Did Ohio Unveil Inaccurate Wright Brothers’ Design on New License Plate?

In October 2021, social media posts and news outlets reported that the new Ohio license plate, whose design Gov. Mike DeWine had just unveiled, contained a notable historical inaccuracy. 

For example, one Twitter user wrote, “Holy shit. The Wright Brothers Flyer is flying backwards on the new Ohio license plate,” while Axios reporter Tyler Buchanan wrote, “That tail-looking thing is actually the front. But the banner’s facing the other way.”

The unveiling of the new license plate design, at a news conference on Oct. 21, can be watched below. Among other features, the plate contains a banner that reads “Birthplace of Aviation” emerging from a representation of the Flyer — the ground-breaking aircraft designed by Dayton, Ohio, brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, which made the first ever airplane flight in 1903. 

In the design unveiled at the news conference, the banner emerged from the smaller end of the Flyer, giving the impression that this was the back of the aircraft. This was evident in a tweet posted by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV):

However, that smaller end of the Wright Flyer, composed of the “elevators,” was actually at the front, as this National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) graphic shows:

So tweeted photos and other descriptions of the originally unveiled license plate — showing the banner emerging from the smaller end of the aircraft — were authentic, and social media users were right to point out that that representation was indeed inaccurate. As such, we are issuing a rating of “True.”

However, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) promptly acknowledged the error and issued a new design version of the license plate later on the same day, which correctly showed the banner emerging from the back end of the aircraft:

Elevator – Wright 1903 Flyer. https://wright.nasa.gov/airplane/elv.html. Accessed 21 Oct. 2021.

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