Centennial of Flight Nearly Upon Us

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The big day is almost here.

On Wednesday, December 17, 2003, at 10:35 a.m., at the Wright Memorial at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, a pilot will climb aboard the most accurate Wright Flyer reproduction ever constructed and proceed to go flying, just as Orville Wright did for the first time precisely 100 years to the minute before. While a handful of observers looked on, Orville took to the air in a flight that lasted a mere 12 seconds but immeasurably changed the world.

It will be an entirely different scene on the Outer Banks as the country and the world celebrate the modest flight's centennial. Tens of thousands of visitors will watch the re-enactment unfold, live or on one of seveeral huge video monitors, and the event will be carried live on TV around the globe.

The centennial re-enactment -- by far the biggest thing ever to hit the OUter Banks -- is being hosted by the National Park Service and the State of North Carolina. The reproduction 1903 Flyer was built by the Wright Experience for the EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk Program, which is sponsored by Ford. A pair of pilots, airline pilot Terry Queijo and mechanical engineer and college professor Kevin Kochersburger, have been chosen to fly the Wright Flyer, but which pilot wins the coin toss for the 10:35 slot, as Orville did 100 years ago, remains to be seen.

The celebrations at the memorial will span a five-day period, beginning on December 12th and culminating on the 17th, when two flights will be made, at 10:35 a.m. and at 2 p.m. At press time there were still tickets available for the event. Cost is $25 for an adult ticketfor the entire affair. Weather at the Outer Banks in December is likely to be brisk, typically in the 30s with windy conditions, just like the Wrights battled 100 years ago. There's limited reserved seating for the re-enactment; apart from that, there's no actual seating available. Lawn chairs are prohibited, though rental chairs are available, says the Park Service. There will be several Jumbotrons set up for the spectators to watch the big moment.

The closest airport to the celebration is Dare County (MQI), in Manteo, North Carolina, located six miles as the crow flies from the Memorial's First Flight Airstrip (FAA), which will be closed to trafic during the celebration. For airplane parking reservations at MQI, visit the airport's website, www.fly2mqi.com, which has online forms and a list of frequently asked questions for pilots flying in.

For more details, including links to dozens of other informational sites, visit the EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk website, www.countdowntokittyhawk.org.