Official Tennessee flag to fly in 100th year of flight

By Lesley Jenkins
Star Staff

In the aviation world there is one moment in history that is important: December 17, 1903 at 10:35 a.m. Outside of the general aviation community, many people would not know why this date and time is significant. It is the precise time that the Wright brothers flew an engine powered aircraft for the first time.
   One hundred years and to the exact minute later, the Centennial of Flight Celebration will take off with the flight an authentic replica of the Wright Flyer in Kitty Hawk, N.C. As a part of this Countdown to Kitty Hawk celebration, 50 pilots from the Experimental Aircraft Association will represent every state by flying each official state flag into Wright Brothers National Memorial.
   Marcia "Sparky" Barnes, pilot based in Mountain City, will represent the state of Tennessee when she makes the trip to the memorial site at the end of the summer in her 1948 Piper PA-17 Vagabond, whom she affectionately calls Miss Vag. Barnes has until Dec. 1, 2003 to take the flag as part of the 50 Flags to Kitty Hawk festivities.
   Gov. Phil Bredesen presented the official Tennessee flag to Barnes on June 23, 2003. When Barnes makes the trip to Kitty Hawk, she will take part in the official flag presentation ceremonies and the State Flag will be raised and flown at the Wright Brothers Memorial site on that respective day.
   "Being chosen to participate in 50 Flags to Kitty Hawk, and represent our Volunteer state as part of this year-long program, is a distinct honor," said Barnes. Barnes, who is a computing consultant and writer, has been an EAA member since 1995 and is also a member of the Vintage Aircraft Association, a division of EAA.
   "I am also proud to represent Tennessee's notable aviation figures, including barnstormer Stacy Greer, early aircraft mechanic Phoebe Omlie, aircraft designer Walter Beech, and flight instructor extraodinaire Evelyn Bryan Johnson," said Barnes.
   When Barnes makes the flight, she plans to keep to the "spirit of early pioneering aviators" who flew without radios and VORs (navigational radio) inside fabric covered aircrafts.
   "Flying my Vagabond, which is powered by a Continental 85 (engine), with only a 12-gallon fuel tank to quench its thirst, from Mountain City to Kitty Hawk will aptly symbolize that vintage era of aviation when pilots didn't rely heavily upon avionics and radios, and use only basic flight instruments," said Barnes.