing section.
     40K, 151K
All wing sections attached.
     39K, 160K
     Movie, 1.6M

Friday, June 27, 2003

1:00 PM: The plane is uprighted. Two men push up from the back, and two more catch the skids on the way down to stand it up.

1:30 PM: The control assembly (for operating the plane) is attached and the seats are installed. Then the drive train (the part that hooks around the chain and moves the propeller) is also installed. (If you look carefully at the images below, you can see the photographs that the team was using to make sure that the components are assembled and attached exactly as they should be. They took the photos during the takedown, documenting each section.)

2:45 PM: The engine is brought in with a forklift, and is slowly lowered onto the resting place on the right side of the center of the plane. The engine is bolted to the plane.

Plane is upright.
   45K, 192K
The control assembly is attached.
   42K, 169K
The seats are installed.
   50K, 232K
The drive train assembly.
   43K, 166K
The engine is lifted into the plane.
   51K, 223K
The engine is in place.
   46K, 187K
   Movie, 3.4M

Monday, July 7, 2003

Aeroplane Works returns to The Franklin Institute to complete the assembly and hang the plane. The team attaches the wheels, the tail of the plane, and the rear propellers. The engine installation is completed and the fuel tank is attached.

The wheels.
   58K, 261K
Attaching the tail.
   67K, 281K
A side view.
   42K, 219K
The engine attached to the drive train.
   56K, 268K

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

11:00 AM: The preparations to hang the plane begin. The plane is suspended by three chains on pulleys for hoisting it high. The plane rises as the chains are pulled, while ropes are also pulled horizontally to manage any swaying that may occur, and to redirect angles as it ascends. The ropes also help to pull the plane into position as the suspension cables are attached.

11:15 AM: Nearly up, there is a pause to attach the steel suspension cables and detach the pulley chains. Once the cables are attached, the rope tension is released.

11:20 AM: Success! The plane is in proper position, and looks impressive in its new space. After suspension, the rear propellers are adjusted to be on an angle. This requires careful coordination, as the two propellers have to be moved at the same time. From the bottom of the plane to the floor of the room, there is a clearance of about nine and a half feet.

Raising the plane.
   56K, 293K
Pulling the rope.
   45K, 222K
The plane is halfway up.
   49K, 229K
It's up!
   54K, 252K

Want to go back to the beginning? Look at images from the takedown and some documentation of the plane's restoration.


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