Wright Brothers National Memorial

Written By North Carolina History Project


Congress established Kill Devil Hills National Memorial on March 2, 1927 to commemorate Wilbur and Orville Wright and their contribution to aeronautics and for conducting the world’s first successful heavier-than air flight. The Wright brothers’ success required hundreds of hours of scientific experimentation. In the fall of 1902, the Wright brothers conducted almost 1,000 glider flights on Kill Devil Hills. They successfully harnessed the skills of flight control that are use today. On December 17, 1903, the brothers administered a 12-second flight spanning 120 feet. This set the stage for modern aerodynamics.


Today, the National Memorial houses a visitors center and small museum that tells the history of the Wright brothers’ flights. It also offers a panoramic view of the Wright Brothers’ camp from 1903 with labels to show taking off and landing points. The visitors center offers a rendition of the 1902 and 1903 glider and historical lectures provided by the National Park Service.


The sixty-foot gray granite memorial is situated upon the ninety-foot Kill Devil Hill. On the memorial is etched the following: “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers of Wilbur and Orville Wright conceived by genius achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith,” Spreading wings decorate the memorial and depict a large bird taking flight. The memorial includes stairs providing access to an observation deck at the top, overlooking the Albemarle Sound.


The monument was completed in November 1932 and the National Park Service, U.S. Air Force and private donors provided funding for the site. The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources now manages the site and presides over the First Flight Centennial Commission. On December 17, 2003 the Centennial of Flight Ceremony was hosted by flight enthusiast, John. Travolta. Famous test pilot, Chuck Yeager and then President George W. Bush also made appearances.