Wright Brothers National Memorial

Visiting the Wright Brothers National Memorial

Visiting the Wright Brothers National Memorial

Next Monday, December 17th, marks the 110th Anniversary of Flight when the Wright Brothers skimmed over the sands of the Outer Banks in their “Wright Flyer.” On that cold December morning in 1903, the brothers who owned a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio had ventured to Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina.  Kill Devil Hills provided isolation, high dunes, high winds and soft landings.  After much research with their previous gliders and wind tunnel tests, they had designed and built a flyer with a four-cylinder engine and propellers that they hoped was ready for flight.  As we all know, the 1903 Wright Flyer was a success and left the ground four separate times that day, twice piloted by Orville and twice tested by Wilbur.

My son and I visited the exact site of this historic flight this past summer when we were vacationing in the Outer Banks.  The Wright Brothers National Memorial is a National Park Service site which always provides an excellent educational experience.  Below is a guide to what to expect and thing to do if your family wants to learn first hand about the Wright Brothers first flight.

Visitor Center

In the visitor center, we were able to know about the Wright Brothers, the 1903 Wright Flyer, and one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th century. On display were reproductions of the 1902 Glider, 1903 Flyer (the original is at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum), the Wrights’ first wind tunnel and part of the initial engine block from the 1903 flying machine.  We were also surprised to see the original flyer cloth from the original 1903 Wright Flyer that Neil Armstrong carried with him over 40 years ago when he stepped on the moon.

Replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer

Replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer

First Flight Centennial Pavilion

When we drove up, we were curious about the large bubble-shaped buildings across from the visitor center.  Well, the Centennial Pavilion is inside the bubble, and it houses exhibits dealing with the Outer Banks at the turn of the century, the evolution of aviation and the challenges of flight and NASA-sponsored space exhibitions.

Curious about the large bubble shaped buildings?

Curious about the massive bubble shaped buildings?

First Flight Centennial Pavilion

First Flight Centennial Pavilion

Reconstructed Buildings

Down a short path from the visitor center are the reconstructions of the 1903 wooden living quarters and hangar where the Wright brothers conducted their experiments. The staged living quarters had items like those the Wrights would have used, and the hangar replicates the building where the Wrights stored their 1903 Flyer.

Reconstructed Living Quarters/Workshop

Reconstructed Living Quarters/Workshop

Reconstructed 1903 Hangar

Reconstructed 1903 Hangar

First Flight Boulder and Markers

The six-ton First Flight Boulder marks the site of the historic first flight where the Wright brothers lifted off in the world’s first airplane.  Numbered markers along the flight path indicate where the world’s first airplane landed after each of its four flights on December 17, 1903.

2nd Flight Marker - 12 seconds & 175 feet

1st Flight Marker – 12 seconds & 175 feet

First Flight Boulder

First Flight Boulder

Wright Brothers Monument and Big Kill Devil Hill

Atop Big Kill Devil Hill is the most magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean, Albemarie Sound and surrounding scenery.  It was on this old dune that the Wrights conducted over 1,000 glider flights and where we were able to visit the 60-foot Wright Monument that commemorates the Wrights achievements in aviation.  One tip, make sure you stay on the paved walkways because there is a lot of spiny cacti on the hill.

Wright Brothers Monument

Wright Brothers Monument

Airstrip and Pilot are Booth

The Pilot’s Booth which is adjacent to the 3,000-foot First Flight Airstrip is a great place to visit if you love watching airplanes take off and land.  The facility featured a computerized weather briefing system, route planning software, and navigational charts.

Pilot's Booth

Pilot’s Booth

December 17, 1903, Sculpture

This life-sized art recreating the first flight scene is amazing.  The 10,000 pounds of bronze and stainless steel sculpture located behind Big Kill Devil Hill.  It offers a new perspective to the famous photograph taken by John Daniels.  The sculpture is designed to be hands-on, so you can explore and climb on the world’s first airplane.

Recreating the first flight scene

Recreating the first flight scene

Orville

Orville

Other Ways to Enjoy the Park

Visitors can bring their kites and fly them just as Wilbur and Orville did at the turn of the century. If you brought along your bike while vacationing in the Outer Banks, you could ride them along the road at the base of the Wright Monument. When we went over the summer, there were several park activities, such as the Park movie and kid’s activities like Being Wright (where children can fulfill one of the requirements for the Junior Ranger Badge) and Wright Kite where kids can build their kite.  Finally,  picnic tables located near the Pilot’s Booth and on the opposite side of the monument which makes a perfect place to enjoy lunch with your family and friends.

Park Movie

Park Movie

"Lets Go Fly A Kite, Up to the HIghest Point"

“Let’s Go Fly A Kite, Up to the Highest Point”

Do you enjoy learning about aeronautics and aviation? Have you visited the Wright Brothers Memorial?  If you can’t make it to North Carolina, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum or local aviation museums are great places to learn.  Of course, there are a lot of resources online too, like NASA Glenn Research Center’s website – it is perfect for kids and has a lot of DIY science projects!

Comments

  1. gold price says:

    The replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer that graces the atrium of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library celebrates the accomplishments of the Wright Brothers, who first achieved controlled powered flight on December 17, 1903, above the sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Wright State University is named for Wilbur and Orville Wright, printers and bicycle makers from Dayton, Ohio, whose curiosity about flight led to the research and development that culminated in the building of the 1903 Flyer.

  2. Great post, Sherri! I haven’t been to this one yet, but I want to. We saw the 1903 Flyer this past summer in DC. We have several Wright Brothers treasures here in Ohio too. I haven’t blogged about any of them, but I did cover them in my book, Adventures Around Cincinnati. Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park is a great place to start. There are two sites: the Wright Cycle Company Complex and the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center. Carillon Historical Park contains the original Wright Flyer III, the first practical airplane, which could fly in circles and in 1905 flew for over 39 minutes, longer than the combined duration of all the flights in 1903 and 1904. There’s also the National Museum of the United States Air Force which starts with early aviation and has acres and acres of exhibits. Let me know when you’re ready for a trip out this way! :-)

    • Sherri says:

      Terri I have been thinking about going through Ohio on a road trip to Mount Rushmore or possibly heading south down into Kentucky. We want to go to the Football Hall of Fame. Is your book on amazon? Also, the USAF museum you mentioned…is that the one in Pensacola? I went to that one years ago, but don’t recall acres of exhibits.

  3. The museum in Pensacola is the Naval Aviation Museum. I was there last February. It is smaller than the Air Force Museum which is in Dayton, Ohio. The Air Force Museum is located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Add the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum last June, the Dayton Aviation National Historic Site last spring, and that makes a lot of airplane museums in a one year period! We’re going to Seattle this summer and my brother-in-law (who’s from Seattle) recommended the Museum of Flight. I told him we just might be airplane-museumed out now. ;-) Yes, my book is on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Around-Cincinnati-Parents-Memorable/dp/0615482775/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357737008&sr=8-1&keywords=adventures+around+cincinnati

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