Home » 1998 Road Trip to Virginia and North Carolina

Wright Brothers National Memorial, NC

Tuesday, April 7, 1998 - 9:15am by Lolo
242 miles and 4.75 hours from our last stop


We arrived at the Wright Bothers Memorial less than an hour before closing, so we had to hustle - a word that does not exist in Andrew's vocabulary. After finally extracting him from the RV, we hurried over to the airfield where Wilbur and Orville had made their historic first flight.

Boys in the Wright Brothers Visitor CenterBoys in the Wright Brothers Visitor CenterA large granite boulder marked the spot where the first airplane had taken off. On the marker were profiles of Wilbur and Orville. Like true tourists, we had the boys stand in front of the statue - Andrew by Wilbur (the older brothers) and Tommy by Orville (the younger brothers) - imitating their poses. Pretty corny, but cute. Tommy was just in first grade then, so he sort of stumbled through the reading of the inscription on the stone. One thing he certainly didn't miss was the fact that Orville--the younger brother--had made the longest flight. He must have said about 5 times, "The younger brother got the record. Hey, that's me!" Apparently, there was more sibling rivalry going on here than we had realized.

We then walked along the grass airstrip to each of the 4 white markers, marking the distance achieved by each of the four flights made that historic day. The longest flight lasted 59 seconds and covered 852 feet. Tommy reminded us that Orville had made that flight, not Wilbur, the older brother.

With not much time remaining, we scurried over to the Visitor Center, which had many interesting exhibits telling the story of the Wright Brothers' lives. By far the favorite was the two full-scaled replicas of their planes: the 1902 glider that they experimented with at Kitty Hawk in 1902 and the 1903 powered flying machine that they used in their first powered flight. What we found amusing was the life-size models of Wilbur and Orville in each of the planes. They were dressed in quite stylishly in a shirt and tie and driving cap. I guess they wanted to look nice when they made history.

Well, it was getting late and our day was not over yet. I still had one more planned stop before setting up camp for the night.


This National Memorial is the site of the world's first successful powered airplane flight made by Wilbur and Orville Wright on December 17, 1903. The first thing to strike visitor's attention is the Wright Memorial Shaft, a 60-foot granite monument perched atop the 90-foot-high Kill Devil Hill, marking the site of the hundreds of glider flights that preceded the first powered flight.

The first stop while touring the memorial should be the Visitor Center, where exhibits tell the story of the Wright Brothers from childhood to their first flight. The exhibits include full scaled replicas of the 1902 glider and the 1903 flying machine.

A short walk from the Visitor Center is the 1903 camp buildings. While not historically accurate reproductions, the two reconstructed buildings are meant to convey a sense of the appearance of the camp in 1903, when the Wright Brothers lived here and made their first powered flight. One building duplicates the hanger used by the brothers for their 1903 Flyer. The other building replicates their living quarters and workshop.

Near the reconstructed 1903 camp buildings is a large granite boulder marking the spot where the first airplane left the ground. Numbered markers along the flight area indicate the distance achieved by each of the four flights made on December 17, 1903.

The Wright Brother National Memorial is located at Milepost 8 on U.S. 158 in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. It is open everyday of the year, with the exception of Christmas.

Wright Brothers National Memorial location map

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