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The Gift of Flight

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.
Quotation of Leonardo Da Vinci

Flight is a huge part of my life and has been for over 19 years (for those who know me, you’d never guess!). Being both a licensed Private Pilot (1999) and a D-Licensed Skydiver (D18185, October 6, 1991), it’s always been a fascination and dream of mine to visit the site of where man made free, controlled, and sustained flight in the world’s first power-driven heavier-than-air machine. That date in history: December 17, 1903 near the Kill Devil Hills, about four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina —  the historic launching grounds of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s The Wright Flyer. Although I thought I had known a fair bit of the historical events behind their first flight, I actually discovered today that I knew very little. The history is rich and steeped with amazing FAQs. So much so that the curator of the visitor center spent an hour telling the story of the history of flight, followed by a 40 minute film on the Wright and Tate families. Fascinating info that had us scrambling to try and fit in everything in in just one day. For me, it was compelling and relevant to also walk the grounds, from where each flight was launched onwards to the landing marker of each successful flight — 4 in total on that glorious day. This day was similar in weather to December 17, 1903. The winds howled, the temperatures were extraordinarily low and the visibility was clear with scattered clouds fringing the deep blue skies. Orville’s account of that fourth flight is as follows:

Wilbur started the fourth and last flight at just about 12 o’clock. The first few hundred feet were up and down, as before, but by the time three hundred ft had been covered, the machine was under much better control. The course for the next four or five hundred feet had but little undulation. However, when out about eight hundred feet the machine began pitching again, and, in one of its darts downward, struck the ground. The distance over the ground was measured to be 852 feet; the time of the flight was 59 seconds. The frame supporting the front rudder was badly broken, but the main part of the machine was not injured at all. We estimated that the machine could be put in condition for flight again in about a day or two.

Truly amazing to walk those steps … 852 feet may not seem like a lot, but in those days when no man or woman had ever lifted off of the earth via a manned powered vehicle, 59 seconds was truly a spectacular feat, I believe.

Following the path of the Wright Flyer’s trajectory, we strolled up the Kill Devil Hill to the centenary monument of where a behemoth rudder made of granite, sand, gravel and cement stands tall and proud, witness to the historical importance of Kitty Hawk and aviation. A stunning view of the area and an impressive memorial to the Wright Brothers. So breathtaking and a memory that both slaDE~ and myself will treasure forever!

29 comments to The Gift of Flight

  • that is so kewl – we will definitely make this a part of our travels!!!! :)) I just love the description 'the machine'. My brain is hardwired to think 'plane'…and I read 'machine' and have to think for a millisecond….​oh yeah….plane!

  • Not to forget Glenn Curtis of Hammondsport NY.. who was Also building ANd flying fabric winged aircraft, at the same time frame as others..Curtis was a master Motorcycle Engine Enthusiast, and recognized the value of a power plant that was Strong, Reliable and Lightweight….​ I seem to recall that there was a fair amount of "competitive animosity" among alll who were working to "invent the airplane". including lawsuits about patent Infringements, and the "borrowing" of ideas by one camp, which originated at the other camp..The Glenn Curtis Museum, in Hammondsport NY. near the south end of Keuka Lake is a great visit as well… Just NOT so highly regarded i guess,,, as the One for the Wright Brotherswithout all of those Aviation Pioneers,,, where would we BE????As skydivers…. One thing is for certain… we'd ALLLL have,,,,,, a Lot MORE,,,,, Balloon jumps!!!!!! 🙂 thanks for the info….safe travels,,,, stay warmjtI sent you a smiley! Want to see it? http://www.face​book.com/apps/a​pplication.php?​id=116318625062​183&v=app_49497​52878&partner=Z​Nzfb010_RGxdm11​2YYUS

  • @Jimmy T: Highly regarded AND highly recorded. There is video, but what worked for the Wright Brothers in court was their history of meticulous journaling of any and all discoveries, entries, experimentation​s, flights, attempts, failings, etc. Their flight on December 17, 1903 was truly a miracle. The brothers just the right combination of chance, mechanical know-how (bicycle inventors they were), aerodynamic logic, and creativity). But get this, the story was only mentioned in one small publication called "Gleanings In Bee Culture" in January 1, 1905. No kidding! Other big scientific magazine didn't believe their authenticity or story. The Wright Brothers kept their discovery under wraps for 5 years. They did everything themselves, including the funding. They didn't want to share it and wanted the patent themselves. They actually had a lawsuit against the Smithsonian.

