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Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Pioneering plane plan takes off
Wright Brothers test their aircraft the 'Flyer'
The 1903 'Flyer' was the first successful powered craft
By Johnny Dymond in Washington

A three-year project has been announced in the United States to mark the centenary of manned flight.

Ken Hyde, a retired airline pilot, has started the search for materials to reconstruct the first machine to take to the air.

Constructed by Orville and Wilbur Wright, the plane first took flight in the state of North Carolina in 1903.

However, despite the the rudimentary technology involved, reconstructing a plane almost a century old is proving rather more difficult than expected.

Map
Reconstructing the wooden struts used to support the wings, and finding aluminium for the plane's basic engine are easy enough.

But the Wright brothers employed a long-defunct type of cotton known as 'Pride of the West', normally used for making underwear, to build the plane's wings.

And despite a century of engineering advances, figuring out the technology that went into the plane is a challenge.

Reverse engineering

The plane's elevator, used to control altitude and always found at the back on modern aircraft, was at the front, and partly controlled by the pilot's hips.

The pilot, meanwhile, was horizontal during the flight, so Ken Hyde will have to learn not only how to build the plane, but also how to fly it.

Mr Hyde compares his task to an archaeological dig, as the Wright brothers never wrote a full account of the flight.

But, he says the estimated million dollars the project will cost is money well spent.

And he hopes that, in three years' time exactly one century on from man's first powered flight, an exact replica of the Wright brothers' plane will once again totter into the air.

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