Already a member? Please login below for an enhanced experience. Not a member? Join today

Bill would add Wright Flyer to Ohio state sealBill would add Wright Flyer to Ohio state seal

Ohio ‘stands by the by Wright Brothers,’ says lawmakerOhio ‘stands by the by Wright Brothers,’ says lawmaker

Ohio is the only state that “can legitimately claim to be the birthplace of heavier than air, powered flight,” and its leaders should emphasize the point by adding the Wright Flyer to the state seal, said the sponsor of a bill to modify the two-century-old emblem.

The invention of powered flight by Wilbur and Orville Wright, of Dayton, “was the greatest moment in the history of Ohio,” said state Rep. Rick Perales (R-73rd District), testifying for his bill Jan. 27 before the Ohio House State Government Committee.

Out of reverence for the state seal, the modification, designed by Bill Burnett, would add only a “small depiction” of the Wright Flyer to the seal’s existing scene, he said.

Proposals to modify the seal have stalled a “handful of times” over the past two decades, but now the state’s aviation and aerospace industries are “more in sync than ever” in Ohio’s history, giving his measure a better chance, he said.

Conspicuous by their absence from Perales’s comments were references to other states’ claims to aviation glory—some given more weight by history than others.

Ohio is at peace with North Carolina’s “First in Flight” license-plate boast that the Wrights flew successfully from Kill Devil Hill on Dec. 17, 1903. Ohio even forged an alliance with the Tar Heel State to dismiss Connecticut’s recent bid to attach an asterisk to the Wrights’ legacy based on accounts of an aircraft designed by German émigré and inventor Gustave Whitehead flying from a field in the Nutmeg State on Aug. 14, 1901.

In 2013, after the Whitehead question was revived in a foreword to the hundredth edition of Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft by editor Paul Jackson, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed legislation proclaiming Whitehead the father of flight. That brought Perales and Bill Cook, a state senator from North Carolina, to the podium at a joint news conference at Dayton’s airport to denounce shaky evidence about Whitehead.

“Ohio needs to stand by the Wright brothers and speak up for them,” Perales said at the time.

This time around, Perales, who is chairman of the Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Technology Committee, appears more determined to address practical roadblocks to his bill, such as costs. As for possible objections to injecting a manmade object into the scene depicted on the seal, the current design already includes a symbolic bundle of 17 arrows, “if you look closely,” he said. And two earlier versions of the seal “showed boats floating in the Scioto River.”

Perales invokes Ohio’s legacy of space exploration, noting in testimony that John Glenn, an Ohioan, became the first American to orbit the earth in 1962.

Neil Armstrong, on his historic 1969 moon walk, “carried with him a piece of the cloth and wood from the original 1903 Wright Flyer,” Perales said.

Is new momentum building in Ohio for Perales’s plan?

Provincial passions seem to have subsided since Paul Jackson rocked the boat in 2013 with his plea to remember Whitehead.

On the other hand, Perales’s legislation had gathered 40 co-sponsors in the 99-member Ohio House as of late January.

Meanwhile in North Carolina, it has become possible, since 2015, to opt out of a standard “First in Flight” motor vehicle license plate in favor of a “First in Freedom” plate.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy

Related Articles