Kill Devil Hills

Big Kill Devil Hill, 1901
Big Kill Devil Hill, 1901

Wilbur and Orville Wright

Quick Facts


From 1900 to 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright used a group of sand dunes known as the Kill Devil Hills in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to conduct many of their flying experiments. The largest of the hills, Big Kill Devil Hill, was approximately 100 feet high. The brothers also experimented from West Hill (60 feet high), located opposite Big Hill, and one of two smaller hills they named Little Hill.

In 1900, Wilbur used Big Kill Devil Hill from which to glide twelve times near the end of their first trip to Kitty Hawk. The brothers glided many more times on their next two trips. In total, the Wrights glided off these hills more than 1000 times, each time walking and carrying their glider up the sandy dunes with the help of locals. When they returned to Ohio in 1902, they felt confident they could achieve powered flight upon their return to Kitty Hawk in 1903. From the hills, they perfected the art of soaring and control of the aircraft; the gliding skills they developed were a crucial component of their invention of the airplane. 

Steady, often violent winds have consistently altered these hills. The smaller hills, which were only about 40 feet high, were completely swept away in a hurricane in 1912. Wind and weather moved Big Kill Devil Hill 450 feet to the southwest during the 25 years from the Wright’s first flight in 1903 until the 1920s, when it was stabilized for the construction of the Wright Brothers Monument. The monument, still resting prominently on top of Big Kill Devil Hill, was dedicated in 1932 to memorialize the brothers’ remarkable achievements in the history of flight. 

Last updated: June 7, 2019