Wright Brothers National Memorial: memory to aviation’s forefather

The Wright brothers who have been deemed as the forefathers of the aviation industry are quite the celebrated figure in the industry who turned a long-sought dream into a reality. The Wright Brothers National Memorial build to honor the forefather of the aviation industry, is located in the heart of the Outer Banks, eastern Northern California. The national memorial is kept open every day throughout the year except on the 25th of December.  

It’s an attraction for the aviation enthusiasts traveling to the Outer Banks, history loves, and any Kill Devil Hill’s guests who want a closer look at the massive granite structure that towers over the town’s landscape. 

The national memorial provides the tutorial on everything about the aviation industry from the first-ever sketch and thoughts of taking flights into the sky including the Wright brother’s experiments across the Kill Devil Hills sand dunes to the modern-day wonders of the aviation industry, a aviation enthusiast simply can’t miss such a grand opportunity to learn about the past and future from a single point. The Wright Brothers National Memorial which is a part historic monument, part museum, and part park offers a memorable expedition that fits the itinerary of a family trip or a history lover.

History of Wright Brothers National Memorial

The Wright Brothers National Memorial wouldn’t be standing so tall if Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright had not achieved such a great feat that changed the face of the aviation industry forever.  The Wright brothers who were from Ohio ran a bicycle shop had a dream of touching the sky that had never been achieved before. The Wright brothers designed the blueprints and plans from their small bicycle shop that would sustain the air flights for years before finally moving out to Kitty Hawk in 1900 to turn their dream into a reality.

Wright Brothers National Memorial

Starting with their own news publication in 1889, the West Side News to fixing, selling and designing their own bicycles in 1892, a period with a craze for bicycles, the Wright brothers who were always looking for different mechanical projects set eye on a goal that was still considered a dream. The Wright brothers closely followed the research of Otto Lilienthal, a German aviator who died in a glider crash, Otto’s work inspired the brothers to develop their won successful design. They gradually started experimenting with designing the stable wings for flight and developed the concept ‘Wing Warping’, succeeding in flying the first-ever free controlled flight power-driven aircraft on  December 17th, 1903 that lasted 59 seconds covering the distance of 852 feet. By 1909, the Wright Brothers were huge celebrities who achieved the feat that was considered a dream by the human race. They began to sell their aircraft in Europe and America making a huge fortune and engraving their name in history as the pioneers of the aviation world. 

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Also Read: Evolution of Airplanes: Da Vinci to Jumbo Aircraft

Debates On The National Memorial 

After the years of claims for the first flights, the US Government decided it was time to publicly recognize the contribution of the Wright brothers, thus the government started planning to build the Wright Brothers National Memorial in the 1920s. The design for honoring the Wright brother was carried out for few years, especially between Dayton, Ohio, and Outer Banks, North Carolina that were debating to be recognized as the birthplace of the first flights. 

Finally, President Calvin Coolidge put a temporary end to the dispute and signed a bill allocating $50,000 to build the Wright Brothers National Memorial Monument in the Kill Devil Hills n 1927. But, the official design was only selected after three years in 1930 which was based on the plans provided by the architectural firm in New York, ‘Rodgers and Poor’. The construction began 18 months afterward the selection of design, the construction plan pledged an additional $1,50,00 for the completion. So, the massive monument dedicated to the Wright brothers was completed in November 1932 with total funding of approx $2,13,000. The giant monument was built with 1,200 tons of granite, 2,000 tons of gravel including over 800 tons of sand, creating a towering architecture that honors the names of the pioneer of the aviation industry.

The Memorial Dedication which was held on November 14th, 1932 was attended by Orville Wright as a guest of honor, marking one of the first encounters where a living honoree attended his own memorial. But, sadly Wilbur Wright had passed away on May 30th, 1912 at the age of 45 in his family home due to typhoid fever. 

Turning Wright Brothers National Memorial Into A National Park 

The Wright Brothers National Memorial received the green single to reconstruct the two Wright brother’s gliders in the honor of the 50th anniversary of the national memorial in 1953. Considering the showcase of the Wright brother’s work and honoring their contribution to the aviation industry, in addition to the gliders, an expansive visitors center and museum was built in the national memorial turning it into an Actual Memorial.  Then, the  Wright Brothers National memorial became a major tourist attraction of the Outer Banks that attracted a lot of scholars, historians, and aviation enthusiasts. 

