TwHP Lessons

Wright Brothers National Memorial:
Site of the
First Controlled Powered Flight

[Photo] Wright brothers' monument today.
(National Park Service)


uccess four flights Thursday morning all against twenty one mile wind started from level with engine power alone average speed through air thirty one miles longest 57 seconds inform press home Christmas.

In this matter-of-fact telegram, Wilbur and Orville Wright unceremoniously announced to their family a stunning achievement--the world's first controlled powered flight. They awoke on December 17, 1903, to freezing temperatures, rain puddles covered in ice, and winds up to 27 mph. Although the winds had not diminished by 10:00 a.m., the brothers decided not to wait any longer to test their flying machine. The unsteady, 12-second, 120-foot flight that followed effectively launched the aviation age.

It was no accident that North Carolina's remote Outer Banks provided the setting for this historic occasion. Careful research had brought the Wright brothers to the Kitty Hawk area in September 1900 to test their first full-size glider. The conditions seemed ideal for flight experiments: strong winds, tall sand dunes for launching, wide expanses of sandy beaches for soft landings, and isolation for privacy. Their success on December 17, 1903 represented the culmination of four years of painstaking research and trials in which they designed and improved their flying machines at home in Dayton, Ohio, and tested them each year near Kitty Hawk. The site where the brothers launched their gliders and eventually flew a powered aircraft is preserved today as Wright Brothers National Memorial.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Outer Banks, North Carolina
 2. Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills area

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Quest for Flight
 2. From Gliding to Controlled Powered Flight
 3. Excerpt from Orville Wright's Diary,
 Dec. 17, 1903

 4. The Wright Brothers' Legacy

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Wilbur Wright flying the 1901 glider
 2. Orville Wright flying 1902 glider
 3. Interior of Wright brothers' shed/living
 quarters, 1902

 4. Wright brothers' camp and Flyer, 1903
 5. Liftoff on December 17, 1903
 6. First flight markers today
 7. Wright brothers' monument today

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Designing a Glider
 2. The Impact of Airplanes
 3. Honoring Achievements in the
 Local Community

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Wright Brothers National Memorial

The lesson is based on the Wright Brothers National Memorial, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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