SIDNEY — Joe Ratermann, a National Park Service ranger, presented a program about the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park to the Rotary Club of Sidney, recently.
The Dayton Aviation Park includes six sites within the Dayton city limits and is one of the eight National Parks in the state of Ohio, Ratermann said. Orville and Wilbur Wright and their quest to conquer flight are the main focus of the historical park, but included is the home of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar was a well-known poet and writer of the time, and the home that he lived in was just a couple blocks from the Wright brothers’ bicycle shop.
The Wright brothers also ran a printing business which was the printer of Dunbar’s articles and publications.
The Wright brothers built a one-piston engine powered by natural gas to run the lathes that were used in the bicycle shop and to run the printing equipment.
The Wright brothers designed and built the engine for the first airplane in 1903, with the specs requiring that engine to weigh less than 200 pounds and have 8 horsepower. According to Ratermann, that engine actually was about 16 horsepower and did power the first flights in December 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The first flight was about 120 feet and the during the last flight of the day, the plane traveled 840 feet.
Ratermann said the 1905 Wright Flyer III, which would stay aloft for about 39 minutes and traveled 24 miles, is on display at the Wright Brothers Aviation Center in Carillon Park. He said that the Wright brothers built their own wind tunnel and eventually were building the first airplanes in Dayton by 1909. The Wright brothers started the first school of aviation also at this point in time.
Unfortunately, Wilbur Wright passed away in 1912, after an illness that was blamed on his many travels to defend the brothers’ ideas and designs from others who were stealing the information. Orville Wright sold the company soon after Wilbur’s death and built a small lab and tinkered with small inventions. Orville passed away in 1948, but before he died, was part of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA.
Ratermann gave members in attendance copies of the first toy designed by the young Wright brothers that they played with in their younger years. He also encouraged members 62 or older to go online to the national park website to purchase a lifetime pass at a cost of $80. That pass will allow entrance to any National Park for a lifetime. Ratermann also encouraged members to visit national parks, especially the one nearby in an area crucial to the development of flight.