Celebration of the 119th anniversary of the Wright Brothers historic first flight at Big Kill Devil Hill will take place this Saturday.
At 9 a.m., Wright Brothers National Memorial, First Flight Society and Outer Banks Forever, will celebrate the accomplishments of Wilbur and Orville Wright and their first heavier-than-air, controlled, powered flight. Park entrance fees are waived on this special day.
This year, the First Flight Society inducts General Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr., the commander of the U.S. Army Air Corps’ Tuskegee Airmen and the first Black brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force, into the Dr. Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine.
In addition to commanding the 99th Fighter Squadron and 332nd Fighter Group in World War II, Davis also commanded the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing in 1953 during the Korean War. On Dec. 9, 1998, Davis was advanced to the rank of general in the U.S. Air Force.
This honor is selected annually by a high-level panel appointed by the First Flight Society, from among numerous nominations submitted from around the world as well as compiled lists of qualified candidates.
The anniversary event at Wright Brothers National Memorial includes the following speakers:
- David Hallac, superintendent, National Parks of Eastern North Carolina
- Mike Fonseca, president, First Flight Society
- U.S. Air Force General Mark D. Kelly, commander, Air Combat Command
- Doug Melville, great-nephew of Davis
- Maria Tinker, supervisory park ranger, Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (Tuskegee, Alabama)
Immediately following the speeches, a special portrait of Davis will be unveiled. The portrait will be available to view in the park’s visitor center until next year’s anniversary event.
A wreath laying ceremony by descendants of the witnesses of the first flight is scheduled to occur after the unveiling of the Davis portrait.
A flyover by aircraft from the U.S. Air Force and others will begin at 10:35 a.m., weather permitting, the exact moment on December 17 the first flight took place. The Candy Bomber plane will not be participating, due to pilot illness.
Outer Banks Forever plans to livestream the entire event for those who cannot make it to the park on Dec. 17.
Ranger-led educational programs are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Visitors are invited to participate in the park’s free Junior Ranger program. The park will remain open until 5 p.m.
The First Flight Society will hold a celebration luncheon and annual meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kitty Hawk beginning at 12 p.m., and will also recognize the 2020, 2021 and 2022 classes of honorary members.
The Class of 2020 is Colonel Gail Halverson aka “Candy Bomber”, Tuskegee airman Brigadier General Charles McGee, record holder Lt Colonel Dick Rutan, aerobatic pilot Sean Tucker, and aerobatic champion Patty Wagstaff.
The 2021 Class consists of AOPA president Mark Baker, aeronautics historian Tom Crouch, and aerobatic champion Rob Holland.
Members for 2022 are record holder Zara Rutherford, military pilot Nicole Malachowski, airplane collector Jerry Yagen and artist Gregory Kavalec.