Visiting Kitty Hawk, North Carolina the home to the Wright Brothers National Memorial where the first manned flight took offer is worthwhile for any aviation enthusiast.
Over the last couple of years, I have made it a point to visit some aviation landmarks which I have sorely missed. Last year, I witnessed my first rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. I was visiting the Outer Banks in North Carolina, staying less than four miles from the national historic site where two bicycle makers from Dayton, Ohio changed the world on December 17, 1903.
I was able to visit with my family, and boring my eight-year-old daughter with trivia about the Wright Flyer, its importance, and how it applies to modern aviation was a real treat for this dad.
The Wright Brothers National Memorial is operated by the United States National Park Service. The park is broken up into four primary areas: the visitor center, the monument, the exterior areas, and an active airport.
Inside the visitor center is a souvenir shop immediately to the right upon entering. Among the coffee mugs and historical DVDs are model Wright Flyers and books on aviation. Good luck getting out of there without buying something.
The museum is composed of two areas, a walk-through with various demonstrations about how the Flyer came to be, general flight dynamics and control information, and a history of the brothers through to the modern flight era.
The second area features a life-size replica of the original Wright Flyer. Outside of the windows of this room, the end of the working runway can be seen.
Outside, a walkway leads to a pair of replica sheds that the brothers used during their historic trip.
Outside, a rail track that the Wright brothers used to launch their flyer demonstrates the same launch rail used at the time. Distance markers indicate the lengths of the first, second, third, and fourth demonstration flight. Each is marked by a stone with a plaque detailing the length of the flight, the pilot (Orville or Wilbur), and the duration.
Hidden in the Kitty Hawk Woods is the First Flight Airport in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. During our visit, we witnessed both a private flight waiting to take off and a historical flight operating from the airfield.
I intended to cross off something from my aviation to-do list, but then I found this airport and now I am determined to operate a flight from it so the list length remains intact.
Wilbur and Orville Wright is the center of the memorial. Overlooking their famous run is a massive granite monument that highlights the Brothers’ glider runs as they tried their design, but also looks to Nags Head, North Carolina, and out to the sea.
A word of caution for those visiting during the hot summer months, the pathway to the hill is challenging. Water fountains can be found at the base, of the path.
The monument itself was impressive to view, but seeing the paths the original flyers ran was even more impactful to me.
Witnessing the site of the first documented, controlled, heavier-than-air flight was personally moving for me. I enjoyed walking my daughter around the model Flyer was something I’ll remember for some time and now I have a reason to return for a new aviation goal: flying from the First Flight Airport. If you’re in the Outer Banks – add a visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial to your list.
What do you think? Have you been to the Wright Brothers National Memorial?