Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Geek Highways: Kitty Hawk

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Okay, yes,  Wilbur and Orville Wright made their first flights from Kill Devil Hills, not Kitty Hawk and Kitty Hawk only got the credit because that's where the telegraph station was from which they sent the news.

That's just the fine print. It doesn't really matter.

What matters is that in what was then was a lonely, isolated corner of North Carolina, the Wright Brothers made their first four flights on December 17, 1903.  Since then, the sand dune looming over the site has been stabilized and turned into a grassy hill, atop which is a huge memorial. A small airstrip has been added. A life sized  installation of statues representing the brothers, their flyers, and everyone present at the first flight has been thrown into the mix. And the usual tourist center has been erected as well.

All very nice. But what's moving is to go to the boulder marking the place where the flyer took to the air and pace out the distance to stones marking where it came down for the first three flights -- hops, really, up in the air for a few seconds -- and then far beyond them to the end of the first sustained powered manned heavier-than-air flight of 852 feet in 59 seconds.

The moment that flight had been achieved, Boeing 747s became inevitable.

It's quiet at the memorial site and there's a steady wind from the sea. It's a good place to reflect how little time separates those two uncommon men from us.


Above: Marianne at the fourth touchdown stone.

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5 comments:

TheOFloinn said...

The first test pilot, with the Wright Stuff.

Michael Swanwick said...

As had the second one.

Michael Swanwick said...

What's moving is to realize they'd been coming to Big Kill Devil Hill for years before they attached a motor to their flyer. They were true engineers. Instead of strapping it on and crashing immediately, they worked out as many of the kinks as they could first.

I admire the hell out of those guys.

TheOFloinn said...

True dat. Pilots have a special regard for the first pilot to flight test a new airframe, and Orville was the first to flight test any airframe at all. But they were also the first aerospace engineers! Well, the first successful ones, I suppose.

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