The Secret of Flight School Tour

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he story of the Wright brothers and the invention of the airplane are woven deep into American history and culture, so deep that it profoundly affects how we see ourselves. Their tale, in fact, may be every bit as important as their accomplishments. There's no denying that mechanical flight has changed the course of history. But their story has changed the course of lives.

The Wright tale is as unforgettable as a nursery rhyme and as inspiring as a hymn. Two bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio, with no resources other than their own pluck, out-invent the world's best scientific minds and achieve the age-old dream of flight by virtue of their imagination, determination, and courage. Once you know the basic story, it becomes a metaphor in your own life, confirming the worth of your dreams and the work you do to achieve them. For this reason alone, it's a story worth telling our children again and again.

It is also a wonderful vehicle for getting across a wide range of proficiency requirements in science, technology, math, and social studies. And it crosses many age levels from K through 12, but is especially relevant and potent for 3rd  through 8th grades.

Bringing the Story to life

To tell a good story, you need experience with your subject. So we conduct expeditions in aviation archaeology, recreating the invention of the airplane. We have built all the experimental aircraft the Wright brothers designed between 1899 and 1905 in their quest for a practical flying machine - their scientific kites, gliders, and powered Flyers. And we fly them, traveling to the North Carolina Outerbanks near Kitty Hawk where we can experience the winds and sands that were the Wright brothers’ laboratory.

We have documented our adventures in words, photographs, and video. These are woven into our school presentation. To us, the Wright gliders and Flyers aren’t historical artifacts, but actual flying machines. Your students watch as Major Dawne Dunlop of the US Air Force loses control of the 1902 glider and cartwheels across the sand. They see Lt. Cmdr. Klas Ohman of the US Navy grimace as he struggles to keep the Wright glider in the air. Second by second they follow Capt. Connie Tobias of United Airways as she becomes the first woman to successfully pilot the 1903 Flyer. We don’t just tell the Wright story. We bring it to life.

Cool Stuff

Every teacher knows you can get your point across better and easier with visual aids. So we created a "portable museum" of the Wright brothers especially for schools. It includes:

  • Wright Bat — A toy helicopter the brothers built when they were kids.

  • Wright Bicycle — Will and Orv's introduction to control and balance.

  • Control Demonstrator - Showing how to control an aircraft in roll, pitch, and yaw.

  • Inner Tube Box Experiment — Reliving the discovery that inspired a revolutionary new control system.

  • Not Quite Wright Kite — So students can fly the Wrights’ first controlled flying machine.

  • Wind Tunnel and Balance — Allowing students to repeat the Wright's lift experiments.

  • 1903 Wright Flyer Flight Simulator —  So students can relive the adventure of the first controlled, powered flights.

Three of these items the inner tube box, kite, and wind tunnel are things that your students can easily make from common, inexpensive materials. The plans can be downloaded from our web site. Use these to prepare for our visit or to reinforce the lessons after we leave.

AN historic aircraft

The centerpiece of this museum is a full-size replica of the 1902 Wright Glider, the world’s first fully controllable aircraft, the basis of the Wrights’ grandfather patent of the airplane, and the granddaddy of everything that flies. It has an impressive 32-foot wing span when it’s assembled, but it breaks down so we can fit it through an ordinary door. This lets us set up in a cafeteria, gymnasium, large classroom, anywhere you have space for an airplane.

More important, this glider was built and flown by kids. We worked with 8th-grade students from Russia, Ohio to build this aircraft, then took them to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and taught these same 8th-graders to fly it. It’s one thing to show kids an aircraft built by stuffy old archaeologists, quite another to show them one that was built and flown by their own peers. The message is loud and clear. The video of young people flying a Wright glider of their own creation inspires and empowers the young people who view it.

Interacting with the Wright brothers

Along with this portable museum, we send one of our “curators” who has hands-on experience with building and flying Wright aircraft and an in-depth knowledge of the history and science involved. The curator spins a spirited and humorous tale of two ordinary men Wilbur and Orville Wright who did something extraordinary by virtue of their imagination, perseverance, and courage.

Our people don’t just deliver a lecture, however. This is an interactive presentation, requiring the attention of and input from your students. They participate in demonstrations, perform experiments, offer information, and draw conclusions. Some even get a little “stick time” aboard the Wright glider! They repeat the same intellectual journey that Wilbur and Orville navigated as together our curator draws them along on the adventure that was the invention of the airplane. At your request, we will also conduct hands-on workshops, teaching your students to build a Not Quite Wright Kite or use a wind tunnel.

