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Ohio, North Carolina Call Truce On Wright Brothers' First Flight Feud

Courtesy of the National Aviation Heritage Area
A reproduction of the Wright Flyer at Huffman Prairie Flying Field in Dayton.

Ohio and North Carolina have long been at odds over which state gets to lay claim to being "first in flight." Ohio, of course, is the birthplace of Wilbur and Orville Wright, and it was here where they created the first airplane. However, the brothers made their first flight in Kitty Hawk, NC.

For at least one year, the two states are setting aside their bickering over bragging rights to celebrate together the anniversary of the first flight on a windy Dec. 17 in 1903. A celebration has been held annually since 1978 at Huffman Prairie in Dayton, where the Wright Brothers developed the world's first practical airplane, but this is the first time that commemoration will be conducted jointly with celebrations in North Carolina.

"You hear a lot about 'first in flight' versus the 'birthplace of aviation' and that whole argument," says Elizabeth Connor, director of communications with the National Aviation Heritage Area in Dayton. "But, honestly, First Flight would not have happened without both of those locations. So we are thrilled that this year we're able to bring both of those ceremonies together and share them jointly through the power of virtual media."

Coordinated ceremonies in Dayton and the Outer Banks will be combined into one live-streamed event broadcast on Facebook beginning at 9:30 a.m. The programs include keynote speakers, music, a flyover by a B-1B Lancer and a joint wreath-laying ceremony.

"We have the descendants of the Wright brothers who are going to be doing our wreath-laying ceremony, Amanda Wright Lane and Stephen Wright," Connor explains, "and in North Carolina, they have the descendants of the witnesses of the first flight. So, it will be really special."

Other events are scheduled on social media throughout the day.

While the pandemic prompted the move to skip in-person commemorations this year, Connor says it just makes sense to celebrate the events of Dec. 17, 1903 together.

"The story of First Flight includes both Ohio and North Carolina. It wouldn't have been possible without both pieces of that puzzle," says Connor. "We're excited to partner with the other organizations out of North Carolina (and) we hope that it continues on and we can provide more of these joint programs in the future."

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.