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110th Anniversary of Wright Brothers' First Flight

4:13 AM, Dec 18, 2013   |    comments
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NORTH CAROLINA -- Dec. 17 holds a very special place in history. It's the day Orville and Wilbur Wright took to the air for the first successful flight.

It happened just east of the Triad in Kitty Hawk.  

WFMY News 2's Chad Silber found out how that day 110 years ago paved the way for future flight in the Triad.

The flight lasted a mere 12 seconds and 120 feet, but it forever changed the way we look at travel. It continues to be a guideline for advancing aviation here in the Triad.

When Orville and Wilber Wright showed up in Kitty Hawk, N.C. in the early 1900s, the locals didn't think twice of it.

Their first impression was, "here was some kooks out here wasting a lot of time with flying kites and looking at birds," said First Flight historian Bill Harris. But these brothers knew what they were doing. What looked like unusual experiments, were vital tests that led to Dec. 17, 1903.

"It was 12 seconds that changed the world," Kitty Hawk Mayor Gary Perry said.

A photograph captured the moment their powered glider left the sandy ground. Orville at the controls, Wilber steadying the wings until it took off. It would be the first of four attempts that eventually led to a flight of 852 feet that day.

"There are certain things in history that have made a difference in the way we live, but you don't always have the site where those things began," Harris said.

That's the case in Kitty Hawk. "In this field, marks the stone where they first started and four different points at which each of the attempts landed," Perry said. 

Perry understands the importance. "For the town, it's our history and for the world, it's the history of the first powered flight."

But that journey 110 years ago isn't just significant to history, it's the future. The Triad is capitalizing off that notion. About 287 miles to the west, TIMCO Aviation in Greensboro is advancing what the Wright brothers started. "That was our beginning and it's led to the opportunity for us to be in this industry here," said TIMCO rep Kip Blakely.

TIMCO is one of about 50 local aviation companies that make up Aviation Triad, an effort to promote aviation careers. "We're starting to see other large companies look to this area for potential opportunities to build aircraft here," said Blakely.

Even though 110 years separate then from now, the basic principles used by the Wright brothers are still flying airplanes today. "That's amazing that those gentleman figured it out, risked their lives to prove it, to do it and we're still living by those same principles of physics today," said Blakely.

And there's even more advancement on the horizon. "The Wright brothers were with wood and fabric and then we made a large step going to metal," said Blakely. "Now we're going to make another large step going to carbon fiber."

The lighter material will allow aircraft to fly higher and faster. A feat the Wright brothers would likely appreciate. "We've just been building for 110 years on their success," said Blakely.

"We have to remember our beginnings to appreciate where we are today," added Harris.

Charles Taylor was the mechanic who designed the engine on-board Wright's flight that day. His picture is on the back of every commercial mechanic's license. They also hand out an award in his name to anyone who's been in the field for 50 years.

On Tuesday, at the site of the first flight, they commemorated the day with a flyover at 10:35 a.m., the exact minute Orville took flight.

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