Scenic USA - North Carolina

Wright Brothers Memorial

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Wright Brothers Memorial - Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

     Although Sir George Cayley, father of aerodynamics, designed a glider in 1804, it would be nearly another 100 years before the Wright Brothers could build the first powered airplane.
     Encouraged by Octave Chanute, the Wright Brothers would follow the Frenchmanís biplane glider design. Wishing their plane to be fully controlled by the pilot, the Wrights developed the idea of controlled wing warping, an early forerunner of the moveable flap eventually called the aileron. After early testing in 1900, the Wrights increased the gliders wing span and increased the wing camber. Even though the new glider flew for 335 feet, the Wrights discovered control was unpredictable. Instead of giving up, the Wrights returned to the drawing board and further tested new designs in a wind tunnel.
     The 1902 glider saw an increase in wingspan, plus newly designed vertical tails to increase control. Movable tails further helped with stability; and when Wilbur linked the tail movements with the wing warping mechanism they realized success. After 600 more flights that year the Wrights were convinced they were on their way to the first working airplane. In 1903 the Wrights designed a light gasoline engine to power two pusher-style propellers. Wright Brothers National Memorial Ready on December 14, 1903, Wilbur won the coin toss and attempted the first powered flight. Eager to fly, Wilbur over-steered and the plane stalled, quickly diving into the sand. After repairs, it was Orville's turn to fly the aircraft. Against a 27 mile headwind, Orville headed down the dunes for the first flight of 120 feet. Later in the day after mastering the controls, Wilbur's final flight lasted almost a minute and covered 852 feet. A strong gust of wind wrecked the airplane and ended their season of flying.
     Here at at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, on Kill Devil Hill, a 60 foot monument honors Wilbur and Orville Wright and marks the site of hundreds of glider flights. Other stone markers label the first flight paths and landings accomplished on December 17, 1903. The life-sized Wright flyer was sculpted by Stephen H. Smith commemorating this historic aircraft. Made from 10,000 pounds of stainless steel, the sculpture is a full scale representation of the 1903 aircraft.


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