Thousands celebrate Wright glider experiments

November 21, 2011

Wright glider
Click to enlarge this photo, and see if you can spot Orville Wright's face.

If you heard that 10,000 visitors went to Kill Devil Hills, N.C., to celebrate the accomplishments of the Wright brothers, you’d think it concerned powered flight, right? Orville Wright continued glider experiments until 1911 that are now seen as the beginning of modern soaring flight.

In late October, visitors crowded Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head, N.C., and the nearby Wright Brothers National Memorial for Soaring100—the 100th anniversary of Wright’s record of a flight lasting nine minutes and 45 seconds.

The program was dominated by sailplane flights at the Wright Brothers National Memorial and hang glider flights at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. At the memorial, 15 sailplanes and motorgliders flown by invited pilots conducted individual demonstrations by taking off from First Flight, an airstrip adjacent to the historic site, and landing on the site itself. After landing, the pilots talked to visitors about their aircraft.

A plaque was dedicated declaring the site a National Landmark of Soaring. The plaque honors pioneers who have flown the Outer Banks dunes, including the Wrights, hang-glider pioneer Francis Rogallo, and other sailplane, paraglider, and hang-glider pilots. Speaking at the event was Tom D. Crouch of the National Air and Space Museum. Also speaking was Amanda Wright Lane, great grandniece of the Wright brothers.

Static displays included a just-completed replica of the Wright 1911 glider built by Rick Young of Richmond, Va., and an as-yet uncovered version of the glider built by family and friends in honor of the late Jim Dayton of Mechanicsville, Md.