First flight anniversary event set for Wright Brothers National Memorial

Published 2:47 pm Thursday, December 14, 2023

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On Dec. 17 at 9 a.m., Wright Brothers National Memorial, the First Flight Society and Outer Banks Forever will celebrate the accomplishments of Wilbur and Orville Wright on the 120th anniversary of their first heavier-than-air, controlled, powered flight. Park entrance fees are waived on this special day.

This year, the First Flight Society will induct Walter and Olive Ann Beech. Walter Beech (1891-1950) was a military pilot during World War I, and later became one of the early leaders of the growing airplane industry. Walter and his wife, Olive Ann (1903-1993) founded the Beech Aircraft Company in 1932 and created a legacy of aircraft known for safety and dependability.

Olive Ann Beech, often called the “First Lady of Aviation,” was the first woman to lead a major aircraft company and was responsible for Beech Aircraft becoming one of the most successful airplane companies in the world.

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As a special part of the celebration, classic Beech aircraft will be on display during the event.

The anniversary event includes the following speakers:

  • David Hallac, superintendent, National Parks of Eastern North Carolina
  • Mike Fonseca, president, First Flight Society
  • David True, lead interpretive ranger, Wright Brothers National Memorial
  • K. Lee, president, American Bonanza Society

Immediately following the speeches, a special portrait of the Beeches will be unveiled. The portrait will be available to view in the Wright Brothers National Memorial 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 portrait of Walter and Olive Ann Beech.

Outer Banks Forever plans to livestream the entire event for those who cannot attend the event on Dec. 17.

Ranger-led educational programs are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Visitors are invited to attend these free programs and participate in the park’s free Junior Ranger program. The park will remain open until 5 p.m.