New Ohio license plates to be fixed after Wright Flyer shown backward

Ohioans will soon get a new standard license plate with new vehicle registrations. But first, the state has to fix its just-unveiled design.

The plate features a Wright Flyer soaring over rural scenes — but the pioneering airplane, supposed to be trailing a banner, was shown facing backward.

“We are aware that the plane on the new Ohio license plate unveiled this morning was oriented in the wrong direction,” Lindsey Bohrer, assistant director of communications for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said in a statement after the unveiling. “We regret this mistake and have fixed the image. This is the correct design that will be reflected on all new plates issued to Ohio drivers.”

Early Wright Flyer models had horizontal canards on the front as well as vertical rudders on the rear. Many people seeing the original aircraft on display assume they’re looking at the planes’ back end when they’re actually looking at the front, Dayton History Vice President Alex Heckman.

Righting the plane’s image would be a “quick fix,” Heckman said.

“It was just a simple flip of the plane,” he said. “I will say it is a very common mistake.

“We’re thrilled that they’re fixing it promptly and that the Wright Brothers will continue to be honored on the state’s license plates. We certainly think that’s appropriate.”

Gov. Mike DeWine, First Lady Fran DeWine and Bureau of Motor Vehicles Registrar Charles Norman unveiled the new “Sunrise in Ohio” plate Thursday at the Ohio Department of Public Safety headquarters in Columbus. The plates are available starting Dec. 29.

“This is one of the fun things a governor gets to do,” Gov. DeWine said.

All design was done in-house at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Norman said. Previous redesigns often took a year and a half, but this one moved from a final design in April to production at the Lebanon Correctional Facility in mid-October, he said.

Asked how many new plates have already been produced — and potentially end up destroyed or somehow corrected — a spokesperson for the governor’s office referred questions to a Department of Public Safety spokesperson, who did not immediately respond Thursday.

Greg Wyatt, visual communications manager for the Department of Public Safety, designed the plate with heavy input from the DeWines.

“First of all, our goal was to reflect the beauty of Ohio,” Gov. DeWine said. “Very difficult to do that in a license plate.”

Credit: Jim Gaines

Credit: Jim Gaines

The plate shows a composite Ohio city skyline, green hills, a waterway, a broad wheat field, and a tree with a girl on a swing. The background is a yellow sunrise.

“We went through a lot of different variations of this before we got exactly what we wanted,” Fran DeWine said.

Vehicle owners receiving a plate for the first time won’t pay any more for the new plate than for the old one, Norman said. Currently a standard Ohio plate costs $34.50.

People renewing their registration who wish to switch to the new plate will pay a $7 “new metal fee,” Norman said. Otherwise they can just get a new sticker for their existing plates.

Credit: Jim Gaines

Credit: Jim Gaines

“Customers have the option to keep their plate, to transfer their plate,” he said. Like today, they can get just one plate or get a second for an additional $1.25, Norman said.

Ohio has issued new standard plates four times in the past 20 years, under four different governors: the “Bicentennial” plate in 2001, “Sunburst” in 2003, “Beautiful Ohio” in 2009 and “Ohio Pride” in 2013.

All those are still in circulation, plus 300 specialty plate designs, Norman said. A “cleaner, streamlined design” for current specialty plates will be rolled out along with the new standard plate, he said.

Ohio issues about 2.1 million new plates a year for 13 million motor vehicles, Norman said. Older plates are expected to remain in use for a long time, he said.

The design was tested by law enforcement agencies to make sure it’s legible at a distance and readable by technology, he said.

The state slowed production on the previous design and expects to have about 40,000 left when the changeover occurs, Norman said. Those plates will be recycled, he said.

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