WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — The National Aviation Hall of Fame is reassuring a congressman that it has no plans to sell a century-old wooden propeller signed by one of the Wright brothers.
The 8 ½ foot spruce propeller from 1915 is the only known airplane artifact with the signature of one of the aviation pioneer siblings, Orville Wright. It is not on public display but is kept at the hall at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
The possibility of a sale came up recently when Republican Rep. Mike Turner said his office received complaints about financial mismanagement at the hall of fame and he called for its trustees to "cease and desist" any talk about selling artifacts to raise money, the Dayton Daily News reported.
Hall President and Vice Chairman Michael Quiello denied Turner's allegations and said that any talk about selling the signed propeller was put aside more than two years ago.
The propeller was bought by a former trustee for $37,000 and donated to the hall in 2004. Trustees later rediscovered it in the collection, and the board had it appraised in 2013. It was pegged then at $275,000.
Quiello said the expense to conserve the propeller for public view didn't fit the hall's business and financial plans, and trustees considered selling it for display at another aviation-related site, such as the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington or the Wright airplane factory in Dayton, where a redevelopment project is planned.
"The board now realizes we have something that is not only an artifact, it's a national treasure and this should not be sold to a highest bidder to be placed in somebody's office, or placed in somebody's bar, or sold to a foreign businessman so he can put it on his wall someplace," he told the newspaper. "This belongs literally to the people of the United States and anybody interested in aviation."
The propeller is believed to have been on a Wright-built float plane and, according to an appraisal history, was signed in November 1944 at Orville Wright's Oakwood home.