  • This brings back memories. I spent a summer at First Flight Airport http://www.airn​av.com/airport/​KFFA flying for Kitty Hawk aero tours.Some of us would do a daily show and tell of a modern aircraft for the tourists.Just a few of the things the Wright Brothers designed and discovered are; Wing warping and the realization that an aircraft turns by banking.They designed a modern propeller. A lightweight engine [relatively]and​ a wind tunnel.But I have been told from friend Ken Kellet who built and flew an exact replica of the Wright flyer for the 75th anniversaryhttp://www.airs​pacemag.com/his​tory-of-flight/​cit-hise.htmlthat the most remarkable thing the Wright Brothers did was teach themselves to fly.

  • I've been trying to "teach myself to fly" for a while now…..still could use some improvement….​.jt

  • Vesna Leonard

    'the machine'. I love it. Wasn't this the first 'recorded' flight? No one really knows if anyone did it before, but wasn't there a contest or something and they just happened to have witnesses or recorded it? I can't remember (and too lazy to look up this early whilst laying in bed)? So kewl!! Thanks for sharing

  • Slade Snowangel

    Yes Vesna there was a contest. Which is the reason that the brothers were still here in mid-december. They didn't want to risk going through the winter and coming in 2nd. The classic picture that was taken by their mechanic (his first and only) was a perfect picture and ranked in the top 5 of recorded images. Not sure who does the ranking however that is what we were told at the museum. However that was long before the days of photoshop and the image conclusively proved the event. The replica of the flyer is remarkable and well worth the visit. And they have a bronze statue that you can climb like a jungl

  • Vesna Leonard

    that is so kewl – we will definitely make this a part of our travels!!!! :)) I just love the description 'the machine'. My brain is hardwired to think 'plane'…and I read 'machine' and have to think for a millisecond….oh yeah….

  • James Joseph Tavino

    Not to forget Glenn Curtis of Hammondsport NY.. who was Also building ANd flying fabric winged aircraft, at the same time frame as others..Curtis was a master Motorcycle Engine Enthusiast, and recognized the value of a power plant that was Strong, Reliable and Lightweight…. I seem to recall that there was a fair amount of "competitive animosity" among alll who were working to "invent the airplane". including lawsuits about patent Infringements, and the "borrowing" of ideas by one camp, which originated at the other camp..The Glenn Curtis Museum, in Hammondsport NY. near the south end of Keuka Lake is a great visit as well… Just NOT so highly regarded i guess,,, as the One for the Wright Brotherswithout all of those Aviation Pioneers,,, where would we BE????As skydivers…. One thing is for certain… we'd ALLLL have,,,,,, a Lot MORE,,,,, Balloon jumps!!!!!! 🙂 thanks for the info….safe travels,,,, stay warmjtI sent you a smiley! Want to see it? http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=116318625062183&v=app_4949752878&partner=ZNzfb010_RGxdm1

  • Slade Snowangel

    Visiting the memorial has really kindled an appreciation for aviation history. Thanks for the info on Glen Curtis, his museum sounds like another stop for

  • Vesna Leonard

    'the machine'. I love it. Wasn't this the first 'recorded' flight? No one really knows if anyone did it before, but wasn't there a contest or something and they just happened to have witnesses or recorded it? I can't remember (and too lazy to look up this early whilst laying in bed)? So kewl!! Thanks for sharing!! :))

  • SKY Katherine Snowangel Weishar

    @Jimmy T: Highly regarded AND highly recorded. There is video, but what worked for the Wright Brothers in court was their history of meticulous journaling of any and all discoveries, entries, experimentations, flights, attempts, failings, etc. Their flight on December 17, 1903 was truly a miracle. The brothers just the right combination of chance, mechanical know-how (bicycle inventors they were), aerodynamic logic, and creativity). But get this, the story was only mentioned in one small publication called "Gleanings In Bee Culture" in January 1, 1905. No kidding! Other big scientific magazine didn't believe their authenticity or story. The Wright Brothers kept their discovery under wraps for 5 years. They did everything themselves, including the funding. They didn't want to share it and wanted the patent themselves. They actually had a lawsuit against the Smiths

  • Slade Snowangel

    Yes Vesna there was a contest. Which is the reason that the brothers were still here in mid-december. They didn't want to risk going through the winter and coming in 2nd. The classic picture that was taken by their mechanic (his first and only) was a perfect picture and ranked in the top 5 of recorded images. Not sure who does the ranking however that is what we were told at the museum. However that was long before the days of photoshop and the image conclusively proved the event. The replica of the flyer is remarkable and well worth the visit. And they have a bronze statue that you can climb like a jungle gym!

  • Vesna Leonard

    that is so kewl – we will definitely make this a part of our travels!!!! :)) I just love the description 'the machine'. My brain is hardwired to think 'plane'…and I read 'machine' and have to think for a millisecond….oh yeah….plane!

