By Rick Bretz
Driving the nation’s Interstate Highways you may have noticed Ohio and North Carolina license plates trumpeting their aviation claims to fame. Ohio license plates show the state is the “Birthplace of Aviation” while North Carolina license plates have a “First in Flight” motto on their plates.
Over the years, a disagreement among these states developed concerning the one that can claim the birthplace of aviation. The disagreement formed because Orville and Wilbur Wright lived in Dayton, Ohio, and engineered and tested their prototypes near there. However, the Wright Brothers first documented powered flight occurred on the Outer Banks near Kitty Hawk, NC, where the sea wind could help them achieve their goal.
To this important issue the Federal government stepped in and Congress decided the issue in 2003 by voting Dayton, Ohio, as the birthplace of aviation by 378-3. You can probably guess which state the “Ney” votes came from, North Carolina.
It makes sense that the home of Wilbur and Orville Wright is the birthplace of aviation. Dayton is where they grew up, went to school and set up their bicycle shop. They tested their plans in a field near there, fine tuning the engine and the wings, before moving the plane to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
This is explained in great detail by a book written by David McCullough, “The Wright Brothers.” The book describes how meticulous and mechanical they were while developing a prototype. McCullough also explains in detail the challenges involved in developing an engine that would produce enough power and speed to lift an airplane. The engineering also had to take into account stability and aerodynamics. All of this while other inventors and engineers around the world were racing to produce the first documented flight.
The author also gives us an insight to the personalities of Wilbur and Orville Wright. McCullough’s literary genius and research portrays the Wright Brother’s parents and family members while giving us insight into their work ethic and passion for research.
After reading the book, the Wright Brothers would be pleased to have their hometown of Dayton, Ohio, named as the Birthplace of Aviation. However, the argument over Ohio versus North Carolina would have amused them. They saw moving to North Carolina as a practical matter not only for testing their plane but also as financially sound due to budget constraints. the were pragmatic and were interested in solving issues. The license plate mottoes for both states are correct. Ohio is the birthplace of aviation while North Carolina can boast that it is the state where the first documented flight began the new age of flying. To cement their status in aviation, as an afterthought, Ohio can boast the largest number of astronauts, 24, including John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. If you are keeping score, the most astronauts from colleges are The United States Naval Academy, The United States Air Force Academy, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in that order.