Pilgrimage to site of First Flight

by Madeleine Kolb

What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than to fly to the site of the First Flight by Orville and Wilbur Wright? And what better way to get there than by flying?

On July 4, my BF Dick and I flew to the site of the first flight from the airport in southern Maryland where he keeps his small airplane. We flew across the Potamac River, across Chesapeake Bay to Cape Charles, south to the Norfolk, Virginia area, and along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, landing at the First Flight Airport at Kill Devil Hills.

Before we came east, Dick had been teaching me to fly his airplane, so I took a turn on the way. I had not flown with him for quite a while because of a combination of bad weather in Seattle and our move to the east coast, leaving the airplane behind until last month. I felt a little rusty at first but really enjoyed flying again as my previous training started to kick in.

We landed at First Flight Airport, climbed the hill to the Wright Brothers National Monument, and then walked the path set with markers showing the  takeoff point and the final point of each of the four flights on December 17, 1903. The fourth flight was the longest, going 852 feet and lasting 59 seconds.

These powered flights were the culmination of years of dedicated design and re-design; testing, and re-testing; analyzing, debating, and collaborating.  After a discouraging glider flight  in 1901, Wilbur wrote,

At this time I made the prediction that men would sometime fly, but that it would not be within our lifetime.

Though Orville and Wilbur were discouraged at times, they never gave up. And two years after Wilbur’s dire prediction, they were successful.  Today, more than 100 years later, it’s amazing how the two brothers, working together, tackled and solved one problem after another, overcame one obstacle after another, and finally achieved what mankind had dreamed of for so many centuries.

Have you visited a historic site and felt its significance at a deep level? Have you sensed what it must have been like to be there at the time of an awesome accomplishment or a terrible battle?  Would you like to share your experience?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Aileen July 6, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Inspiring and uplifting post Madeleine!! “it’s amazing how the two brothers, working together, tackled and solved one problem after another, overcame one obstacle after another, and finally achieved what mankind had dreamed of for so many centuries.”

I enjoy being in the presence of a historic site and going back and forth between life then and life now in my mind.
What a wonderful way to celebrate July 4th. I’m in awe reading that you can fly a airplane.

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2 Madeleine Kolb July 6, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Aileen, Thank you so much for your warm comment.

I’m so lucky that Dick is teaching me to fly. He actually got his pilot’s license before his driver’s license when he was a teen-ager. He’s a great instructor and always so calm.

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3 Angela Artemis July 7, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Hi Madeleine,
I’d love to see the site where the Wilbur bros. first flew their plane. I love history and visiting historical sites. Years ago I used to fly in a small plane with a friend. We took many trips and I loved it. You’re so lucky to that Dick is teaching you to fly!

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4 Madeleine Kolb July 8, 2010 at 9:11 am

Angela, Thank you for your comment. It was a wonderful trip. I’d read a lot about the Wright brothers, but there’s nothing like actually seeing the place where they achieved powered, controlled flight. It was a monumental task with many obstacles, but they never gave up.

And I am very fortunate to have the chance to learn how to fly with such a fine instructor.

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