  • James Joseph Tavino

    Not to forget Glenn Curtis of Hammondsport NY.. who was Also building ANd flying fabric winged aircraft, at the same time frame as others..Curtis was a master Motorcycle Engine Enthusiast, and recognized the value of a power plant that was Strong, Reliable and Lightweight…. I seem to recall that there was a fair amount of "competitive animosity" among alll who were working to "invent the airplane". including lawsuits about patent Infringements, and the "borrowing" of ideas by one camp, which originated at the other camp..The Glenn Curtis Museum, in Hammondsport NY. near the south end of Keuka Lake is a great visit as well… Just NOT so highly regarded i guess,,, as the One for the Wright Brotherswithout all of those Aviation Pioneers,,, where would we BE????As skydivers…. One thing is for certain… we'd ALLLL have,,,,,, a Lot MORE,,,,, Balloon jumps!!!!!! 🙂 thanks for the info….safe travels,,,, stay warmjtI sent you a smiley! Want to see it? http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=116318625062183&v=app_4949752878&partner=ZNzfb010_RGxdm112YYUS

  • Slade Snowangel

    Visiting the memorial has really kindled an appreciation for aviation history. Thanks for the info on Glen Curtis, his museum sounds like another stop for us 😉

  • SKY Katherine Snowangel Weishar

    @Jimmy T: Highly regarded AND highly recorded. There is video, but what worked for the Wright Brothers in court was their history of meticulous journaling of any and all discoveries, entries, experimentations, flights, attempts, failings, etc. Their flight on December 17, 1903 was truly a miracle. The brothers just the right combination of chance, mechanical know-how (bicycle inventors they were), aerodynamic logic, and creativity). But get this, the story was only mentioned in one small publication called "Gleanings In Bee Culture" in January 1, 1905. No kidding! Other big scientific magazine didn't believe their authenticity or story. The Wright Brothers kept their discovery under wraps for 5 years. They did everything themselves, including the funding. They didn't want to share it and wanted the patent themselves. They actually had a lawsuit against the Smithsonian.

  • Tom Witherspoon

    This brings back memories. I spent a summer at First Flight Airport http://www.airnav.com/airport/KFFA flying for Kitty Hawk aero tours.Some of us would do a daily show and tell of a modern aircraft for the tourists.Just a few of the things the Wright Brothers designed and discovered are; Wing warping and the realization that an aircraft turns by banking.They designed a modern propeller. A lightweight engine [relatively]and a wind tunnel.But I have been told from friend Ken Kellet who built and flew an exact replica of the Wright flyer for the 75th anniversaryhttp://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/cit-hise.htmlthat the most remarkable thing the Wright Brothers did was teach themselves t

  • James Joseph Tavino

    I've been trying to "teach myself to fly" for a while now…..still could use some improvement.

  • Tom Witherspoon

    This brings back memories. I spent a summer at First Flight Airport http://www.airnav.com/airport/KFFA flying for Kitty Hawk aero tours.Some of us would do a daily show and tell of a modern aircraft for the tourists.Just a few of the things the Wright Brothers designed and discovered are; Wing warping and the realization that an aircraft turns by banking.They designed a modern propeller. A lightweight engine [relatively]and a wind tunnel.But I have been told from friend Ken Kellet who built and flew an exact replica of the Wright flyer for the 75th anniversaryhttp://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/cit-hise.htmlthat the most remarkable thing the Wright Brothers did was teach themselves to fly.

  • James Joseph Tavino

    I've been trying to "teach myself to fly" for a while now…..still could use some improvement…..jt

  • SKY Katherine Snowangel Weishar

    Spoon, touring the museum and reliving the experience through the eyes, voice and photos of others was amazing! We are still here and hope to spend a few more days just enjoying the sites and taking it all in. We'd like to come back in the summer when the weather is nice! A new dz opening up here on the Outer Banks next April! Windy but amazing pote

  • Slade Snowangel

    @ James "DaVinci" – flight is built into your genes, i've watched you fly with creatures great and small. fast and slow i've seen you go, even landing with one arm in

  • Agnes Dawson

    Learning never exhausts the mind . Sending smiles and hugs yo

  • SKY Katherine Snowangel Weishar

    Spoon, touring the museum and reliving the experience through the eyes, voice and photos of others was amazing! We are still here and hope to spend a few more days just enjoying the sites and taking it all in. We'd like to come back in the summer when the weather is nice! A new dz opening up here on the Outer Banks next April! Windy but amazing potential!

  • SKY Katherine Snowangel Weishar

    Hugs and waves back Mama D

  • Slade Snowangel

    @ James "DaVinci" – flight is built into your genes, i've watched you fly with creatures great and small. fast and slow i've seen you go, even landing with one arm in tow 😉

  • Agnes Dawson

    Learning never exhausts the mind . Sending smiles and hugs your way

  • SKY Katherine Snowangel Weishar

    Hugs and waves back Mama Dawson!

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