Presentations and Workshops

We offer two presentations, each lasting the length of a standard class period (about 45 minutes), although either can be made longer or shorter to suit you.

  • Three-Axis Control — Our most popular program traces the development of the airplane control system. Three-axis control roll, pitch, and yaw was the secret of flight and the most important contribution the Wrights made to aeronautics.

  • Kitty Hawk in a Box — We show how the Wrights used the results of their wind tunnel experiments to predict the performance of their aircraft, showing students how a properly planned a scientific investigation often includes coordinated experiments in both the laboratory and the real world. 

We also offer two hands-on workshops. These are longer than our presentations, and require a morning or an afternoon (about 2-1/2 hours).
  • Not Quite Wright Kite  —  Students build a kite with aerodynamic controls, while learning some simple aeronautic engineering.
  • Testing Wing Shapes  —  Students learn how a wing produces lift and drag, design their own wing shapes, and test them in a wind tunnel. This is an especially good program to show how mathematics relates to the real world. For older students only (6th grade and above).

These presentations and workshops are built around national academic standards for social studies, science, technology, and math. We touch upon dozens of benchmarks for each grade level between 3rd and 8th, explaining some and reinforcing others. To see a list, download our file of Scholastic Benchmarks.

Visiting Your School

To set up our exhibits and present them to your students, we need an area of 1500 square feet or more. (The 1902 glider has a wingspan of 32 feet and is 17 feet from nose to tail.) Because our displays are engineered to break down into small enough pieces to get though an ordinary door, we can set up in an auditorium, library, gymnasium, cafeteria, or large classroom. Set-up takes about one and a half hours.

We can do up to five presentations a day in the course of a normal school day, usually three in the morning and two in the afternoon. Because these presentations are interactive, we ask that you not schedule more than 200 students at a time. If you would like us to do workshops, we can do up to two per day - one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and we will work with a maximum of 50 students. If we spend two days or more at your school, we would be happy to make an evening presentation for parents or the public at no cost to you.

If your school is further from Dayton, Ohio than a day’s drive (400 miles), we require at least a two-day engagement. Oftentimes, two or more schools in a region engage us for a day each. On occasion, we have been engaged by an entire school system in a region. If you would like to split the cost of a visit with other schools, we are happy to oblige. However, we cannot set up at more than one school in a day’s time.


We suggest you download our Secret of Flight packet and list of Scholastic Benchmarks for more detailed information on this program. If you'd like to know what it costs. download the School Tour Cost Sheet. All three are in PDF format so they can be easily printed and shared. If you have further questions, please contact us. Here are a few of the most frequently-asked questions:

Will you cover required academic benchmarks for my area? Our programs are built around the national standard benchmarks. Review the benchmark map in our list and if you find something lacking, let us know the specific benchmark or subject matter you want us to cover. As long as it falls within the bounds of the history, science, technology, and math related to the Wright brothers, we will work it in.

Is the program effective? All of the schools we have visited think so, as do some very well-placed folks in the State of Ohio legislature. Read the comments and commendations on the page we have titled Kind Words from Others. Or review them in our Secret of Flight packet. Bear in mind that these are only a tiny fraction of the praise we have received.

Will you work with home-schooled children? You betcha. Just bring together enough families to cover our fees and find us a place to set up. We often make presentations in hangars. (Where better?)

What does the program cost? That will depend on the distance or your school from Dayton, Ohio, the number of days we spend at your school, and the types of presentations or workshops. There is an up-to-date fee schedule in the School Tour Cost Sheet or we can prepare an estimate for you.

How de we schedule a visit? Just contact us. Send us an e-mail with a phone number and we'll have our people call your people.

One of Orville's report cards – signed by his father, of course.

Capt. James Alexander, USAF, makes a hard landing in our 1902 Wright Glider.

Capt. Connie Tobias makes a successful flight in the 1903 Wright Flyer.

Repeating the Wright's "bicycle experiment" on a Wright bicycle replica.

Flying the Wright kite.

Students at Russia Local Schools in Russia, Ohio build ribs for a 1902 Wright glider replica.

The Russia glider makes its first flight.

WBAC Director Nick Engler explains the 1902 glider to students.

Dr. Les Garber, author of The Wright Brothers and the Birth of Aviation, lets fly with some amazing stuff.

A team of young people builds a Not Quite Wright Kite.

Capt. Connie Tobias relates her experiences flying the Wright Flyer.

A young lady takes a turn in the cockpit of the 1902 glider.

Another young lady takes a turn on our Wright Flyer simulator.

The State of Ohio has commended the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company for our innovative educational programs, as have many others

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