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Interview With John Glenn, Amanda Wright Lane

Aired July 4, 2003 - 19:46   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Independence Day is a celebration of all things American, of course. The airplane is just one important invention with U.S. routes. The Wright brothers are the fathers of flight, and they are being celebrated today in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio, under flight centennial.
Another great American with a connection to flight is former Senator and astronaut John Glenn. He joins us tonight from Dayton, along with Amanda Wright Lane, the great grand niece of the Wright brothers. Both of you, appreciate you joining us.

Senator, why would the Wright brothers such an inspiration to you? I understand your parents used to read stories about them to you when you were a kid.

JOHN GLENN, FORMER ASTRONAUT, SENATOR: Yes. When I was a kid. And then my dad took me up for an airplane ride once, first it was (ph) barnstorming around the country, and he and I went up in the back seat of an airplane, and that, plus all the stories that we read about the Wright brothers, that did it for me. I was hooked on aviation, made model airplanes, and never thought I would be able to fly myself. It cost too much. But then World War II came along and changed all that.

So this is a great time for a big celebration here in Dayton now that's going on, particularly the next couple of weeks, and rest of this year, really. But it's inventing flight and it's a big celebration. They worked on this for about a decade, literally, and so we just hope everybody comes out here. It's going to be a great celebration.

COOPER: Amanda, what do you think the Wright brothers would have thought of all this? I understood they didn't really like too much publicity, too much attention?

AMANDA WRIGHT LANE, GREAT-GRAND NIECE OF WRIGHT BROTHERS: No, they didn't. Actually, they would have been happy to have been in the background, but they would have been very quietly proud. They were very proud of Ohio, very proud of being Midwesterners, and to see this kind of celebration honoring aviation I think it would have thrilled them. But they would not be sitting here in this chair, I don't think.

COOPER: It's so remarkable when you think the short amount of time between the Wright brothers and space flight. GLENN: You know, it is surprising. You know, it was only about 12 years before there were dog fights over Europe in World War I, 12 years after Kitty Hawk, if you can imagine that, the Lafayette escodrill (ph) and Eddie Richenbacher (ph) and the Red Baron and things like that that we know about, and then it went on ahead so fast. It was about 44 years to Chuck Yeager breaking the speed of sound, and hard to believe but only 66 years until we went from the sands of Kitty Hawk to Neil Armstrong stepping off on the dust of the moon on that incredible first step that anybody ever made on some place other than planet Earth. And only 66 years in between that time.

So just a word about the celebration here. It's an educational thing, too. We're hoping all the kids come out. If they can be imbued with a little bit of that curiosity that Orville and Wilbur Wright had in whatever field kids want to grow up in, if they have that kind of curiosity about how we can do the new and the unknown, then this whole celebration would have been well worthwhile, and I'm sure the Wright brothers would have liked that.

COOPER: Well, Amanda, the senator mentions education. Educate us a little bit. Why Dayton, Ohio? I think a lot of people think of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina when they think of the Wright brothers. Why Dayton?

LANE: Yes. I'm so happy to speak to that. The Wright brothers were from Dayton, Ohio, and actually all -- they developed all their theories and all their important aviation discoveries as far as propeller design, wing design, they used the wind tunnel here in Dayton, Ohio, and when they finally had things solved, they went to Kitty Hawk to test them out. For four years in a row, they went there for several months.

COOPER: Well, Senator, I guess there is a little bit of a controversy between Dayton and Kitty Hawk, let me have you weigh in here. Do you think this means that Kitty Hawk is no lodger the official birth place of flight?

GLENN: This goes back and forth, and is 90 percent press generated if you don't mind my saying so.

COOPER: I'm shocked at that innuendo.

GLENN: Kitty Hawk has a lot to celebrate and so does Ohio has a lot to celebrate, and there's enough to go around for everybody. In fact, right here where we are, in fact, behind us, where the camera is looking back here is (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and that's where they came back and really developed controlled flight. This is where controlled flight really became commonplace, right here just behind where you're looking right now. And that made it practical then for aviation to go ahead and make the world changes that the whole thing has made.

This whole celebration through here, if people are interested in finding more and about the schedule here, you're at www, and then Org. That's a good one to get on. And that will give you the schedule here if you want to visit here and see some of these things.

COOPER: All right. I appreciate both of you joining us, Senator John Glenn and Amanda Wright Lane. It's a pleasure to talk to both of you. Have a great celebration. I know it goes on now for several more days. Should be a lot of fun. Hope a lot of people turn out for it.

GLENN: Glad to be on. Thank you.


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