It is well-known that the first ever flight (1) was made by Orville Wright on December 17, 1903, over 120 feet during 12 seconds at a field in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It is less known that Orville was born in Dayton, Ohio (August 19, 1871), and that it was in Dayton where the Wright brothers had their different businesses, where they studied the physics of flight, made several tests, and prepared for the few weeks a year they would spend in the windier Kitty Hawk.
That makes Dayton deserve an Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and a visit from truly yours (and family), in a regular pilgrimage to aviation sites.
The Historical Park is composed by different buildings and sites at different locations in and around Dayton, among them:
- The Wright Cycle Company and visitor center. The company is located at the original place, however the interior has been renovated and now shows replicas of what could be expected to be found in such a shop. The visitor centre is a museum dedicated to the Wright brothers (their family, their careers, other businesses they had) and the principles of flight and to the understanding of the Dayton at the time (a rather ingenious place measured by the different patents and business the flourished there those days). In the centre you may watch as well a 37′ documentary about the Wright Brothers (2).
- The Wright Brothers Aviation Center, at the Carillon Historical Park, hosts an original 1905 Wright Flyer III that Orville himself helped to restore.
- The Huffman Prairie Flying Field and interpretive center. These are located in an open-to-the-public area of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (3). The interpretive center houses some displays and the same documentary that at the visitor center. In front of it there is the Wright Memorial, in Wright Brothers Hill. A few kilometres from it there is the Huffman Prairie. There the brothers made hundreds of tests. They began using it in 1904 to make their initial airplane a practical invention. It is there where they trained the first pilots (the first ever flying training school). There you will see both a replica of the hangar they used at the time and of the catapult they used for the take-offs.
Before visiting the prairie go by the interpretive center to make sure it is open. You may also get a ranger to give you some tour. The same goes for the Cycle company, which you will need to ask a ranger at the visitor center to open it for you. All these places can be visited for free, though you will be more than delighted to contribute to their preservation.
I leave here some of the pictures we took.
(1) In a heavier than air powered and controlled airplane.
(2) The documentary, Wright Brothers: On Great White Wings, is narrated by Martin Sheen and produced by Finley Holiday Films, which produces documentaries for several national heritage parks. It can be found here (20$).
(3) This Air Force Base hosts the National Museum of the US Air Force, pay a visit to the great account of our visit in my brother’s blog.
Note: Bear no doubt that some pilgrimage will bring me some day to Kitty Hawk…