With thousands of visitors each year, the Wright Brothers National Memorial—and the unattended airport that lets modern pilots land yards from the place where powered flight began—were back in business Oct. 17. A 16-day federal shutdown resulting from political impasse in Washington, D.C., had prompted the National Park Service to close First Flight Airport and two others on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, though other federally owned facilities across the country remained open throughout.
State aviation officials spread the word via notam and Facebook on Oct. 17 that the airfields were back in business. As it turned out, the original notams issued Oct. 1 announcing the closure of First Flight Airport, Billy Mitchell Airport, and Ocracoke Airport to all but government, military, and emergency operations through Oct. 17 had the date pegged. State employees maintain these airfields on behalf of the National Park Service, which did not close any other airfields owned by the agency around the country, including an unattended airstrip that serves Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
The closing of national parks, museums, and other federally owned tourist attractions drew much of the attention during the 16-day standoff.
Lawmakers created a new set of budget deadlines early next year, setting up a potential repeat of the October government closure.