Alabama flag flew as spirits soared

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Features Editor

A shimmering, stainless steel-and-aluminum model of the 1905 Wright Flyer III was unveiled in downtown Dayton, Ohio, May 7, giving Daytonians a tangible, although not-quite-touchable, example of the creative genius that put the city on the world map a century ago.

Larry Godwin of Brundidge attended the ceremony and waited with several hundred Miami Valley leaders for the unveiling of the sculpture, which was hidden beneath an enormous black plastic cover. Godwin, along with his brother Ronald, crafted the sculpture which was the first open adjunct to RiverScape Park, a $21 million revitalization project in downtown Dayton.

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A few weeks earlier, the project architect had contacted Godwin about what was needed to set the sculpture in place and to adequately cover it prior to the ceremony.

"On the bottom of the list, I noted that I would like to have the Alabama state flag flying from the boom of the crane that would lift the covering from the flyer," Godwin said. "Of course, I was kidding."

But, when Godwin arrived for the ceremony, to his great surprise, he looked up to see the Alabama flag flying high in the heart of Dayton.

"I was surprised and highly honored that the architect and project directors had taken my request seriously, although I had made it in jest," Godwin said. "To have the Alabama flag fly over a monument in Ohio was no small gesture of goodwill."

Godwin said Montgomery County commissioners led in celebrating the "landing" of the aeroplane sculpture, which has a 40-foot wingspan and includes bronze statues of Wilbur Wright at the controls and his brother Orville, running alongside with his arms outstretched.

"A member of the Wright family, pushed the buttons on an electronic control and the plane’s canard front elevator, its rear propellers and its rudder moved as if manipulated in flight," Godwin said. "Everyone seemed impressed with a working sculpture of the Wright Flyer III."

If the sculpture were not made of steel and aluminum and didn’t weight 5,000 pounds, it could probably perform the same functions that it did for the Wright brothers.

"They used the Flyer III to take off, land and fly in circles," Godwin said. "All of the mechanical parts are exactly the same as the ones on the original flyer."

The real Wright Flyer, which is made of wood and canvas, is housed at Carillon Historical Park and is a National Historic Landmark.

Godwin, who has also crafted Wright Flyer replicas for Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at Daytona Beach, Fla., is a great admirer of the Wright brothers.

Godwin’s work was applauded by members of the Wright family, community leaders and designers of RiverScape Park and the adjacent Invention Park, which features the Wright Flyer III and other inventions by native sons, including the cash register and the pop-top can.

"I am extremely proud to be a part of this project that pays tribute to the genius of Daytonians," Godwin said. "Ronald and I were included in the hoopla surrounding the unveiling of the sculpture and we appreciated the warm reception we received."

Godwin as one of the featured speakers at a breakfast at Memorial Hall which was shared by 200 Miami Valley leaders.

He expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to be involved in such an ambitious and unique project as RiverScape and Invention parks and talked about his admiration for the Wright brothers which deepened the more his work progressed.

"I have been continually impressed by their empirical sense and their dogged determination to succeed," Godwin said. "Someone said that only fools do anything in this world. Well, I’d be proud to be in that