Dayton Q&A

Four questions with the Wright Brothers’ great-grandniece Amanda Wright Lane

Mike Boyer

Amanda Wright Lane was born five years after her great-granduncle Orville Wright died in 1948, but she and her brother, Stephen Wright, are keeping the Wright brothers’ legacy alive more than a century after the brothers’ famous flight.

Lane, who travels and speaks frequently about the Wright brothers, has been recognized repeatedly for her efforts on behalf of Dayton’s aviation heritage and Ohio’s aerospace industry.

She and her brother are trustees of the Wright Brothers Family Foundation, a charitable fund of the Dayton Foundation, and she serves as a trustee of the nonprofit National Aviation Heritage Alliance, which manages the area’s historic aviation sites for the National Park Service.

How were you drawn into your role as family spokeswoman?
For the longest time our great-aunt Ivonette Wright Miller, who was probably Uncle Orv’s favorite niece, was our family spokesperson. She was often asked to speak and she did these engagements into her 80s. My father began to accompany her to make sure she got there safely and he began to pick up a lot of that history and became more involved. When Aunt Ivy died my father took her role. In 1999, four years before the Centennial of Flight in 2003, my father passed away and that mantle sort of fell to Stephen and myself partly because we remained in this area.

We grew up knowing uncles Wil and Orv because that’s what we heard about at family gatherings. But when my father died my brother and I had to learn about Wilbur and Orville Wright, the technology they developed and about flying. That was something we didn’t hear as much about growing up.

What are the priorities of the Wright Brothers Family Foundation?
The main focus of the foundation right now is the restoration of Hawthorn Hill. We want to make sure when people walk through that home they’ll have the sense that Orville Wright is about to walk around the corner and meet them. Some of that is there today, but we want to make it a 100 percent experience. Dayton History has done fantastic job bit by bit. They are starting to do some of those things that will need constant care for a house over 100 years old.

Why is it important to maintain the brothers’ legacy?
The thing I take away most from their story is that it is a story of American success: having an idea, researching it and being able to follow a dream and see it to fruition. The Wright brothers’ story is about aviation, but it could have been about many, many other things. They were multifaceted men and when you look at people who made great strides for mankind, men and women, they are multifaceted. All of us can find something about them that we can relate to. I love that.

What’s something most Daytonians would be surprised to learn about the Wright brothers?
They really had wicked senses of humor. They were very, very sensitive to family and engaged as uncles, even as they became world known. They were just the most fun and interesting family men as well and they loved to cook. Any invitation to their home was immediately accepted because they were great cooks and experts at making gravy and sauces. As bachelors living on North Carolina’s Outer Banks they had to fend for themselves and then they began to enjoy it.