FedEx Corporation recently announced a $1 million grant to the National Museum of the United States Army to sponsor the only existing reproduction of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s 1908Wright Flyer, which will be a featured exhibit in the Museum’s Army and Society Gallery.
“FedEx Express operates the largest commercial air cargo fleet in the world, and we honor and respect the great and unique contributions of the U.S. Army in the development of aviation from its earliest days to the present,” said Frederick W. Smith, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx Corporation. “It’s vital that the American people know the role the U.S. Army has played in the development of manned aviation and in their lives.”
“The 1908 Wright Flyer is an exact reproduction and was considered an essential artifact by Museum staff,” acknowledged MG John P. Herrling (USA-Ret.), Executive Director of the Museum’s capital campaign. “FedEx is a company comprised of many veterans including their CEO, Mr. Smith, and through this sponsorship, FedEx will help demonstrate important science lessons for students and tell the story of how the Army influenced the development of manned flight.”
The Wright brothers were having difficulty interesting investors in their flying inventions in 1908. At the same time, the Army was looking to acquire a flying machine that with two people on board (one pilot and one passenger) could fly for at least an hour at a minimum speed of 40 miles per hour.
The Wright brothers provided one of three bids the Army accepted and Orville Wright was the only one to bring a plane to Fort Myer, Va. for Army test flights. On September 3, 1908, Orville’s test flight astounded Army personnel and the public. When the test flights were completed, the Wright brothers sold the Army its first airplane. The contract totaled $30,000: $25,000 for the airplane and a promised $5,000 bonus for exceeding the minimum speed requirement of 40 miles-per-hour — the age of military flight had dawned.
“This is just one of the stories of how the U.S. Army helped change America,” said former Army Chief of Staff GEN George W. Casey, Jr. (USA-Ret.). “The Army and Society Gallery will be full of stories of how the Army pioneered ideas and innovations that have benefited American society. The FedEx-sponsored 1908 Wright Flyer will deliver an engaging and educational visitor experience.”