Monday, November 30, 2015

Effort underway to put Wright Flyer on Ohio state seal: Oakwood man designed seal including Wright brothers plane, issue has become his ‘mission’

William Burnett says he originally suggested and painted the Wright Flyer on the state seal of Ohio.

OAKWOOD —  The Wright Flyer soars on U.S. quarters and Ohio and North Carolina license plates, but there’s one place William W. Burnett has lobbied for years to see it added: The official seal of the state of Ohio.

A second wind has pushed the idea forward with legislation state Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, sent to the House of Representatives to put the Flyer on the seal, just the way Burnett first painted it on the emblem in the late 1990s.

The brand marketing consultant says his goal is to “basically preserve and protect our global identity as the birthplace of aviation state while adding justifiable credence to our claim.”

Lawmakers have tried at least three prior times since the 1990s to put the imprint of the Flyer on the seal. The scene shows a harvested wheat field with a sheaf of wheat and a bundle of arrows under the sun rising over the Scioto River and Mount Logan near Chillicothe in Ross County.

Burnett painted the Flyer soaring into a sunburst.

The Oakwood resident said he was spurred to act when he introduced himself as from the birthplace of aviation to a passenger on a ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., years ago. The person mistakenly thought Burnett was from the Carolinas. Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first successful powered airplane took off Dec. 17, 1903, on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, N.C.

That boat ride on the Atlantic led Burnett to paint the Flyer on the seal of Ohio and start a years-long quest to add the biplane to the emblem.

For Burnett, Perales said, “it just became a mission for him.”

Past and future Flyer

Adding the Flyer to the seal fits in with the state’s future in aerospace as much as it does with the Buckeye State’s aviation heritage, Perales said. The retired Air Force officer is chairman of the state’s aerospace and aviation technology committee.

“It wasn’t a primary objective of those legislators like it is of mine today with the aerospace group,” he said. “… It all ties together and that’s the difference that bill didn’t have before in that it was kind of isolated. Now if fits into a bigger picture, a bigger strategy.”

Perales also introduced a bill that declares the Wright brothers the first to fly a motorized airplane in controlled flight. House lawmakers unanimously endorsed the legislation in May and the Senate could vote on the bill next week before the 112th anniversary of the Wright brothers Kitty Hawk flights.

Ohio aims to debunk Connecticut legislators recent declaration Gustave Whitehead beat the Wright brothers as the first aviators to fly an airplane.

Burnett’s ties to aviation reach into the past. His father worked on aircraft projects at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and a grandfather was an aeronautical engineer who worked with Orville Wright at McCook Field, a forerunner of Wright-Patterson. Burnett said he grew up near the Wright brothers’ home.

“This really encouraged me throughout my life that aviation is a very important part of Ohio and American history and it should be preserved in our state seal,” he said.

The latest push to add the Flyer isn’t welcomed by all, though.

In an interview in November, Ross County Historical Society Director Thomas Kuhn said his group prefers to keep the seal as it is today.

“If you’re going to add an airplane, why not a space capsule, or why not a man walking on the moon,” he asked then. “Where does it end? It’s traditionally been a scene of natural beauty and wonder.”

Today, the seal has the same setting as Ohio’s original seal sketched in 1803 but abolished two years later, according to historical records.

An unofficial seal had a canal boat in the 1840s until it was removed in 1866, according to Tom Rieder, a reference archivist at the Ohio History Connection in Columbus.

Over the years, state officials added and then removed a farmer, a blacksmith and a locomotive train. An 1866 motto —“Imperium in Imperio,” translated as an empire within an empire — lasted two years before the controversial saying was abolished, he said.

“That was greatly criticized,” he said. The seal was last modified in 1996.


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