The Wright 1911 Model B Flyer

1911 Wright Model B BEFORE restoration1911 Wright Model B AFTER restoration In March of 2001 (left), the 1911 Wright Model B was carefully removed from The Franklin Institute's Aviation Hall to be restored. The airplane returned to the Institute and was reassembled in late June and early July, 2003, and now hangs in its new location as a featured exhibit in The Franklin Air Show (right).

The Wright Model B was the first plane manufactured in quantity by the Wright Brothers. It was the first time Wilbur and Orville used a rear stabilizer. The plane has skids and wheels, allowing for take-off and landing on any level field. The Wright Brothers enforced a strict policy for those interested in acquiring one of their flying machines; in order to buy a plane from them, you had to first take flying lessons at their factory in Ohio. Wilbur and Orville shipped the plane to the customer only when they felt that person was capable of flying it. In 1911, a Model B biplane cost about $5,000. This particular Model B, purchased by a young Philadelphian named Grover Cleveland Bergdoll in 1912 and donated to The Franklin Institute in 1934, took to the skies for about 748 flights before being placed in storage.

Flyer Flight Film Footage
Only Online! In December 1934, the Bergdoll Flyer flew its last flights. See the historic film here at The Franklin Institute Online.

Log of the Takedown
Follow along as staff from Aeroplane Works and The Franklin Institute carefully removed the Flyer from Aviation Hall to prepare for its trip to Ohio.

Images of Restoration
Images from Ohio showing the restoration work as it progressed.

Log of the Reassembly
See the restored Flyer come to life! Follow along with the reassembly and installation of the signature icon in its newly redesigned home in The Franklin Air Show (opened October 2003).

Diagram of the Flyer
A drawing of the Flyer offers a detailed picture of the parts. As you roll your mouse over the Flyer, each part is identified.

Bergdoll Flyer - Fast Facts

  • Bergdoll's plane was Model "B" Number 39.
  • Original construction was finished on January 15, 1912.
  • Bergoll took delivery of his Flyer "several months" later in 1912.
  • The Bergdoll 1911 Model B Flyer wingspan = 39 feet.
  • The chord = 6 feet, 3 inches.
  • The wing area = 480 square feet.
  • The original weight of the plane, empty = 800 pounds.
  • With 25 pounds of water and 75 pounds of gas, flight weight = 900 pounds.
  • The brake horsepower at 1325 revolutions = 35.
  • The stalling speed = less than 25 miles per hour.
  • The Model B won a slow speed race at 22 miles per hour.
  • Bergdoll shipped the Flyer to Philadelphia after after taking his instructions at the Wright Brothers Flying School in Dayton, Ohio.
  • Bergdoll flew the plane off Eagle Field in Manoa, Pennsylvania.
  • Bergdoll's Flyer flew 748 flights without a single mishap.
  • Its longest flight was 2 hours and 28 minutes, covering a distance of 110 miles.
  • Total time in the air for the Bergdoll Flyer was 312 hours and 34 minutes.
  • Late in the year of 1914, the Flyer was stored in the Bergdoll Machine Shop on the West Chester Pike, some two miles from Eagle Field. It remained there, unmoved, until December 3, 1933. The engine, radiator, and part of one control stick were missing, likely stolen.
  • On December 3, 1933, the Bergdoll Flyer moved to the Camden County Vocational School in Merchantville, New Jersey. There, Mr. Arthur Arrowsmith and his students carefully restored the plane. Orville Wright offered assistance to the students when he visited Philadelphia for the 30th Anniversary of his first flight.
  • By November, 1934, the Bergdoll Flyer was again ready for flight. Mr. Arrowsmith and Mr. Marshall Earl Reid made courageous test flights.
  • On December 17, 1934, Marshall Reid made public flights at Central Airport in Camden, New Jersey, to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight. Film footage of those flights is available.
  • In January, 1935, the Bergdoll Flyer was placed on exhibition in Aviation Hall at The Franklin Institute.

Grover Cleveland Bergdoll - Fast Facts

Besides his connection to the Wright Brothers and his ownership of this 1911 Model B, Grover Cleveland Bergdoll (1893-1966) has another claim to fame; he is well-known as a draft dodger. He gained a national reputation during World War I when he dodged the draft and fled to Germany to evade American military service expectations. His European exile lasted long after World War I ended. He returned to America in 1939, faced trial, and was imprisoned until his release in 1946.

For more information about the life of Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, visit the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies.

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