Among all the glitter and tradition of and Outer Banks Christmas, there is one constant that has been a part of local celebrations for over 100 years.

On December 17, 1903 Orville Wright laid belly down at the controls of the aircraft he and his brother, Wilbur, had built. It was a cold, windy December day, but the Wright Brothers were confident that flight was possible. Launching into a 20-25 mph wind, the Wright Flyer lifted into the air and in 12 seconds the history of the world changed. 

It took a few years for the nation to fully come to appreciate what the Wright Brothers did 112 years ago, but for some time now, December 17 at the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills the achievement has been celebrated.

The ceremony begins at 9:00 a.m. with local groups and high schools participating—the First Flight High School Advanced Chorus will perform the National Anthem and a Kitty Hawk Boy Scout Troop will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

The highlight of the ceremony always occurs at 10:35 a.m. with a military flyover, the exact time of Orville’s first flight. The weather is looking a little bit iffy for the flyover, but the forecast has improved dramatically over the past 24 hours and now there is a slight chance of rain in the morning with late afternoon showers likely.

Schedule of Events

8:30 a.m. – The observance begins with a patriotic musical prelude by the Northeastern High School Band from Elizabeth City, NC. First Flight High School Advanced Choir will perform the National Anthem.

9:00 a.m. – The formal program will commemorate the Wrights’ achievement.  Mike Smith, President of the First Flight Society, will open the program and NPS Superintendent David Hallac will welcome guests.  The keynote speaker will be Douglas Kridler, President and CEO of the Columbus Foundation.  Dr. Tom Crouch, Senior Curator of Aeronautics with the Smithsonian Institution will pay tribute to Jerrie Mock, the first woman to fly solo around the world, this year’s inductee into the First Flight Society’s Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine.

10:35 a.m. – An aviation flyover will pay tribute to the Wright brothers at the documented exact moment of the Wrights’ first flight.

11:00 a.m. – Darrell Collins, NPS Historian, presides over the wreath-laying ceremony to honor the Wright brothers and the witnesses of the first flight at the exact spot where the famous first flight occurred.