Century of Flight

The Wright Brothers National Memorial also celebrated a century of flight in a grand way in 2003. The Kill Devil Hills boasting the national memorial was the national spotlight when the world honored the forefathers of the aviation industry who led the path of the aviation industry and without whom the world may or may not have conquered the flying dream. 

Wright Brothers National Memorial

The event, celebrated on December 17th, 2003, was attended by the honorees like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, then-president George W. Bush, John Travolta including other renowned personalities of the aviation industry.  The national memorial held a week-long special event and celebration to honor the Wright brothers, remembering their dedication and contribution. Also, a new museum ‘Centennial of Flight’ was specially constructed in the Wright Brothers National Memorial to mark the 100-year anniversary of the first flight.

2020 First Flight Anniversary 

To celebrate the first-ever successful flight, that created a passage for the evolution of the aviation industry, the Wright Brothers National Memorial celebrates the first flight anniversary every year on December 17th ,.  However, the 2020 First Flight Anniversary was held virtually due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Flight Society, Outer Banks Forever, Dayton Aviation National Historical Park, the National Aviation Heritage Area, and Wright-Patterson Air Force partnered with the national memorial to make the event successful. The Ingenuity of Aviation-themed event was also joined by aviation sites and experts from across the nation. 

Places To Visit In The Wright Brothers National Memorial

The biggest attraction of the national memorial is the massive momentum itself, after entering the National Park’s ground, the visitors can trek up the gradually sloppy grassy green hill to the top and explore the magnificent monument from up close. But there are also other attractions in the Wright Brothers National Memorial that shouldn’t be missed in the expedition of the national park. 

The Wright Brother granite monument stands 60 feet tall leading the way to the extensive National Park that features the well-manicured ground with both big and small markers that indicates the successful launching and landing points of the first-ever successful flight. The National Park also hosts a visitor center to guide and detail the travelers including a cluster of museums and exhibitions that celebrates the last century of the evolvement of flights and beyond. 

First-Flight Boulder

The First-Flight Boulder and the Flight line mark are certainly one the major attraction of the national memorial that gives the visitors a clear idea of where the first-ever free control power-driven aircraft took off from and where it landed on the historic day of December 17th, 1903. The gradual inclination makes it a slightly longer walk but the photogenic view from the runway is certainly a memory to capture.

Wright Brothers National Memorial

Visitor Center/Museum

The visitor/museum at the national memorial showcases the full reproduction of both 1902 and 1903 aircraft including the original engine block from the 1903 aircraft and reproduction of the wind tunnels that the Wright brothers used in their early designs. The newly-renovated national memorial landmark built-in 1960 is the perfect location to learn the history of the Wright brothers and their descriptive work with interactive exhibits. 

Reconstructed 1903 Camp Buildings

The reconstructed camp building, built on the location where the Wright brother lived replicates the camp life the brothers lived in during their lengthy experiment in 1903. The living areas are furnished with items that indicate the experimental tool and living situations of the Wright brother from where they forged the path for the aviation industry. 

Centennial of Flight Museum

The latest addition to the national memorial, the Centennial of Flight museum built-in 2003 to celebrate a century of the flight is another famous tourist attraction. Located adjacent to the visitor center, the futuristic-looking museum is home to several exhibits including the replication of the 1900s environment that the Wright brothers faves during their 3-years experiment, their developments replicas, and a number of attractions donated and maintained by NASA that story tells the history and exciting future of the aviation industry. 

1903 Sculpture

The 1903 sculpture is an artistic representation of the monument of the first-ever successful free control flight. The first flight replication is located at the south side of the Kill Devil Hill and the unique thing about the sculpture is that it’s a ‘please-touch sculpture.

As most historic institutions and museums don’t allow visitors to touch any of the arts and sculptures, the 1903 sculpture is an entirely different story. The visitors are allowed to touch and even climb the sculpture but they need to be cautious as the surface of the sculpture may be hot or slippery. 

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