RIT professor flies the Wright stuff

Kochersberger gained the honor when he was named a Pilot of the Century by the Experimental Aircraft Association. First take-off will be at 10:35 a.m. Dec. 17. The re-enactment will take place at Wright Brothers National Memorial near Kitty Hawk, N.C., and the site of the Wrights' daring experiments. A second re-enactment will be at 2 p.m.

Kochersberger will share the honors with Terry Queijo, an American Airlines pilot who was part of that airline's first all-female flight crew in 1986 and who also was named a Pilot of the Century. The flights are the climax to the weeklong First Flight Centennial Celebration and the yearlong Countdown to Kitty Hawk sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association and Ford Motor Co.

Kochersberger and Queijo's training, funded by Northrop Grumman Corp., utilizes the reproduction 1903 Wright Flyer, a reproduction 1902 Wright glider and, in a modern concession, a flight simulator developed by Bihrle Applied Research Inc. But it will be a low-tech procedure – a coin toss – that determines who flies on the morning of the anniversary. That flight, five feet above the ground, will cover about 119 feet, a foot less than the Wrights' first flight, Kochersberger says.

"The opportunity to play a key role in the centennial celebration is a great honor, one that will carry over to the RIT community through the classroom and in student advising," Kochersberger says.

A licensed pilot whose first flight was in a hang glider at the age of 15, Kochersberger worked with The Wright Experience, which coordinated research, design and testing of the reproduction Wright Flyer, and on other Wright brothers educational projects over the last five years. On a yearlong sabbatical at NASA's Langley Full Scale Tunnel in Virginia, Kochersberger focused on wind-tunnel testing of the replica aircraft. Previously, he tested a 1910 Vertical 4 aircraft engine and he and RIT graduate engineering students researched and supported reverse engineering of Wright propellers, airframes and engines at Delphi Automotive Systems in Henrietta, N.Y.

In August, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a special airworthiness certificate for the 605-pound reproduction that Kochersberger and Queijo will fly. After the December flights, the aircraft will be donated to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.

The aircraft's creation and wind-tunnel tests are documented in photographs by Steve Diehl '76 (photography), RIT associate professor of photographic arts and sciences, at www.rit.edu/upub/kittyhawk. The photo project was supported by RIT's Office of the Provost.

The University Magazine, Winter 2003