A Maryland woman's quest to re-enact the Wright brothers' first flight atKitty Hawk, N.C., 100 years later ended victoriously at a Wisconsin air showyesterday where she was named as one of two "Pilots of the Century."
For Terry Queijo, an American Airlines pilot from the Eastern Shore, thedistinction means that on Dec. 17 she and fellow pilot Kevin Kochersberger, anassociate professor of mechanical engineering at the Rochester Institute ofTechnology, will step onto the sands near Kitty Hawk in the roles of Orvilleand Wilbur Wright and attempt to do what hasn't been done in a century:replicate the world's first powered, sustained and controlled flight of aheavier-than-air machine.
The pair will attempt the feat aboard a reproduction of the world's firstsuccessful airplane -- the notoriously unstable, 12-horsepower 1903 Flyer. Theaircraft was replicated to the smallest detail possible by an airplanerestoration facility in Warrenton, Va., known as the Wright Experience. Theevent will culminate the nation's yearlong centennial celebration of the birthof aviation and the two tinkering inventors from Dayton, Ohio, who made itpossible.
Retired American Airlines pilot and Wright Experience founder Ken Hyde ofWarrenton and Chris Johnson of Manassas, Va., an Air Force Reserve major andAmerican Airlines pilot, were named yesterday as alternate pilots. All fourpilots are physically in the range of the Wrights' heights and weights --about 5-foot-10 and 150 pounds.
So how does it feel to be the "Wright" woman for the job?
"I'm absolutely thrilled," Quiejo, 48, said yesterday from Oshkosh, Wis.,where the announcement was made at the annual AirVenture fly-in sponsored bythe Experimental Aircraft Association. "I'm looking forward to going out toKitty Hawk and flying the airplane like we've been practicing, and getting thejob done."
The Trappe resident was the lone woman among four pilots competing for thehonor and has been training for the experience since last summer on both asimulator and reproduction of the 1902 Wright glider -- the precursor to the1903 Flyer. Queijo (pronounced kay-jo) and Kochersberger will continuetraining under the guidance of research pilot Scott Crossfield, the first tofly twice the speed of sound. Crossfield selected the two winners, who willeventually log hours on a simulator of the Flyer and the reproduction itself.
In keeping with the Wright brothers' custom, the two pilots will flip acoin on Dec. 17 to determine who is first to pilot the plane.
The winner will portray Orville and -- if the weather cooperates -- whenthe clock ticks down to 10:35 a.m., replicate his historic 120-foot, 12-secondflight over the sands of Kill Devil Hills. The second pilot, as Wilbur, willclimb aboard at 2 p.m. to re-enact the fourth (and last) flight -- 852 feet,59 seconds -- made that day before the plane was damaged by a gust of wind.
Indeed, despite months of preparation, the one thing that could stop thepair from following in the current of the Wrights is the weather.
The Outer Banks is known for its notoriously unruly climate. In fact, twomonths before the Wrights' Dec. 17 flights, the brothers encountered galeforce winds of up to 75 mph at their encampment, that "whipped the sand intostinging furies, tore at the tarpaper on the roof of the shed and brought atide of water over the floor," James Tobin recounts in To Conquer the Air: TheWright Brothers and The Great Race for Flight.
"It's going to be timing and a little bit of luck," said Randal Dietrich ofthe Experimental Aircraft Association, which is organizing the centennialevents at Kitty Hawk. "The weather is going to be a factor and all thatuncertainty is kind of the excitement at the same time."
Kochersberger, 42, who helped test the Flyer reproduction in a wind tunnelat the Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, said that data gathered from thetests will help determine what conditions will be needed for a successfulflight.
"We are eliminating a lot of uncertainty with that," said the engineer ofHoneoye Falls, N.Y. "There is risk in this endeavor, but I'm confident that weare taking the necessary precautions. Still, the only thing I'm afraid of isthe weather."
For Queijo, the challenge is the latest chapter in an adventurous life thathas taken her from scuba diving to competitive horseback riding to sky divingto making history: In 1986, she was a co-pilot of an American Airlines flightthat was the first in aviation history to have an all-female crew.
"We are also very aware that the airplane is by nature unstable, so we'llbe training at a level to make sure that the mission does go as planned," saidQueijo, who serves as captain for Boeing 757s and 767s out of Washington.
She hopes her selection will serve as an inspiration for aspiring pilots.
"Not only to inspire women to gravitate toward aviation, but inspireeverybody to know that anything can be accomplished if they persevere and settheir sights high just like Orville and Wilbur Wright."Copyright © 2015, CT Now