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Ask Me Monday: Question of the Week


How fitting is it that the question that stumped me was a question about the Wright Brothers on the 109th anniversary of their first controlled flight? I couldn't have rigged it better if I tried! John asked: "Where is there a chair, in a home, that was used by the Wright Brothers when they stayed in Kitty Hawk??" After searching the web and asking all locals I encountered on Monday, I was not able to learn his answer. Turns out, John was not surprised. He told me that the chair is located in a home that is owned by Kitty Hawk United Methodist Church in Kitty Hawk, NC. He said very few people know this and the only reason he does is because he was the pastor for the church a few years ago. In honor of the recent anniversary and this questions, I am going to look at another question regarding the Wright Brothers: Why Kitty Hawk?  Orville and Wilbur Wright became famous when they invented, built and flew the first heavier-than-air aircraft that sustained controlled flight on December 17, 1903. This flight took place in a remote place in North Carolina called Kitty Hawk in what is now known as the Outer Banks. How did a couple of Ohio boys end up here? It was not a random choice. Once the brothers decided on building a controlled glider, they turned to Octave Chanute (a french aviation pioneer) for help and support. Chanute suggested that the brothers find a place with a constant breeze and soft landing areas. He offered California, Florida and somewhere in the mid-Atlantic region. The Wrights focused on the mid-Atlantic area for it's proximity to home. Wilbur reviewed the US Weather Bureau  and found that Kitty Hawk, NC had optimal wind conditions and also offered the soft sand as a landing spot. Wind and sand weren't the only deciding factors. The fact that Kitty Hawk was so remote helped them make the decision. They didn't want press interfering in the same was as they did to Chanute in Lake Michigan in 1896.

Wilbur and Orville chose a series of sand dunes, called Kill Devil Hills, to set camp during the 3 years it took them to master the gliders. During that time they built and tested 4 gliders. It was the Wright Glider I that took the first 120 yard flight in 12 seconds.

Today, there is a monument and museum built to honor the Wright Brothers. On the ground of this national memorial, visitors can see a replica of the glider and their camp as well as walk the distance of the 4 different attempts made on December 17, 1903.

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