Kitty Hawk - Kill Devils Hill - North Carolina Historic Site

Kitty Hawk Monument

Where is Kitty Hawk?

The Wright Brothers National Memorial is located at mile post 7.5 on U.S. Highway 158, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

Kitty Hawk Map

Did you know: The Wright Brothers started as bicycle mechanics in Dayton, Ohio.

Did you know: Kitty Hawk, S.C. was chosen as a test site for it's isolated location and strong, steady winds.

Kitty Hawk - Kill Devils Hill

The first motorized, sustained flight by a manmade aircraft occurred at Kitty Hawk in 1903 through the efforts of Wilbur and Orville Wright. The Wright brothers truly changed the world and allowed a major industry to develop. In 1899, the Wright Brothers began to review the data from predecessors related to flight via information supplied by the Smithsonian. Building on this, they made a major breakthrough by determining that "if the wing on one side of the aircraft met the oncoming flow of air at a greater angle than the opposite wing, it would generate more lift on that side". They had discovered the concept (wing-warping) for steering a plane, an important necessity for the practicality of air travel. Next was the control of lift and pitch, which was determined by the shape of the wing (airfoil).

The Wright Brother's chose Kitty Hawk, N.C. in 1900 for testing their designs because is was open, isolated and experienced strong, steady winds. The small fishing village was anything but hospitable to humans with mosquitoes that would eat through their clothes, little food, unpredictable squalls and a terrain similar to the Sahara.

The Wright Brother's used their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio to carry on their designs. In 1901 they built a crude, yet sophisticated wind tunnel using "a simple wooden box with a square glass window on top for viewing the interior during testing. A fan belted to a one-horsepower engine, which ran the machinery in their bicycle shop, provided an airflow of about 30 miles per hour. What made the Wrights' wind tunnel unique were the instruments they designed and built to measure lift and drag. Called balances, after the force-balancing concept, these instruments measured the forces of lift and drag acting on a wing in terms that could be used in the equations. The balances ;were made from old hacksaw blades and bicycle spokes. Largely the work of Orville, they represent a solid understanding of geometry, mathematics, and aerodynamic forces, and illustrate the Wrights' engineering talents at their finest. " They tested 200 different wing shapes in the tunnel. The results were used to build the first an unmanned glider in 1902, and then the famous powered version that propelled them into history.

Today aviation and aerospace are multi-billion dollar industries and contain some of the brightest minds in bringing forth new technology - far beyond that developed by the Wright brothers after their four years of painstaking effort. A monument to the Wright Brothers stands at Kitty Hawk today. More about Kitty Hawk...