All the ‘Wright’ stuff

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Features Editor

Many great things are set in stone but, when it comes to putting the Wright stuff in steel, there is no one better than Larry Godwin.

The Brundidge sculptor has two metal monuments honoring the Wright Brothers to his credit. "The Monument to Powered Flight" at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery was dedicated in 1985 to celebrate 75 years of aviation. "The Wright Flyer Monument" at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University at Dayton Beach, Fla. was dedicated in 1989. The university is one of a few that are dedicated exclusively to aviation.

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The two Wright monuments have given Larry Godwin and his brother Ronald the reputation as authorities on the Wright Brothers and their flying machines, from a sculptural perspective. So, when developers of the Riverscape project in Dayton, Ohio, began the search for a sculptor for their monument to the Wright Brothers, they looked south – to Alabama and to Brundidge.

Godwin has been commissioned as the sculptor of the 1905 original Wright Flyer that will be central to downtown Dayton’s Riverscape project.

"Dayton, like many cities, is developing its riverfront area and their planners are doing some very innovative and interesting things with their Riverscape project," Godwin said. "One of the outdoor art projects will be a huge cash register to pay tribute to Dayton’s National Cash Register Company. People will actually be able to sit or stand on the keys of the giant cash register. Then, Dayton is also known for its leadership in the pop top industry and they will have giant pop top cans as art objects in the park."

And, a state that claims the Wright Brothers as their own, certainly wanted to acknowledge the role their city played in aviation.

Wilbur Wright was born in Indiana but Orville was a native son of Dayton.

Not only were the brothers daredevils of sorts, they were astute businessmen. They owned five bicycle shops and were handy with tools and equipment.

"They were ingenious in making things work," Godwin said. "They were good at engineering and designing, so one day they put wings on a bicycle."

Godwin, of course, was joking about the brothers putting wings on a bicycle although the first Wright flyer appeared to be little more than that.

"The best place they could find to test their flying machines near Dayton was called Huffman Prairie, which was a field of scrub grass and not a good place to fly," Godwin said. "So, when they got ready to test the flyer, the took it to Kitty Hawk, N.C. where there were sand dunes and the higher available winds were more favorable for


Kitty Hawk became the testing grounds for the Wright Brothers and, in 1903, their power plane actually flew for a minute.

However, in Dayton in 1905, the Wright Brothers machine flew for 38 minutes and 3 seconds.

"The Wright Brothers’ first sustained flight was in Dayton and, therefore, the people of Dayton feel that the essential elements of flying and the aircraft itself were born in Dayton," Godwin said.

"For that reason, they will pay tribute to the Wright Brothers and the birth of aviation with a full-scale replica of that 1905 flyer."

Godwin said the sculpture will include the flyer which will have at 40-foot wingspan with 900 pounds of sheet metal in each wing and bronze figures of Orville and Wilbur Wright. Wilbur will be in a prone position on the flyer because that is the position in which the brothers determined it was necessary to "guide" the plane. Orville will be on the ground directing the "lift off."

Because this is the third venture with the Wright Brothers and their marvelous flying machines, Godwin said the engineering and design of the flyer is familiar to him, as are the faces of the men on the machine. However, this Wright flyer will be balanced on a single pedestal and that will be a real challenge.

"Every sculpture is different and requires new thinking and new design concepts," Godwin said. "This flyer is no different. Right now, the clay figures of the brothers are almost completed and we’re working on the frame and wings of the flyer. One of the wings has taken shape and when you see it coming together, that’s exciting – and encouraging."

The scheduled date of completion is April 1. Not long after that, the Wright Brothers will have their longest sustained flight in Dayton and it will be one for the ages.