A Soaring Centennial
12/1/2003
Commemorating the Wright brothers' first flight.
Imagine how your ancestors must have felt when they heard that man could fly like a bird — not just floating passively in a balloon, but in something he could steer, dip and soar. Your grandparents might have reacted with awe and excitement (or terror!) 100 years ago, when a Dayton, Ohio, bicycle-shop owner navigated his muslin-covered, wooden-framed Flyer into a fierce North Carolina wind. Wilbur Wright's 12-second, 120-foot flight on Dec. 17, 1903, was more like a hop, but it was enough to propel him and his brother Orville off the ground and into the history books — is the first to achieve sustained flight in a manned, heavier-than-air, powered craft.

For several years prior to the successful flight, the siblings had vacationed in Kitty Hawk, NC, chosen for its ideal climate for testing kites and gliders. Flying had become their obsession: "For some years I have been afflicted with the belief that flight is possible to man," Wilbur once wrote. "My disease has increased in severity and I feel that it will soon cost me an increased amount of money, if not life."

On the centennial of the Wrights' achievement, Kitty Hawk will celebrate with five days of festivities, including skywriting competitions, a 100-member skydiving team and appearances by flight celebrities such as Chuck Yeager. The celebration culminates in a reenactment of The 12 Seconds That Changed History. Tickets, schedules and information are at <www.countdowntokittyhawk.com>, or call (800) 973-7327.