A Century Of Flight Celebrated

On December 17, 1903 at 10:35 a.m., the Wright Brothers took flight in the sand dunes of Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, completing the first powered flight of a manned aircraft. In doing so, they became the opening chapter in the 100 year history of aviation, innovators that spurred on arguably one of the most important technological advances in the history of mankind. That may sound a bit exaggerated, but when you consider how many other fields the aerospace industry has influenced, then I don’t think it’s an overstatement. As a practicing aeromechanical engineer, I take particular pride in contributing to the continuing history of aviation in my own little way at Patuxent River NAS, the Navy’s premier Test and Evaluation center for all naval aircraft. I didn’t intend to get too schmaltzy on this anniversary, but I’ve always liked this poem that very aptly puts to words the emotional, almost spiritual aspects of flight:

Wright Flyer first flightOh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious, burning blue

I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace

Where never lark, or even eagle flew.

And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., High Flight, 1941

There are many centennial celebrations today, but the most important one is in North Carolina, where several replicas of the Wright Flyer are to be flown in tribute of the Wright Brothers’ first flight 100 years ago. Here are some sites dedicated to today’s anniversary:

Here are some sites dedicated to the history of aviation, with an emphasis on some pioneers in the field:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *