Friday, June 13, 2003

Ohio, N.C. lawmakers spar over Wright brothers

By Malia Rulon
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - North Carolina lawmakers say a congressional resolution naming Dayton, Ohio, as the birthplace of aviation is a claim that just doesn't fly.

The states have sparred for decades about which is the true birthplace of flight, and now lawmakers have gotten into the spat as centennial celebrations of Orville and Wilbur Wrights' first flight have started.

"The Wright brothers made their first flight at Kitty Hawk. The last time I checked, Kitty Hawk is still in North Carolina, not Ohio," charged Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C.

Hayes and Reps. Howard Coble and Cass Ballenger, both R-N.C., were the only lawmakers to vote against the resolution, sponsored by Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, when it came up before the House. The resolution passed 378-3.

"Dayton is a great spot, and Mike Turner is a wonderful congressman ... but we just couldn't allow him to rewrite history," Hayes said Thursday.

Ohio Rep. Dave Hobson, who represents nearby Springfield, shot back: "No one disputes the fact that Kitty Hawk in North Carolina was the site of the first successful controlled, powered flight. ... However, Dayton, Ohio's claim to be the birthplace of aviation is based upon much more than just the first flight."

Turner, who represents Dayton, added: "The intellect and the ingenuity came from Dayton. The wind came from North Carolina."

The flight took place Dec. 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, N.C., but the Wrights designed and built the aircraft at their bicycle shop in their hometown of Dayton and later tested and developed their planes at nearby Huffman Prairie.

Stephen Wright, the great-grandnephew of the Wright brothers, said North Carolina was first in flight, but Ohio has every right to call itself the birthplace of aviation.

"North Carolina lawmakers speak out of ignorance of history when they try to attribute what the Wright brothers' accomplished solely to their state," said Wright, who lives in Dayton. "I hope they get over their insecurity complex."

Meanwhile, the congressional resolution passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a voice vote Thursday. North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, who is one of nine Democrats vying for the 2004 presidential nomination, missed the vote.

The resolution still must be approved by the full Senate.

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