While vacationing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina with my family last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk. Although I had read many times that the Wright brothers had selected the site after extensive research looking for ideal weather conditions, feeling the strong, constant breeze coming from the north really brought it home. It was unseasonably hot the day I visited, but the unflagging wind made it quite tolerable.
We got to the visitor center just as one of the National Park rangers was beginning his talk in the large hall where full-scale, flyable models of the first flyer and glider are displayed. Having a flyable model of the first flyer made the ranger’s talk much more effective. As he explained the importance of the Wright brothers’ innovations, he could demonstrate the movements with the workable plane. The Wright brothers’ solutions to the control of pitch, yaw, and roll gave me a more profound respect for their achievement. The ranger mentioned that the Wright brothers were not only innovative but thrifty. They spent $700 to build their plane. One hundred years later, it cost $1.2 million to build a working copy.
Beyond the visitor center, we walked the path that led us to the site of the first flights. Large granite stones mark the start and end points of each of the Wright brothers’ inaugural four flights on December 17, 1903. The Park Service has reconstructed the two frame buildings the Wright brothers used for lodging and a hanger. It was well-furnished to show how the Wright brothers lived while conducting their work at the site.
We then hiked up Kill Devil Hill to see up-close the impressive 60-foot monument that towers over the historic site. The constant breeze was a welcome relief. The view at the top was breathtaking. You could almost see the Wrights’ gliders taking to the air down the slope of the hill.
Visiting the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk made me very proud to be from Ohio.