Wright Brothers go the wrong way: Ohio bungles new license plate

·2 min read

We all enjoy a tale of governmental ineptitude, especially when it involves an error by a DMV: Ohio's new license plate design depicts the Wright Brothers plane towing a banner. However, the plane is backwards.

In fairness, the error is almost understandable. Somebody in the bowels of state bureaucracy experienced a common misunderstanding that has made a few visitors to the National Air and Space Museum scratch their heads: The 1903 Wright Flyer's design has a small set of elevators in front that are normally in the tail on a modern airplane. And it's a push prop design — the propeller is behind Orville Wright's feet in this photo, as he lies alongside the 12-horsepower engine:

Fortunately, somebody caught the mistake before takeoff. Ohio's Bureau of Motor Vehicles says it's going to fix the error before the new design goes into effect.

The banner of the new design retains Ohio's longstanding slogan "Birthplace of Aviation," so it yields no ground to the longstanding license plate grudge match with North Carolina, whose plate's slogan is "First in Flight." Both states have a valid claim. Orville and Wilbur Wright were Ohioans and designed and built the Flyer in their bicycle shop. They traveled to Kitty Hawk, N.C., to take advantage of the winds, and Orville piloted the first powered flight on Dec. 17, 1903, traveling 120 feet in 12 seconds. Wilbur had the best flight out of four that day, traveling 852 feet in 59 seconds. And the aviation age was born.

Beyond the plane snafu, the new design is filled with sunbeams and wheat fields, and a kid and dog at play. Presumably that's not the Cuyahoga River at left, as it's not on fire. Our resident license plate critic James Riswick has already declared it "deep into the Toon Town category" of plates. Here's his critique of all 50 states' best and worst license plate designs.

The plates will be available Dec. 29, with the correct design shown here: