December 19, 2003

High-flying hack

It's good to see that some things never change.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the invention of the airplane, students took a break from finals on Wednesday morning to top MIT's Great Dome with a replica of the Wright brothers' biplane, "Flyer."

The model, with a wingspan of 45 feet, was discovered by MIT Police on patrol at 6:20 a.m. The dome atop Building 10 is 150 feet high. A dummy was strapped into the position Orville Wright occupied during the historic 12-second flight.

The model has canvas wings, each with a blinking red light, and a 2-by-4-foot stud frame, coupled by hinges and bolts. The structure is connected to the dome by a system of plastic-coated steel cables, eye hooks, carabiners and turnbuckles.

Six students exiting Building 10 via an elevator took responsibility for the prank, police said. None of the students is majoring in aeronautics and astronautics.

One student asked the officers if he could retrieve a laptop computer he had left behind because he needed the machine to prepare for upcoming exams. "Same was retrieved and returned to him," police said.

Aware of the forecast for heavy rain and 25 mph winds, David Barber of the MIT Safety Program and Gary Cunha of MIT Facilities applied additional safety lines to the model, which was already well-constructed and secured. Should the assembly come apart during the night, the safety lines will ensure that pieces do not come down from the dome's roof.

The model was dismantled Thursday by Barber and Cunha, the Institute's hack evaluation and removal team, who salvaged a completed FAA certificate of airworthiness form for the MIT Museum.

Posted by Vanderleun at December 19, 2003 4:52 PM
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