Kitty Hawk is practically synonymous with the Wright Brothers, first in flight. It's been nearly 120 years since brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright from Dayton, Ohio first flew four, powered flights. Orville won the coin toss and took first turn, sustaining controlled flight for 12 seconds and carried him 120 feet. By the fourth and longest flight, Wilbur kept the 1903 Wright flyer aloft 59 seconds carrying him 852 feet.
Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial and you can walk these lengths on the grounds. But I'll get back to that in just a moment.
We were fortunate to have a military veteran with us and received free admission to this National Park. As you enter the Outer Banks, you'll find it on the right (west) near milepost 4.5.
The visitors center features a bookstore, exhibits on the Wright family, and a life-size replica of the 1903 Wright flyer. I was most surprised to learn of the two older brothers and the importance of their inventive mother in their lives. It was truly a home that nourished their creative minds.
Included in the exhibits is a tribute to Germany's Otto Lilienthal who "makes over 2,000 successful glider flights and is considered the world's most successful aviator. Again and again, Wilbur and Orville will turn to Lilienthal's data on aerodynamics." Mr. Lilienthal lost his life during a glider wreck in 1896 when he was only 48 years old.
Also included is a statement from Wilbur Wright to aviation pioneer Octave Chanute from 1900. "For some years I have been afflicted with the belief that flight is possible to man. My disease has increased in severity and I feel that it will soon cost me an increased amount of money if not my life."
For a bird's eye view of the grassy airstrip, hike, or drive (to the closer parking lot) to the Wright Brothers' airplane wing-shaped monument atop 90-foot Big Kill Devil Hill. The sand dune has been grown over with local grasses and provides a view of the ocean and the sound. While the monument is six tons of granite, you'll be surprised to learn the interior is hollow. The brothers took off from this spot with the smaller markers on the grassy airstrip evidence of each flight's length and documented duration.
Wright Brothers National Memorial is open seven days a week, year-round, except for Christmas Day. It's open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily. The admission fee is $10 per person for ages 16 and older and it's good for seven days. Children and teens age 15 and younger get in free, and seniors aged 62 and older get in free with the senior pass. An annual admission pass is $35.