First Flight Centennial Memorial, Kill Devil Hills
Stephen H. Smith, Marshville, NC, Sculptor
The First Flight Centennial sculpture is comprised of 7 life-size bronze figures – that of Orville Wright who flew that day, Wilbur Wright running alongside the planes as it outran him and John T. Daniels, an Outer Banks native who photographed the plane just as it went aloft. The plane is a full-scale replica of the 1903 Flyer with a 40’ 4” wingspan. It was fabricated in stainless steel and weighs 10,000 lbs. The 4 other witnesses on hand that day, Cephus Brinkley, Will Dough, Adam Etheridge and Johnny Moore, were added to the Memorial and dedicated two years later on December 17, 2005. The memorial is located below the large dune that holds the 1932 Wright Brothers Monument. Four story boards tell the story of the Wright brothers and their experiences with the people of the outer banks.
Images: Front view | Orville Wright | Wilbur Wright | Orville and plane | Four witnesses | Photographer John T. Daniels | Plane from rear | Rear distant view | Sponsor and sculptor plaques | Memorial with story boards | "12 Seconds that Changed the World" | "Among Friends" | "Hospitable People" | "The Conquest of the Air" | View from Wright Brothers National Memorial | View with Wright Brothers National Memorial
Sponsor Plaque: THIS SCULPTURE DEPICTING THE FIRST FLIGHT / DONATED BY THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA / TO HONOR THE MEMORY OF ORVILLE AND WILBUR WRIGHT / AND THE CITIZENS OF NORTH CAROLINA WHO WELCOMED AND ASSISTED THEM, / DEDICATED UPON THE CENTENNIAL OF THE HISTORIC FIRST FLIGHT, DECEMBER 17, 1903. / STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, MICHALE F. EASLY, GOVERNOR 2003
Sculptor Plaque: STEPHEN H. SMITH, SCULPTOR
National Park Service
December 14, 2003
36.011860 , -75.667130 View in Geobrowse
"12 Seconds that Changed the World," The Historical Marker Database, HMdb.org, (accessed February 3, 2017) Link
"A hospitable people..., "The Historical Marker Database, HMdb.org, (accessed February 4, 2017) Link
"The First Flight," The Historical Marker Database, HMdb.org, (accessed February 3, 2017) Link
Lillard, Margaret. “Wright Brothers Take Flight in Bronze and Steel Sculpture,” Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah), December 14, 2003, (accessed December 4, 2016) Link
“Secretary Norton to Accept Wright Brother’s First Flight Sculpture,” Centennial of Flight, December 12, 2003, (accessed December 4, 2016) Link
“Stephen H. Smith, Sculptor,” StephenSmith.com, (accessed December 1, 2016) Link
“The Sculpture,” First Flight Foundation, firstflightfoundation.org, (accessed December 1, 2016) Link
Bronze, steel, concrete
Commissioned by the State of North Carolina
The dedication was part of week-long festivities leading up to the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brother’s first flight. The Governor of North Carolina, Michael F. Easley, gifted the sculpture on behalf of the state to the United States Government. On hand to accept it was Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton.
The seven figures are of cast bronze. The airplane is stainless steel and weights approximately 10,000 pounds. It was necessary to have the plane touching the ground to keep it stable given the turbulent weather of the Outer Banks. The weight is supported by concrete and steel pillars embedded 30 feet deep. It was designed to withstand 140 mph wind and weight of 150 pounds per square foot.
The sculptor Stephen H. Smith, a graduate of the University of North Carolina, also created the statue of Benjamin N. Duke that stands on a pedestal on Duke University's East Campus, 65th General Hospital Memorial at Duke Hospital in Durham, Martin Luther King, Jr. statue in Fayetteville and the James K. Polk statue in the rotunda of the Morehead Planetarium on the University of North Carolina campus.
The sculpture is located in the Wright Brothers Memorial National Park on the Outer Banks of North Carolina at Kill Devil Hills. It stands to the south of the Wright Brothers National Memorial and First Successful Flight of an Airplane Memorial. The park address is 1000 N. Croatan Hwy., Kill Devil Hills.
The memorial complex is surrounded by an open field.