Wright Brothers National Memorial Hosts First Flight Anniversary Event

Orville Wright takes off in the first flight of the 1903 flyer as Wilbur Wright assists.
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On Dec. 17 at 9 a.m., Wright Brothers National Memorial and the First Flight Society will celebrate the accomplishments of Wilbur and Orville Wright on the 118th anniversary of their first heavier-than-air, controlled, powered flight. Park entrance fees are waived on this special day.

This year, the First Flight Society inducts the first American woman in space, Sally K. Ride, into the Dr. Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine. Dr. Ride served as a mission specialist on two missions aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983 and 1984. She later became a professor of physics at the University of California San Diego and director of the California Space Institute. A tireless advocate for equity in science education, Dr. Ride co-founded Sally Ride Science in 2001 to inspire girls and boys of all backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

Standing sixty feet (18.3 meters) tall and perched atop a ninety-foot (27.4 meters) stabilized sand dune known as Kill Devil Hill, this monument towers over Wright Brothers National Memorial Park in Kill Devil Hills, NC. The park commemorates and preserves the site where the Wright brothers launched the world’s first successful sustained, powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine. The inscription that wraps around the base of the monument states “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Conceived by genius, achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.”

The anniversary event includes the following speakers:

·     David Hallac, superintendent, National Parks of Eastern North Carolina

·     D. Reid Wilson, secretary, N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

·     Mike Fonseca, president, First Flight Society

·     Paul Wright Jameson, Wright brothers’ descendant

·     David McGowan, chief engineer, NASA Langley Research Center

·     Morgan Appel, assistant dean for education and community outreach, Sally Ride Science at University of California San Diego

·     Elizabeth Hudick, supervisory park ranger, Wright Brothers National Memorial and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

·     Darrell Collins, historian

Immediately following the speeches, a special portrait of Sally Ride will be unveiled. The portrait will be available to view in the park’s visitor center until next year’s anniversary event.

A wreath-laying ceremony by descendants of the witnesses of the first flight is scheduled to occur after the unveiling of the Sally Ride portrait.

The event will occur outdoors with physical distancing between seats to limit the potential spread of COVID-19. Masks are required outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Outer Banks Forever plans to live stream the entire event for those who cannot make it to the park on Dec. 17. Ranger-led educational programs are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Visitors are invited to participate in the park’s free Junior Ranger program. The park will remain open until 5 p.m.

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