CBSN

A Trip To Kitty Hawk

This Dec. 17, 1903, black-and-white file photo shows the Wright Brothers' Flyer lifting off in Kitty Hawk, N.C. The 100th anniversary of man's first powered, heavier-than-air flight was celebrated with six-day festival at Wright Brothers National Memorial, which is located on the site.
AP
This year marks the 100th year anniversary of the Wright brothers' historic flight at Kitty Hawk, so it's a good time to take a trip to North Carolina's outer banks.

The Wright Brothers first came to Kitty Hawk in 1900, attracted by the strong winds which they needed to fly their experimental gliders.

Bill Corcoran explains, "The wind was the most important thing, and then the sand was second because of the soft landings that they would find. The desolation was important, too. There were no reporters out here, so if they had failed, no one would have known the difference."

He is a park ranger at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. As he points to the site of the world's first powered flight, he tells tourists, "In those days, there were no grass or trees in this area." And he takes them on a journey back in time.

"So the younger brother, Orville, laid down on that wing there, the engine was going right, he released the cord that was holding the plane down and it took off. And at about 40 feet at this stone marker here, the plane took off," he says using a replica of the flier. He notes he uses it as a tool to show the public how the brothers controlled the plane in conquering flight.

"The four markers represent the four flights they made on the 17th of December in the morning. I think when the visitor comes out here and walks that first flight path and they see that first marker knowing that famous photograph of just 12 seconds 120 feet, they really do become excited," he says.

This year, during the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight more than half a million tourists are expected to visit the memorial.

Corcoran says, "In the morning, we have a kite flight program. We teach kids to build simple kites. The wind was a significant reason why the Wright brothers came here. And it is significant yet. It's always windy out here."

The steady winds continue to be a draw, and today North Carolina's outer banks have become a center for a number of wind-driven sports.

Chris Moore says, "People are flocking here from all over the world because the wind is so reliable. Like the Wright brothers years ago, everyone is coming here to harvest or harness that wind. Windsurfing, kite boarding -- there's a lot of wind-driven sports here, kite boarding being the fastest growing of all of them. Its really kite boarding nirvana here."

It's fitting that Kitty Hawk has also become a center for hang gliding. Kitty Hawk kites runs the largest hang gliding school in the nation. Students learn by launching themselves from giant sand dunes.

Marg Bornyase, a grandmother, is one of those students. She says, "I retired a week ago from teaching high school for 26 years and this is my retirement present. I've wanted to do this for the last couple years. I think I've lived such ordinary life. This is just a little on the edge.

She is in her 60s, but she's not letting that stop her from taking to the air.

Bornyase says, "I got off and I don't think I went real high, but it didn't make any difference. It felt so neat. It was really fun! I crash landed, but that's O.K. The sand is really soft. I think to do this right now, during the 100th Anniversary of Flight, during my retirement, is at the perfect time."

Today, Kitty Hawk continues to draw those who dream of flying and it will always be remembered as the site where two brother accomplished what was thought to be impossible.

One tourist says, "We came here because it's just historic. I'm an American history teacher so I wanted my children to learn a bit about the Wright brothers."

Another says, "There is so much history. Every time you're on an airplane, you think, 'Man, where did all this start from?'"

And yet another: "It's definitely worth a visit. It's very majestic. You can't picture it unless you're here."