Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THE FOLLOWING two fantasy correspondences are offered for your amusement:

Wilbur Wright, 7 Hawthorne Street, Dayton, Ohio, U.S.A.

April 11, 1909

My Dear Wilbur,

Greetings from the little bathing town of Fiumicino, Italy, 21 miles west of the Eternal City of Rome! Katharine sends highest regards as well.

I am really glad our kid sister took leave of absence from her teaching at Steele High. Katharine’s proficiency in Latin and in modern languages has been immensely valuable on this European tour of ours.


Katharine Wright (with an “a”) made the news in accompanying Orville.

Last month we demonstrated the Flyer in France, as you did so effectively last year at Le Mans. After Rome we plan to head north to fulfill our German invitation from Crown Prince Fredrich Wilheim, who, I don’t have to remind you, is son of the Kaiser, cousin of the Russian Czar and the English King, and a great-grandson of Queen Victoria herself.

All these people over here seem to be related, one way or the other.


The Wrights’ Baedeker’s would have been similar to this one.

Our trusty Baedeker put us onto the Locanda dei Cacciatori, which I thought was Inn of the Chickens. An odd omen for a Flying Machine, eh? Dear Katharine prefers to call the place Hunters Inn.

My plan for tomorrow is to exercise our Flyer from here over to the Eternal City. And, I’ll tell you, the local folk all seem in a state of high anticipation. No doubt they sense the excitement of seeing our Flyer in action.

I will write more tomorrow after the flight.

Your Loving Brother, Orville

The second correspondence:

Wilbur Wright, 7 Hawthorne Street, Dayton, Ohio, U.S.A.

April 12, 1909

My Dear Wilbur,

I am writing this from the center of a vast courtyard, the Piazza di San Pietro, Katharine says they call it. I must say, the day has been quite an adventure.

The Flyer and I were ready for the flight shortly after dawn this morning. But imagine my surprise in finding Fiumicino already bustling with gaily dressed village folk in celebration.

Such confirms their immense enthusiasm for the Flyer demonstration.

As they say, “all roads lead to Rome,” so the flight had no navigational challenges. Everywhere below were throngs of local folk celebrating in their holiday best.

Kudos for the Italian love of aviation! I suspect they would be as mad for motor cars, perhaps even racing them for a thousand miles, Mille Miglia Katharine would term it.


Katharine charmed one and all during their 1909 European tour. That’s Orville to her left.

As the Flyer and I approached the Eternal City, I was drawn to an impressive domed edifice, its courtyard jam-packed with brightly dressed celebrants. I figured this was where the good people of Rome intended me to set down.


St. Peter’s would have been rather more crowded when Orville arrived.

I circled this piazza several times, and an aristocratic man regaled in white, no doubt the patron of this beautiful villa, expressed his appreciation from a balcony, his hands above his head clinched with great emotion.

The crowd separated with only a slight confusion to give me access, and I brought the Flyer down in the piazza right next to an Egyptian obelisk. Imagine finding such a thing in the middle of Rome!

Despite the excitement of my landing, everyone’s attention was drawn to the patron of the villa, who then made a short speech, no doubt offering me and the Flyer his welcome. I’ll have to ask Katharine what he said.

There was a moment of silence, and then the crowd went mad with cheers. Never have I seen such enthusiasm for aviation!

Hoping your Easter Holiday is an especially joyous one too.

Your Loving Brother, Orville

Additional comments in another hand:

There’s a good deal of fact lurking in this flight of fancy. Following Wilbur’s success in 1908 (see “Wilbur Wows ’Em at Le Mans,”, Orville returned to demonstrate the Wright Flyer through Europe in 1909. The itinerary is completely accurate. Their kid sister Katharine accompanied Orville. Her biographical information is spot-on as well.

The only lodging in Fiumicino listed in my 1909 Baedeker’s Guide to Central Italy is indeed Locando dei Cacciatori, which, with her language skills, Katharine would have correctly rendered as Hunters Inn.

Last, April 12, 1909, was Easter Sunday, a fine time for a celebration in St. Peter’s Square.


Here’s Pope Benedict XVI and the crowd, Easter 2009.

This particular dating of the flight, however, is pure fantasy, indeed bordering on Wright blasphemy. Their father was a United Brethren in Christ bishop, and the brothers had already expressed reluctance to do any flying on the Sabbath.

By the way, I wish you a joyous New Year. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014

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