Wright Brothers Memorial – A Monument to a Century of Flight

One of the most altering events in the records of human history took place on the wind-strewn sand dunes of the Outer Banks. The Wright Brothers changed the way we perceive the world. No longer was powered flight merely a dream. Modern aviation is a testament to their success.

For anyone familiar with the Outer Banks you realize there always is a breeze. On many days especially over the winter months that breeze becomes a sustained wind. The sustained wind and sandy conditions made the Outer Banks the ideal location.

The brothers were able to rely on consistent prevailing winds and the natural sand dunes were to aid the Wright Brothers in achieving history on the 17th of December 1903.The Wright Brothers Memorial is a monument to their achievement.

The memorial sits in Kill Devil Hills just past milepost 7 and the light at 1st Street. As you approach the memorial, it is quite hard to miss. It rises above everything around it. It is quite something to see at night when it is lit and the beacon is rotating.

The Wright Brothers National Monument is open seven days a week, year round. The visitor center and Centennial Pavilion are open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily during summer months and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily September through May (closed Christmas). A seven day pass will cost those 16 and over $4. For those under 16, there is no charge.

Monument to a Century of Flight

On December 17, 1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright made history with the first powered, controlled, sustained flight. The 100 year anniversary of that famous event was celebrated with week-long events leading up to December 17, 2003. Simultaneous excitement and enthusiasm was enjoyed in Kill Devil Hills, NC at the Wright Brothers National Memorial and in Dayton, OH at the birthplace of Orville and Wilbur.

Unveiled just a month before this historic event, the Monument to a Century of Flight was dedicated to man’s journey made in just one hundred years of flight.

Local Outer Banks artist Glenn Eure conceptualized the monument and sculptors Hanna Jubran and Jodi Hollnagel Jubran aided in the design and fabrication of the circling pylons and center dome.
Located just past MP 1 in Kitty Hawk, the Monument to a Century of Flight adjoins the Aycock Brown Welcome Center. The monument is an outside exhibit, and there is no fee charged to visit.

Entering the monument you will notice a granite marker inscribed with Pilot James G. Magee, Jr.’s poem, “High Flight.” Magee was killed in 1941, but his words have remained as a testament to aviators worldwide. President Ronald Reagan read from this same poem following the Challenger disaster in 1986 as he addressed the nation.

Beside this granite marker a time capsule was placed to carry messages for those celebrating the next centennial of flight, in 2103.

There are several design details that tie this monument significantly to the Wright’s first flight. Circling the perimeter, in ascending heights, are 14 metal pylons. The pylons are shaped like plane wings, giving a very aeronautical feel. The distance of their orbit around the monument is 120 feet, the same distance Orville and Wilbur traveled in the first flight.

Facing inward, towards the center of the monument, the pylon faces are flat, black granite. Engraved in the granite are 100 of the centuries most significant aviation accomplishments and achievements, marked by events and date.

Even the brick courtyard visitors walk on is a part of the monument. Four thousand, six hundred bricks were laid in a circular pattern with messages, dedications and names of sponsors from around the world.

Finally, at the center of the brick courtyard, overlooked by the towering pylons, is a six foot wide bronze dome. The beautiful iridescent bronze features a relief of the earth’s seven continents joined by air travel. It is a true portrayal of the accomplishments of flight and what they have done for mankind.