The Hawthornes have lived on the Outer Banks for 27 years now and have never been to the Visitor Center at the Wright Brother's National Memorial. And it's practically in our backyard. Thursday, we decided to play touron and went to visit. We're not total strangers to the park. We go every December 17 to witness whatever flyover they've got lined up. I've been to the top of the hill where the monument is numerous times to shoot pictures. Even took the kids to the hill one year to see the Fourth of July fireworks. Mr. Hawthorne and I took Daughter Hawthorne to the airstrip there when she was a tiny thing and we got to meet Chuck Yeager. I need to find those pictures. We went when President Bush the Elder was here and listened to a Park Ranger speak first, and when Bush got up to speak, even he said that was a tough act to follow. As I've said before, if only Park Rangers had been my history teachers, I would have aced that subject. We also had tickets for the week-long Centennial Celebration back in 2003. But we'd never gone to the visitor center and listened to the presentation by a Park Service Ranger. The fact that we had 3 days left on our year-long Park Service pass might have had something to do with our visit.
Here's the visitor center.
Inside are full-scale replicas of the Wright Brothers'
1902 Glider as well as their 1903 Flyer.
I know the history books all say
the first flight occurred in Kitty Hawk
but Kitty Hawk is about four miles north.
This is actually in Kill Devil Hills,
which wasn't incorporated into a town until 1953.
I wonder if I asked, "What is Kill Devil Hills?"
on Jeopardy when given the answer,
"On December 17, 1903,
the Wright Brothers made the first successful
power-driven flight in history, here"
if I'd be correct.
This is a reproduction of the Wright Brothers'
first powered machine.
Notice the propellers are in the back of the plane.
Wilbur and Orville would position themselves
lying prone in a hip cradle which they would
swing with their hips to warp the wings and swing the vertical tails.
A hand-operated stick lever controlled the elevator for climb and descent.
This authentic, full-scale reproduction of the original 1903 Wright Flyer, exact in every detail and capable of flight under its own power, is the generous gift to the American people from Harry P. Combs, prominent pioneer airman, aviation industry leader and published author. It was presented to the National Park Service on December 17, 2003, the centennial of the first successful controlled powered flights of an airplane in world history. On that day 100 years before, Orville and Wilbur Wright realized an ageless dream here at Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a site they chose for their early flying experiments because of the "steady breezes and sandy slopes.
Aircraft SpecificationsCommissioned by Harry B. Combs and built by The Wright Experience, this Wright Flyer replica is virtually identical to the original airplane that achieved flight here in 1903. It has the same dimensions - wingspan, 40 feet, 4 inches; length, 21 feet; height, 9 feet, 3 inches; and weight, 605 pounds. It was made with the same type material - a spruce and ash frame covered with unbleached cotton muslin. The plane's 4-cylinder, water cooled, gasoline powered, 12-hoursepower engine is a precise duplicate of the motor designed and crafted by Orville and Wilbur Wright and their bicycle shop mechanic Charles E. Taylor. Construction methods were based on engineering data compiled by the brothers in their intense pursuit of human flight.
The Wright Brothers tested gliders
at Kill Devil Hill in Kill Devil Hills
between 1900 and 1902,
and this is a replica of their 1902 glider - and last glider -
which led to the design of the Flyer.
During this time, the Wrights made over a thousand glides
from the top of Kill Devil Hill.
Isn't it astonishing that all these secrets have been preserved
for so many years just so that we could discover them!
Orville Wright, June 7, 1903
This is the First Flight Boulder, a granite boulder marking
the spot where the first plane left the ground on December 17, 1903.
The first successful flightof an airplanewas made from this spot byOrville Wright
December 17, 1903, in a machine designed and built byWilbur Wright and Orville Wright.This tablet was erected by theNational Aeronautic Associationof the U.S.A.
December 17, 1928to commemorate the twenty-fifthanniversary of this event.
Smaller stone markers chart the paths,
distances, and landings of the four flights.
You can see the fourth marker waaaaay in the back.
The Wright brothers made four successful sustained powered flights the morning of
December 17, 1903. The commemorative granite boulder and replica monorail mark the lift-off point of those four flights, the numbered markers the terminating point.Since soft sand prohibited launching with conventional wheels, the Wright Flyer was placed on a 60-foot monorail with its landing skids resting on a wheeled truck. Once the engine started, the Flyer was released and slid down the rail until it gained enough speed to lift into the air.
"The flight lasted only 12 seconds, but nevertheless the first in the history of the world in which a machine carrying a man had raised itself by its own power into full flight, had sailed forward without reduction of speed, and had finally landed at a point as high as that from which it had started."
Orville Wright, 1903
The first flight, December 17, 1903, 10:35 am, 120 feet in 12 seconds. Orville Wright is at the controls, lying prone on the lower wing. Running alongside to balance the machine on the monorail, Wilbur Wright has just released his hold of the right wing.
The second flight lasted 12 seconds and made it 175 feet.The third flight was 15 seconds and 200 feet.The fourth and last flight was 59 seconds and 852 feet.
