It’s been cold and windy the last few days on the Outer Banks, not unheard of in December in our paradise by the sea. 

It’s not quite as bad as it was 114 years ago—or 114 years ago this coming Sunday. That will be December 17, the Anniversary of the Wright Brothers First Flight. That day at the temperatures struggled to reach 40 degrees with with wind gusts over 20 miles per hour.

December 17 is always a day of celebration at the Wright Bothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, but this year looks a bit more exciting than usual. The U.S. Air Force will be recognized this year.

Weather permitting, and the early forecast seemed favorable, there will be a flyover by the Air Force at 10:35 a.m., the exact time Wilbur Wright and the Wright Flyer lifted off the ground powered by a 12 hp engine, mostly created through the brothers’ ingenuity.

As remarkable as the aircraft lifting off the ground powered by an engine, was the ability of Wilbur to control the flight of the aircraft. The flight lasted only 12 seconds and covered 120’, but  subsequent flights pushed that to 859’ and 59 seconds—every flight featuring a controlled takeoff, flight pattern and landing.

The December 17 ceremony is a celebration of that with an induction into the First Flight Shrine in the Wright Brother’s Museum. This year’s inductee, Elrey Borge Jeppesen, was the father of modern books on aerial navigation and still has his name attached to the flight book aviators most frequently use.

 Schedule of events:

Park entrance fees will be waived for the day.

  • Patriotic music provided by the Northeastern High School Band from Elizabeth City, NC
  • •Presentation of colors by the Civil Air Patrol, NC and VA Wings
  • •Pledge of allegiance led by the Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technology
  • •National Anthem led by Graham Outten, Dare County
  • •Invocation by Mrs. Tess Judge, All Saints Episcopal Church
  • •National Park Service welcome by Superintendent David Hallac
  • •Recognition of special guests by Arthur Lamothe, President of the First Flight Society
  • •Tribute to the First Flight Shrine honoree Elrey Borge Jeppesen by Dr. Tom Crouch, Senior Curator, Aeronautics. Smithsonian. 
  • •Introduction of the program’s keynote speaker by Joseph Vazquez, Major General of the Civil Air Patrol and First Flight Society board member
  • •Keynote speech by Brigadier General James R. Cluff, US Air Force, Vice Commander 25th Air Force Joint Base San Antonio-Lakeland Texas
  • •Darrell Collins, former NPS Historian, will speak on Wright brothers’ achievement on December 17, 1903, and preside over the wreath-laying ceremony, which is conducted by descendants of the witnesses of the first flight to honor the Wright brothers.

The celebration will conclude at 10:35 am with an aviation flyover by the United States Air Force paying tribute to the Wright brothers at the documented exact moment of the Wrights’ first flight (weather dependent).