Wright Brothers’ 113th First Flight Anniversary Highlights [Photo Gallery]
The 113th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight in what is now Kill Devil Hills was celebrated on the site where Orville and Wilbur took off into history at Wright Brothers National Memorial earlier today.
On Saturday, December 17, the National Park Service partnered with the First Flight Society to celebrate the 113th anniversary of the first powered flight, as well as the centennial of U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Aviation, and the centennial of the National Park Service.
First Flight Society President Mike Smith opened the ceremony, followed by welcoming remarks by National Park Service Deputy Director for Congressional and External Affairs Denise Ryan and Outer Banks Group Superintendent David Hallac.
The keynote speaker was Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, the 25th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Following the keynote address, Dr. Tom Crouch of the National Air & Space Museum provided a tribute to this year’s First Flight Shrine inductees, Captain Frank Erickson and Commodore Stewart Graham.
Captain Erickson was assigned to the first USCG helicopter detachment and became the first USCG helicopter pilot. He later trained 102 U.S. and British military personnel to fly helicopters.
Commodore Graham started in the USCG as a surfman, but later earned his wings as a naval pilot. After seeing a helicopter demonstration, he immediately signed up for training and became USCG helicopter pilot #2, right behind his mentor, Captain Frank Erickson.
Together, Erickson and Graham were part of the dramatic 1946 “Miracle at Gander” rescue in Newfoundland, when a DC-4 airplane crashed in a remote location. Their successful rescue of 18 passengers demonstrated the ability of helicopters to save lives in challenging and isolated circumstances.
Thanks to the heroic determination of Frank Erickson and Steward Graham, the helicopter is irreplaceable to today’s USCG. (A planned flyover by various U.S. Coast Guard aircraft was cancelled due to weather issues.)
The Northeastern High School Band performed a number of holiday favorites, as is tradition.
The event concluded with the ceremonial wreath laying at the First Flight boulder led by living descendants of the local witnesses of the First Flight, moderated by Darrell Collins.
You can view a collection exclusive images from today’s first flight observance event in our photo gallery below, and watch for our full video coverage coming on the Season Finale episode of our original Outer Banks series OBXE TV, premiering this Monday, Dec. 19 on OBXentertainment.com!
(Click an image to enlarge and view in gallery browser.)
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