Kill Devil Hills
"...the sand fairly blinds us. It blows across the ground in clouds. We certainly can't complain of the place. We came down here for wind and sand, and we got them."
Letter from Orville Wright to Katharine Wright (mother) October 18, 1900
The practiceground at the Kill Devil Hills consists of a level plain of bare sand, from which rises a group of detached hills or mounds formed of sand heaped up by the winds. These hills are constantly changing in height and slope, according tot he direction and force of the prevailing winds.
Wilbur Wright, lecture of June 24, 1903Experiments
On the slope of Kill Devil Hill to the left, the Wright brothers experimented with gliders in the period 1900-1903. Here also Wilbur Wright failed in an attempted power-driven flight, December 14, 1903. After just 3 1/2 seconds in the air the Wrights' flying machine stalled and settled to the ground. Two days were needed for repairs. Then the stage was set for the successful flight of December 17.
Looking towards the 60 foot tall monument atop
Kill Devil Hill honoring the Wright brothers
and marking the site of the hundreds of glider flights
that preceded the first powered flight.
Grass now stabilizes the 90-foot sand dune.
Notice the gaggle of geese.
These are the reconstructed 1903 hangar and camp/living quarters/workshop.
12 Seconds that Changed the World
After more than four years of hard work and experimentation, it only took the Wright brothers 12 seconds to change the world. On December 17, 1903,
at 10:35 am, Orville Wright made the world's first controlled, powered, heavier than-air flight.
The photograph that documented the Wrights' success was taken by John T. Daniels, a Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station surfman, who had never used a camera before. It was not until the Wright brothers returned to Dayton, Ohio, thatthey developed the photograph and saw their first flight captured on film. The Daniels' photo, however, only gives one perspective of that historic event-from the back of the airplane.Stephen Smith's "First Flight" sculpture, unveiled during the 2003 Centennial, and Frank Wootton's painting help us to see the first flight from different angles. Just as the Wright brothers' success depended on viewing the problems of flight in novel and creative ways, perhaps these new perspectives will inspire us to change the world and explore new horizons.
In commemoration of the conquest of the air ...Excerpt from the inscription on the monument atop Big Kill Devil Hill
From its establishment as a national monument in 1927 to the First Flight Centennial of 2003, the local people of the Outer Banks have shown "dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith" in honoring and recognizing the first flight of the Wright brothers.
The Kill Devil Hills Memorial Association, later to become the First Flight Society, took the lead in organizing the 25th-anniversary celebration held in 1928.
The even featured the unveiling of the first flight marker and the laying of the cornerstone for the monument - two of the most prominent features at Wright Brothers national Memorial. For the first time, the location of the first flight received as much attention as the flight itself. Orville Wright, Amelia Earhart, and more than 3000 people from the area participated in the event. Ironically, to attend they traveled by almost every means but air.
Over the years local citizens, the First Flight Society, and people from all over the state of North Carolina have continued to provide the grass roots support necessary to host annual commemorative events. With their help, the reconstructed camp buildings were opened during the 50th anniversary celebration. The First Flight Airstrip opened during the 60th anniversary and the "First Flight" sculpture, a gift from the people of North Carolina, was dedicated during the 100th anniversary celebration.
More than 120,000 people, from all over the world, attended the six-day 2003 Centennial celebration that included an attempt to reenact the first flight.
If you decide to try your machine here...
you will find a hospitable people...
William J. Tate, Kitty Hawk Postmaster, in a letter to Wilbur Wright, dated August 18, 1900
Wilbur and Orville Wright accepted Tate's invitation and found that the Outer Banks of North Carolina not only provided hospitable people but also the conditions that they needed to fly- wind, sand, and solitude. While solitudewas important to get the work done, the Wrights did not work alone. From 1900 to 1903, familiesfrom the local communities and the crews from the local life saving stations provided much-needed assistance to the Wrights.
On the morning of December 17, 1903, the Wrights signaled for help and "John T. Daniels, W.S. Dough, A.D. Etheridge, W.C. Brinkley of Manteo, and Johnny Moore of Nags Head arrived," wrote Orville. With their help the Flyer was moved to the launch rail. The men cheered as the Flyer lifted of the ground.
The "First Flight" sculpture captures the Wrights' historic achievement and the hospitable people who supported them. Local families and descendants of the first flight witnesses continue to welcome visitors to the Memorial and the Outer Banks.
And that, my friends, concludes our trip
to the Wright Brothers Memorial.
Next, the Hawthornes stopped by a produce stand
and I shot of picture of a pretty purple princess.
Whenever I leave or enter Colington Harbour,
I pass the monument.
And I've always wondered about this little building.
What is it?
Here's the view from the car on Colington Road.
We found out from one of the Park Service Rangers
that this used to be a generator station
when they were first erecting the monument.
Here's the First Flight sculpture from Colington Road.
This is shot from Colington Road also
and Mr. Hawthorne and I have always wondered about these pylons.
When we asked a Ranger about this,
we found out this was the original entrance to the park.
1930's I'm thinking.