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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The story of Bangalore's very own Wright Brothers & Flyer | World celebrates 110 years of first Wright flight today

The historic first flight of Wright Brothers on December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk. (Below) The replica of Flyer exhibited at Bangalore's Visvesvaraya Industrial Technological Museum (VITM).  Photo: Jithendra M
Renowned sculptor Kanaka Murthy who gave birth to desi Wright Brothers. She took four months to sculpt the brothers' statues made out of fiberglass material in 2003.  (Below) The sculptor, who is 71 years old. 
The above photo and below two, from the making of Flyer.   
The former VITM curator Sunil Kumar who oversaw the Flyer project. (Below) Some posters from VITM explaining the significance of the Wright Brothers' mission.

By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore's very own Wright Brothers will celebrate 10 years of their arrival to the Aviation Capital today. They 'entered' the Visvesvaraya Industrial Technological Museum (VITM) on Kasturba Road on December 17, 2003, the same day when the world was celebrating the centenary of the historic first flight of the Wright Brothers. Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright created history at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina on December 17, 1903, when their Flyer touched 120 feet just in 12 seconds.
VITM was the first in India to honour the Wright Brothers by creating a replica of Flyer in addition to exhibiting life-size statutes of the Wright Brothers. Noted sculptor Kanaka Murthy made the fibreglass statues, a project she terms as being very close to her heart. But, the making of the Flyer was a Herculian task, and former VITM curator Sunil Kumar was the man in-charge of the project in 2003. Recalling his association, Sunil told City Express on Monday that a total of 16 people, including carpenters, fitters and technicians worked round the clock on the Flyer project.
“It was in 2002 we got the idea of creating the replica of Flyer. The project was funded by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) and senior scientist Raman played a pivotal role in this project. Raman was popular for his interest in making miniature models and we were excited when he approached us with the idea. More than the cost, the team effort needs to appreciated,” says Sunil, who was the curator at VITM for 16 years. The team sourced original drawings of Flyer from National Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian Museum) in Washington DC. “The next biggest task was the selection of material. Wright Brothers used ash (hardwood) and spruce (lighter wood) for the Flyer. We used teak in place of ash and silver oak in place of spruce. The wood was sourced locally,” says Sunil, who is currently with the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences, a Tata Institute of Fundamental Research project.
Raman (who passed away before the completion of the project) gave a working drawing for each individual section and the team was not willing to compromise on any aspect of the Flyer. “We wanted to build the plane exactly the way Wright Brothers built it in 1903. Every part was hand-crafted. The engine was the only part which isn't authentic in the desi flyer since we used a electric motor instead,” says Sunil, who was also the curator for the Birla Industrial Technological Museum in Kolkotta for nine years, prior to coming to VITM.
While the Wright Brothers used the 'Pride of West' (muslin) cloth to cover the wings, the one at VITM is made of cotton fabric. “They used a number of threads per square inch. We came close to what they did. We bought the fabric from a shop in Srirampura and then it was stitched to perfection. For all of us, who were part of the Flyer project, it was truly an inspiring mission. Looking back, I just feel 2003 was just yesterday,” Sunil added.
A RARE HONOUR: For 70-year-old Kanaka Murthy, renowned sculptor, it was a dream project that landed at her door steps, in 2003 when NAL-VITM combine approached her. “I was very happy to sculpt the Wright Brothers. It was an honour for me and I enjoyed every bit of it. I remember the excitement of the people who dropped in at my home to see the brothers as I gave the final touches. I had some difficulty in fixing Orville Wright's moustache. It was trim. I read a lot about the brothers before venturing into the project. I have done many sculptures, but this one is very close to my heart,” Kanaka Murthy, a resident of Kamanahalli said. She took just four months to complete the project.
Visitors to VITM are being greeted by the brothers with Wilbur Wright standing and waving a hat, while Orville Wright is lying down, flying the plane. Kanaka Murthy said that she was against painting the 5-foot-6-inch tall sculptures. “That's the only regret I have as they wanted them painted, which takes some of the sheen away. I am personally against painting any sculptures,” said Kanaka Murthy, a recipient of many awards, including the prestigious Jakanachari Award.
Copyright@The New Indian Express

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