Outer Banks NC Historical Places

There's a first time for everything

12 Seconds. That is how long the world’s first powered flight in a heavier-than-air craft lasted. In the space of a few heartbeats, two brothers on the sands of the Outer Banks solved a mystery that had captured mankind’s imagination since our first breath.

First Flight

From 1900-1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright, bicycle makers from Dayton, OH made annual trips to the Outer Banks and set up camp outside Kitty Hawk conducting a series of experiments that would solve the problem of controlled, powered flight. They began using kites, then gliders, before adding an engine in 1903 that would ultimately launch the Wrights into fame.

On the Outer Banks, the brothers found promising steady winds and wide swaths of sandy beach to practice what was fast becoming their passion. The warm reception of a hospitable people sealed the deal.

On December 17, 1903 Orville and Wilbur completed four flights during their fourth seasonal trip to the Outer Banks. At what is now Wright Brothers National Memorial in the incorporated town of Kill Devil Hills, Orville Wright (after a coin toss) flew for the first time a distance of 120 feet, lasting a mere 12 seconds. The final flight by Wilbur that day was 852 feet and lasted 59 seconds.

Compelling that such a long-standing record of human attempts and failures would be broken rather unceremoniously on what was then a remote sandbar off the coast of North Carolina. That is, unless you understand what a truly different kind of place the OBX really is. The Wright Brothers were certainly not the first to defy the odds and elements to make their mark in history among these ever-changing islands along the Atlantic Ocean. Chances are, they won’t be the last.

Spotlight on OBX