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Not quite Wright: Plane faces wrong direction on new Ohio license plate

Posted at 3:11 PM, Oct 21, 2021

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled the new standard Ohio license plate at a news conference Thursday morning, and observant Ohioans quickly pointed out that the “Birthplace of Aviation” banner streaming from the Wright Brothers’ plane flying atop the new design is attached to the front of the aircraft, not the back.

Shortly after the mistake was pointed out, the Ohio BMV confirmed the error in the design and said that the correct design would be reflected on all new plates issued to drivers.

The original design was unveiled by Gov. DeWine Thursday at about 10 a.m. local time.

An image of the new Ohio standard license plate design.

The new “Sunrise in Ohio” design draws heavily from the state seal. At the top of the plate is an element inspired by a previous plate: an illustration of the Wright Brothers’ historic plane, which made its first flight from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.

An enlarged image of the top of the new Ohio license plate, showing the banner streaming from the front of the Wright Flyer.

In the Wright Brothers’ design, the plane’s elevators are on the front, not the back, as they would be in future plane designs. The banner reading “Birthplace of Aviation” – recognizing Ohio as the Wright Brothers’ home state – streams out from the plane as if it was behind it but is attached to the front.

Orville Wright; Wibur Wright;
Orville Wright, lying at the controls on the lower wing, pilots the Wright Flyer on the first powered flight by a heavier-than-air aircraft, Dec. 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, N.C. In the moments before going airborne, his brother, Wilbur Wright, watching right, guided and steadied the plane as it accelerated along the starting rail at left. (AP Photo/Library of Congress, John T. Daniels)

A few hours after the presentation for the new plate, and after many on social media pointed out the mistake, the Ohio BMV posted an image of the corrected design, stating that it would be reflected on all new plates issued to Ohio drivers.

This incident may remind stamp collectors of one of the most famous errors in American philately — the “Inverted Jenny,” a 1918 U.S. postage stamp in which the image of a Curtiss JN-4 airplane was printed upside-down. One such stamp was sold at auction in 2016 for $1.35 million.

Stolen Stamp Mystery
This photograph shows an "Inverted Jenny," a 1918 stamp stolen in 1955 featuring an airplane printed upside-down, that was officially handed over to the Pennsylvania-based American Philatelic Research Library during a press conference at the World Stamp Show, Thursday, June 2, 2016, in New York. The FBI turned the stamp over to the APRL's president Thursday during a press conference in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

While the Ohio design is now corrected, DeWine did say that production on the plates began in mid-October at the Lebanon Correctional Facility, meaning there may be plates with the backward plane in existence.

Time will tell if any “Inverted Wright Flyer” plates see the light of day and if they too end up garnering high value on the auction block.

Ian Cross at WEWS first reported this story.