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Replica of first plane wheels its way through Chambersburg

November 20, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • A group of volunteers worked to create a 1911 biplane replica that made its public debut Saturday at the annual holiday parade in Chambersburg, Pa. Pictured are, from left, Elmer Young, Brian Fogal, Roger Horst, Jim Thompson, Will Pananes and John Boozer. Not pictured is Norman Smith.
By Jennifer Fitch/Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — On Sept. 23, 1911, more than 5,000 people watched as the first plane flew over Chambersburg.

This weekend, thousands saw the plane’s replica make its own journey through the community — not by air, but on wheels. Members of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce walked with the plane’s replica Saturday night in the town’s annual holiday parade.

“It was quite unusual to go along a parade route and have people applauding, some of them standing up and applauding,” said John Boozer, who was the plane’s “pilot” for the occasion.

Historical documents show that in 1911, many Franklin County, Pa., residents didn’t believe a plane could fly. The newly formed Chamber of Commerce of Chambersburg raised $650 to host pilot Paul Peck on two flights totaling 22 minutes.

Featured was a biplane developed by Rex Smith of College Park, Md.

“They brought it in on the railroad, put it together and put on the exhibition. ... No one had ever seen a plane fly,” said Will Pananes, a Chambersburg business owner who spearheaded the replica project.

In August, Pananes talked to today’s Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce leaders about sponsoring a replica of the plane. The chamber already was using an image of the plane on this year’s Christmas tree ornament.

To make the replica, Pananes and Boozer signed up master craftsmen, a pilot and a man with metalwork experience. They used drawings and information obtained from the Smithsonian Institution.

“It was the perfect team to get this together,” Pananes said.

Stained wood, canvas, copper and metal cords form the replica, which, at 24 feet wide, is 60 percent of the size of the original plane. A motor powers the propeller.

On Sunday, the replica’s builders disassembled it for temporary storage. They hope to find a place for it to be permanently displayed.

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