66th Celebration of Orville’s Birthday

by Dr. Richard Stimson

in Kitty Hawk 2003 Celebration Events

Friday, August 19, 2005 was National Aviation Day and Orville Wright’s birthday was celebrated at the Wright Brothers’ National Memorial.

Orville was born in Dayton, Ohio, on August 19, 1871. His birthday was honored by presidential proclamation in 1939 by designating the date as Annual Aviation Day.

The daylong celebration was kicked-off at 10 a.m., in the First Flight Pavilion auditorium by Tom Crouch, Senior Curator of Aeronautics at the Smithsonian Institution. Crouch noted that if Orville were alive today he would be 134 years old. Another member of the family, Katharine, was born on the same day, three years later. The Wright’s younger sister was born on August 19, 1874.

Patrick Reed, acting Superintendent, Outer Banks Group next welcomed the visitors followed by Sherry Rollason, Mayor of Kill Devil Hills.

Rollason, shown here with her grandson, Benjamin and myself, noted that Kill Devil Hills (where the Wright Memorial sits) didn’t exist when the Wright brothers flew here. The city wasn’t incorporated until 1953. The brothers journeyed 4 miles south from the village of Kitty Hawk to the Kill Devil Hills site because there were sand dunes to fly off from and no trees. Also a life saving station was located at Kill Devil Hills whose crew willingly helped the brothers carry the gliders up the sand dunes.

Bill Harris, mayor of Kitty Hawk and the president of the First Flight Society, was the next to great the visitors. Harris is a direct descendent of Elijah Baum, a young boy who first met Wilbur when Wilbur stepped ashore in Kitty Hawk bay and was guided by Elijah to William Tate’s house.

At this point Col. “Red” Smith, past president of the First Flight Society and board member introduced the feature speaker, Col. James M. Holmes, Commander of the 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson air Force Base, Goldsboro, NC. The base is the home to the F-15E Strike Eagle. He gave brief history of the 4th Fight Wing including Iraq. His talk brought a loud applause from the audience.

Col. Holmes and Tom Crouch then proceeded to cut Orville’s birthday cake. Also in the picture on the left are Park Rangers Fentice Davis and Geneva James.

Following the cake cutting, four F-15s flew in formation flew overhead.

Next, Ken Hyde, President and Founder of the Wright Experience, was introduced by Janette Yoerg, great grand niece of the Wright brothers on the Reuchlin Wright side of the family. Picture shows Ken and myself talking.

Hyde discussed the Wright machines of 1904, 1905 and the return of the Wrights to Kitty Hawk in 1908. Interesting film footage of the Wright machine in flight was shown.

Tom Crouch proceeded to the Flight Room Auditorium (where a reproduction of the Wright Flyer is exhibited) and spoke to another crowd of visitors. Here is a sampling of some of his comments:

Wilbur became interested in the problem of flight when he realized that he was 30 years old and his talents hadn’t been tested yet. At the time he was working in their bicycle shop.

What set Wilbur apart from the others was that he could think in the three dimensions of flight — pitch, yaw, and roll. Others had worked on lift and propulsion. That left roll as the key problem to solve to obtain controlled flight.

They selected Kitty Hawk as their test ground because it was the first rural location on the list of windy sites provided by the weather bureau. A letter from William Tate guaranteeing friendly people helped confirm their decision.

The 1902 replica glider that resides in the Flight Room auditorium behind the Flyer was built under the supervision of Orville at Wright-Patterson Field in Dayton, Ohio

The testing of the 1900 glider at Kitty Hawk was a demonstration of the modern engineering process and that the Wrights were engineers of genius.

Orville and Charles Taylor stopped working on the engine after if produced 12.5 hp because that is all that the calculations showed was needed.

The propellers were wrapped with cloth on a bias to provide additional strength. They were painted silver to make the cloth less noticeable

Additional pictures follow:

Terry Beacham, surfman #2, Kill Devil Hills Life-Saving Station, direct descendent of William Thomas Beacham, serving when Wright brothers were at Kill Devil Hills.

Joe Hardman and members of the First Flight Society man information table.

Darrell Collins, historian, Wright Brothers National Memorial, talking with me.

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