Thousands of people gathered in Kitty Hawk, N.C., Dec. 17, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight. But did they really fly? At least one organized group of individuals think not.
Gus Duda of Alexandria watched with glee as the replica of the Wright brothers' plane failed to get off the ground last week. "It didn't fly twice," Duda said. "That proves that the Wright brothers either never built a plane or it didn't fly, either. As a wise man once said, and he was a newspaper editor from Dayton, when informed of the mythical first flight, 'Man will never fly. And if he does, he will never come from Dayton.'"
And that's the name of the organization that doesn't believe it ever happened. The Man Will Never Fly Memorial Society Internationale was formed on Dec. 16, 1958, in a gloomy corner of the Anchor Club in the old Carolinian Hotel in Nags Head, N.C.
"A group of us were sitting around talking about the tired speeches and the tired bands we were going to listen to the next day at the Wright Memorial Society's annual celebration and we concluded that it never happened and there had to be a better way to commemorate the fact that it never happened," Duda said.
The goal of the organization was to think and drink. "And we gave up thinking several years ago," Duda said.
Duda knows what he's talking about, too. A World War II pilot, he spent three tours of duty in the Pacific. After the war, he had no interest in flying commercial planes.
"Flying an airplane is not a group activity," he said.
So, he came to Alexandria in 1951, and worked for many years as an executive with the Air Force Association. A number of the founders of the Man Will Never Fly Society, like Duda, had aviation backgrounds.
OVER THE YEARS, the group has fought the hallucination of airplane flight with every weapon at its command, save sobriety. "We remain dedicated to the principle that two Wrights made a wrong at Kitty Hawk," Duda said.
The organization holds one event a year, on Dec. 16, in Nags Head. In 1959, 50 people attended the seminar and now there are 6,000 members worldwide. The agenda for the annual meeting has not changed much since that first event.
According to Ed North's written memory of the meetings, "Somewhere around 7 p.m., Lawrence Maddry gaveled us to quiet, followed by the solemn singing of our anthem. The introductions of important people and a speech by an invited guest who has done nothing for aviation," he wrote.
Duda talked about some of those invited guests. "John Glenn was a frequent speaker because he was vice president in charge of half-ass-tro-nauts," Duda said. "Also, we had Chuck, bull-in-a-china shop Yeager, who was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Infamy, because he broke the sound barrier."
Another member of the Aviation Hall of Infamy was Mary Cleave, astronaut, who designed the plumbing for the space shuttle but it didn't work very well at first. She received a spacegram from the group that read, "Many will neither fly nor flush."
Since 1959, Duda has missed only two meetings. He is pleased that this year's reenactment lends credence to the group's motto, "Birds fly—men drink."
Here are some aeronautical terms as defined by the Man Will Never Fly Society.
*Air strip—In flight performance by exotic stewardess.
*Flaps—birds do it but not recommended for fixed wing aircraft.
*Gross weight—350 lb. pilot
*Propeller—fan that keeps pilot cool: turn it off and watch him sweat.
*Skyjack—device for changing tires in flight.
*Stall—place where planes are kept.
*Supercharger—pilot with a wallet full of credit cards.