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Astronauts, aviators hail the Wright stuff

December 17, 2002 — Icons of air and space, including astronauts Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and relatives of the Wright brothers today joined with actor John Travolta to kick off a yearlong commemoration honoring the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight.

The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission coordinated the Centennial of Flight: Born of Dreams — Inspired by Freedom event at Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. This event was the first of many Centennial festivities throughout the nation, including Dayton, Ohio, the birthplace of aviation and Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the site of the Wright brothers' first flight in 1903.

Armstrong and Glenn, along with Amanda Wright Lane, great-grand niece of Wilbur and Orville, were among a group of 12 pioneers honored at today's ceremony. The group of aviation pioneers represented the millions of men and women who have influenced aviation and spaceflight. Other pioneers included:
  • Dr. Vance Coffman, chairman and chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin Corp.
  • Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company founder, rep. by great-grandson Edsel B. Ford II
  • Gen. David Lee "Tex" Hill, World War II ace
  • Amelia Earhart, rep. by niece Amy Kleppner
  • Charles Lindbergh, rep. by grandson Erik Lindbergh
  • Dr. Shannon Lucid, NASA's chief scientist
  • Pamela Melroy, NASA astronaut
  • Jody McCarrell, president of the Ninety Nines
  • Col. Charles McGee, rep. the Tuskegee Airmen
Lane said, "Although my uncles were humble men, they would be proud of what this celebration is inspiring."

Speakers and participants included Deputy Secretary of Transporation Michael Jackson; FAA Administrator Marion Blakey; NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe; and U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission Chairman and Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Director Gen. J.R. (Jack) Dailey.

"The stories of the Wright brothers and the pioneers of flight who followed them are filled with examples of determination, innovation, and a passion to make our dreams a reality. Today it's fitting that we begin this celebration in a place filled with icons of that spirit — a spirit we hope to rekindle across the nation," Daily said.

In addition to aviation icons honored during the hour-long event, the Commission also highlighted its Centennial Partners who are planning events and activities to honor the Wright brothers and aviation history in 2003. These partners include:
  • Inventing Flight: Dayton 2003
  • U.S. Air Force
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk presented by Ford Motor Company
  • Aviation Week
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • Federal Aviation Administration
  • Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
  • Fayetteville Festival of Flight
  • Space Day Foundation
  • Rockefeller Center
  • North Carolina First Flight Centennial Commission
  • North Carolina First Flight Centennial Foundation
Actor John Travolta, who served as the master of ceremonies for the event said, "Look to this year, the Centennial of Flight celebration, to inspire us. Look to these stories of greatness to drive us to accomplish our own feats, be they of global consequence or personal fulfillment." Travolta is a licensed pilot who has logged close to 5,000 hours since earning his wings in 1974.

The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission was created by Congress to expand national and international interest in commemoration of the hundred years of powered flight.

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