Tuesday flyover celebrates Wright brothers’ first flight

Orville Wright makes the first powered, controlled flight on Earth as his brother Wilbur looks on in Kill Devil Hills on Dec. 17, 1903. [photo by John Daniels of U.S. Life-Saving Station Kill Devil Hills/courtesy Library of Congress]

On Tuesday, Dec. 17, the First Flight Society and the National Park Service will continue the tradition of honoring the accomplishments of Wilbur and Orville Wright at the 116th anniversary celebration of the first heavier-than-air, controlled, powered flight.

The event takes place outside of the Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center in Kill Devil Hills. Park entrance fees will be waived for the day.

The morning celebration begins with a prelude band concert that visitors can enjoy leading up to the opening of the official program at 9:30 a.m. In addition to celebrating the historic first flight, this year’s event will focus on celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of the Berlin Airlift. The airlift lasted 15 months (1948-1949) as part of a joint operation, including members of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Army Transport Command, and British Royal Air Force. General Maryanne Miller, Commander of USAF Air Mobility Command, is the keynote speaker for the event.

Along with celebrating the end of the Berlin Airlift, the First Flight Society has chosen to pay tribute to Colonel S. “Hal” Halvorsen, USAF (Ret.) as their newest inductee into the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine. The First Flight Society selected Col. Halvorsen to honor all the flight and support crews who participated in the Berlin Airlift. This year, the First Flight Society will reveal the portrait of Colonel Halvorsen, who many know as the “Candy Bomber,” at their membership meeting, and will place it on display in the Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center at 3 p.m.

The morning celebration will begin at 9:30 a.m. and include the following speakers and presentations:

The morning’s proceedings will conclude with a wreath-laying ceremony, which is conducted by descendants of the witnesses of the first flight to honor the Wright brothers and is led by Lisa Ellstrom, witness decedent and First Flight Society vice president.

The celebration will include a small aviation flyover with a U.S. Navy C-60 and a U.S. Air Force C-17 at 9:45 a.m. (weather permitting).

Park rangers will provide interpretive walks at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Youth are invited to participate in the park’s free Junior Ranger program and other special activities throughout the day to earn a special commemorative Junior Ranger pin. The park will remain open until 5 p.m.