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Contact: Michael Barber, 252-475-9032
On Saturday, December 17, 2016, the National Park Service is pleased to be partnering with the First Flight Society to celebrate the 113th anniversary of the first powered flight, the centennial of U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Aviation, and the centennial of the National Park Service. The anniversary event will take place at Wright Brothers National Memorial and entrance fees to the park will be waived for the day.
First Flight Society President Mike Smith will open the ceremony at 9:00 am with welcoming remarks by National Park Service Deputy Director for Congressional and External Affairs Denise Ryan and Outer Banks Group Superintendent David Hallac. The keynote speaker for this special event will be Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, the 25th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Following the keynote address, Dr. Tom Crouch of the National Air & Space Museum will provide a tribute to First Flight Shrine inductees Captain Frank Erickson and Commodore Stewart Graham. Captain Erickson was assigned to the first USCG helicopter detachment and became the first USCG helicopter pilot. He later trained 102 U.S. and British military personnel to fly helicopters. Commodore Graham started in the USCG as a surfman, but later earned his wings as a naval pilot. After seeing a helicopter demonstration, he immediately signed up for training and became USCG helicopter pilot #2, right behind his mentor, Captain Frank Erickson. Together, Erickson and Graham were part of the dramatic 1946 “Miracle at Gander” rescue in Newfoundland, when a DC-4 airplane crashed in a remote location. Their successful rescue of 18 passengers demonstrated the ability of helicopters to save lives in challenging and isolated circumstances. Thanks to the heroic determination of Frank Erickson and Steward Graham, the helicopter is irreplaceable to today’s USCG.
The event will conclude with a flyover by USCG aircraft and a wreath laying at the First Flight boulder led by descendants of the witnesses of the First Flight. The National Park Service and First Flight Society thanks the Northeastern High School Band, Camden County High School USCG Jr. Leadership Team, and USCG Seaman Paul Kaufman (grandson of Captain Erickson) for their assistance with the 113th anniversary event.For the past 100 years, the National Park Service has preserved America’s special places like Wright Brothers National Memorial, and currently encompasses 413 national parks, monuments, memorials, historical sites, and other park units. America’s national parks are special places where we can observe the natural world around us, connect with the stories of the past, and be inspired to achieve great things. Wright Brothers National Memorial commemorates the first successful controlled powered flight and illuminates the worldwide significance of the Wrights brothers’ dream, vision, and achievement. The United States remains an innovator and leader in protecting national treasures like Wright Brothers National Memorial. In celebration of 100 years of protecting America’s greatest treasures, the National Park Service and the First Flight Society invite you and the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates to continue caring for these special places.