The U.S. government-produced video running behind the replica Wright Flyer at the Wright Brothers National Memorial shows the arc of aviation starting at Kill Devil Hills and ending with U.S. government-run programs such as the Blue Angels, the USAF, and NASA. All advances occur within the U.S. Entirely left out: the importance of the Wright Brothers’ time in France (the U.S. government was initially unreceptive to the Wrights); the first modern airplane (Bleriot, in France); the British invention of the jet engine (led by Frank Whittle); the jet-powered commercial airlines and airfreight services that have enabled our global economy:
Note the two propellers driven by one engine. What kind of rating would be necessary to fly that today? It is not “multi-engine” per se, but what if the drive to one prop fails? It would yaw just like a multi-engine plane on a single engine.
[Also potentially interesting: in the official government history of aviation, after Wilbur and Orville Wright completed their 1903 flights all of the notable advances were made by women. In the photos above, for example, Bessie Coleman is important enough to cite by name while the Tuskegee Airmen appear in an anonymous group (thanks for your 1578 combat missions, though!). Olga Custodio, the “First Latina to complete US Air Force pilot training,” is cited on the “Inventors” screen (Wikipedia does not credit her with any inventions). Amelia Earhart is featured (why not Jacqueline Cochrane instead?) and also Louise Thaden (from Bentonville, Arkansas, now an important center of aviation thanks to the Walton family). Sad: Kalpana Chawla is cited as the “first woman of Indian origin in space” (she was killed due to incompetent group decision-making (by government workers) in the foam-damaged shuttle Columbia).]
The wing-shaped stone monument started in 1928 is awesome: “Conceived by Genius; Achieved by Dauntless Resolution…”
The North Carolina state government set up its own monument in 2003: a life-size bronze sculpture by Stephen H. Smith of the team launching the first flight. Photography nerds will appreciate the bronze view camera!
The original takeoff and landing locations from December 17, 1903 are marked with impressive stones and engravings. Example:
[I wonder if these locations are approximate, though. There was no GPS back in those days. I don’t think the Wright Brothers bothered to make a careful survey of the sandy/scrubby field and then leave permanent survey monuments behind for future generations.]
AOPA members will appreciate seeing their dues put to good use in a pilot lounge built next to the adjacent 3,000′ KFFA runway. But how well does requiring secret pilot knowledge to get in work in the age of LTE and Google?
The surrounding area reflects a world changed more by the automobile than the airplane. The Wright Brothers had to seek help from the guys manning the local U.S. Life-Saving Service station (merged into Coast Guard in 1915) as the local population was only about 300. Today if they needed big guys to lug a glider up a dune they could wander over to the adjacent Try My Nuts and Duck Donuts. From the top of the dune one can see a wide strip of houses, stores, condos, etc. stretching to the horizon in both directions. U.S. population has grown a little more than 4X since 1903, but the summer population of Kill Devil Hills is more than 100X larger than it was in 1903. Nearly all of these folks arrive by car.