Present at Creation
From five witnesses came a family tradition to honor the moment the airplane was born.
- By Tom Crouch
- Air & Space magazine, January 2009
Library of Congress
(Page 2 of 2)
John Beacham always remembered the candy that Orville kept in his pockets for the boys who hung around the camp, Terry recounts. When the Wrights fired up the engine on December 14, John and Bounce scampered off to escape the clatter and the flying sand. That day, the Wrights had laid the launch rail down the lower slope of the big dune. The weight of the machine headed downhill prevented Wilbur from releasing the line that restrained it. When the Lifesavers assisting that morning pushed the airplane up the track a bit to relieve the pressure, Wilbur and the craft shot into the air, the airplane nosing up so sharply that it stalled. Wilbur made a hard landing only 60 feet from the takeoff point, damaging the front elevator support. Young John Beacham never forgot that aborted flight. Decades later, when Terry Beacham told his father that he wanted to become a Coast Guard aviator, the old man commented: “I didn’t know we had any insanity in the family.”
I’ll be on hand for the ceremony again this year. Last time I was invited to join in, by laying a wreath sent by the city of Dayton, the hometown I share with the Wright brothers. It will be good to see my old friends again, the descendants of the original witnesses. I look forward to watching one of them urge a child or grandchild forward to take up the tradition and lay the family wreath for the first time.