Wright Brothers First Flight At Kitty Hawk

December 17, 2021

While the 20th century has long been over, what happened over those hundred years won’t soon be forgotten. Mechanical technology was awe-inspiring for many, none more so than the Wright Brothers. The Brothers made a place most grade-school kids know about famous—Kitty Hawk.

Why Kitty Hawk?

Orville and Wilbur Wright are credited with inventing, building, and finally test flying the first controlled human flight. Although Orville Wright was the official “test pilot,” human-controlled flight had been on the minds of many at the time.

Kitty Hawk is a small-town in Dare County, North Carolina. Many know Kitty Hawk as the place where the official test flight took place. The time is even recorded as December 17, 10:35 am because there were witnesses. In 1903 Kitty Hawk was the closest town. Today, the place is called Kill Devil Hills.

The Local Boys

The Wright Brothers were “local boys,” as the local newspapers called them. As a result, many knew they were trying to invent something that could fly. A popular saying at the time was “heavier than air.” Fitting, because most thought they were crazy. They spent several years testing and experimenting on various combinations of gliders and bicycle parts.

The Wright Brothers chose Kill Devils Hills because of the winds. Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills are part of North Carolina’s outer banks, a wind-swept spit of sand reaching north and exposed to the full Atlantic Ocean.

The name for the plane piloted by Orville Wright that day was the Wright Flyer.


1 Comment

  1. Robert Werner

    As of May 1904, the 1903 plane was still unfinished, according to a man that worked for the Wrights at Kitty Hawk

    “Elizabeth City Economist: A gentleman visiting this city whose home is in Kitty Hawk, is responsible for the assertion that the Wright brothers, of airship fame, will return to Kitty Hawk in the near future and resume work on their aerial monster. According to this gentleman the airship has never been removed from Kitty Hawk and nearly all the interviews published in the papers of Norfolk have been erroneous in this respect. This gentleman has assisted the Wrights in all their work and has a general supervision of their property during their absence. He says that they have not completed the ship and that they will return some time within the next month and resume their work. A story is current that they will complete the ship and make the trip from here to St. Louis sometime this fall.” (“Elizabeth City Economist: A gentleman visiting this city”, The Wilmington Messenger, Wilmington, North Carolina, May 26, 1904, col. 1, p. 6)

    It is self evident that Wilbur and Orville could not have performed the four flights of December 17, 1903, with an unfinished plane and in conclusions their official press release of January 6, 1904, was a lie. In reality Flyer I never left the ground in 1903.

    “the brothers only “glided” off Kill Devil Hill that day. Their first real flight came on May 6, 1908”, Alpheus W. Drinkwater, telegraph operator

    “Wilbur and Orville Wright are credited with making their first powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine on Dec. 17, 1903. But Alpheus W. Drinkwater, 76 years old, who sent the telegraph message ushering in the air age, said the brothers only “glided” off Kill Devil Hill that day. Their first real flight came on May 6, 1908, he said.” Source: New York Times, Dec. 17, 1951.

    The declaration of Alpheus W. Drinkwater corroborates well the May 26, 1904, article in the Wilmington Messenger and also the existence in September 1908 of an image showing a Wright powered machine just taking off. This picture claimed by the Wright brothers as being made on December 17, 1903 was in fact taken in May 1908. (As an explanation, according to the Wrights themselves, they left their sandy testing grounds in North Carolina just after flying on December 17 , 1903, and only came back in April 1908 for trying a new plane.)



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