When we took to flight, we changed our world. We changed our understanding of travel and of communication. And it all started in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Actually, scratch that. It all started here, in Kill Devil Hills about four miles south of Kitty Hawk! Based in Ohio, the Wright Brothers chose this remote stretch of North Carolina’s Outer Banks partially because of the high winds and soft, sandy ground but also because of the privacy it afforded them.
A monument, constructed in 1932 sits on top of a low hill overlooking the field where the Wright Brothers made their first powered flights.
By the time this photograph was taken, on December 17, 1903, the Wrights had already been working at Kill Devil Hills for three years. December 17 was the day they finally made successful powered flights. This photo if of the first flight: Orville is the pilot while Wilbur looks on. This first flight lasted 120 feet at an altitude of about 10 feet.
But it was the fourth and final flight of that day which changed the world. Wilbur piloted the plane for 852 feet over 59 seconds. Powered flight of machines heavier than air had begun. This is a photograph of the actual flight:
Today as you visit this site, markers have been placed in the field to show you how far each of their flights lasted that day. In this photo, I am standing at the take off point for the fourth flight. The white marker in the distance is where Wilbur landed:
To stand here is to stand at the place the world changed. It’s such a beautiful, peaceful spot. A place I want to return to again and again. But it was also the place which turned out to be just the start of the Wright brothers’ troubles.
The Wright Brothers National Memorial
Address: 1000 North Croatan Highway, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Hours: See their website. Make sure you also check out the visitor center (with a replica of the Wright Flyer I and some very odd portraits on the walls!)