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Ohio reverses course after its new license plates showed the Wright Flyer backwards

The Wright Flyer as depicted on the new "Sunrise in Ohio" license plate.
Jessie Balmert/Cincinnati Enquirer
The Wright Flyer as depicted on the new "Sunrise in Ohio" license plate.

Officials in Ohio had to — literally — reverse course when they realized their new state license plate design featured a plane flying backwards.

Let's back up. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles recently redesigned its standard license plate for the first time since 2013, and unveiled the new look in a tweet last week.

It depicts a brown field of wheat, green hills, blue waters, grey skyscrapers, a child and dog playing beneath a leafy tree and a yellow sun shining in the sky. At the very top, a historic-looking plane carries a banner reading "Ohio: Birthplace of Aviation."

The illustration is a nod to the Wright Brothers (who lived in Dayton for most of their lives), who created and flew the world's first successful motor-operated plane in 1903. But eagle-eyed viewers quickly pointed out that the plane appeared to be pushing the banner, not pulling it.

Within hours, the BMV had apologized for the error and released an updated version with the plane facing the other way.

Officials said the state would recycle the roughly 35,000 plates it had already printed, according to The Mercury News.

But that wasn't the end. Some critics took issue with another aspect of the design: The Wright Brothers' historic first flight (and presumably the model for the plate design) actually took place in Kitty Hawk, N.C.

North Carolina and Ohio have long been at odds over who gets the title of "first in flight," as Cincinnati Public Radio reported. Ohio is where the Wright Brothers were born and created the first airplane, while aviation history was actually made in North Carolina.

The two states briefly set aside their bickering to celebrate the anniversary of the first flight in their first-ever joint ceremony last December (it was virtual because of the pandemic).

So it was only a matter of time before North Carolina weighed in on the license plate flop:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.