We invite you to celebrate National Aviation Day (Orville and Katharine Wright’s birthdays!) on Friday, August 19, at two locations in the Outer Banks: Wright Brothers National Memorial and Dare County Regional Airport 

If you can’t join in person this year, check out our Facebook event where we will live stream one of the programs with NASA’s Dr. J. “Bob” Balaram on Friday morning.

All information provided is courtesy of our friends at Wright Brothers National Memorial and the First Flight Society 

Wright Brothers National Memorial: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; special evening program at 8 p.m.

Our park is offering new exhibits and special guest speaker programs to celebrate the Wrights’ legacy on Friday, August 19! Please note: The Visitor Center will be open during normal park hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Here are some ways you can celebrate the day: 

Learn from the experts. 

Dr. J. “Bob” Balaram: Wright Brothers National Memorial is proud to welcome Dr. J. “Bob” Balaram, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to help celebrate National Aviation Day. Dr. Balaram is the originator of the concept that became NASA’s “Ingenuity” Mars helicopter and served as its chief engineer during its development, test and operations. 

The “Ingenuity” Mars Helicopter took its first flight on Mars on April 19, 2021, marking the first powered flight on another planet. Described as a “Wright Brothers moment,” this first flight marks the continuation of aviation achievements in the legacy of Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first powered flight in 1903. 

Dr. Balaram will present a series of family-friendly public talks that explore the connections between the Wright Brothers and the Mars “Ingenuity” project. Dr. Balaram’s presentations will take place at the program tent at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Friday, August 19 (a fee-free day) and Saturday, August 20. Additionally, a special outdoor evening program with Dr. Balaram is scheduled for 8 p.m. on August 19. Park visitors who plan to attend the evening program are encouraged to bring chairs or blankets for lawn seating.  

AeroVironment, Inc.: Following Dr. Balaram’s presentations on August 19, a team from AeroVironment, Inc., the developers of “Ingenuity’s” rotor system, landing gear and fuselage structure, will demonstrate a working, flying model of the Mars helicopter in the Visitor Center’s Flight Room. These will be scheduled for 15 minutes following the completion of Dr. Balaram’s programs inside the Visitor Center on the north side of the 1903 Wright Flyer platform. “Ingenuity” will only fly approximately four feet into the air, with the AeroVironment, Inc. staff performing the demonstration. The AeroVironment, Inc. team will also offer impromptu demonstrations throughout the day. 

Join a ranger program. 

Wind and Sand: Step back in history during this short walk to the actual site of the Wrights’ first powered flights. Join a ranger and discover why the Wrights chose Kitty Hawk for their flight experiments and what life was like in the Outer Banks, learn about the events that led to the first powered flight on that cold December day and the lasting impact their first flight continues to have on the world today. Meet at the back patio of the Visitor Center. Programs will be offered from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Please be aware there is no shade; bring water and sun protection. This program is wheelchair accessible.  

Walk the “Ingenuity” flight line.  

Geographic Information Science (GIS) has mapped the first five Mars “Ingenuity” helicopter flights, and temporary flight markers will be placed along the park’s first flight line so first flights between the 1903 Wright Flyer and NASA’s “Ingenuity” can be compared. 

Check out the new Visitor Center exhibits.  

Seven temporary educational panels will be displayed in the Visitor Center connecting the NASA and Wright Brothers National Memorial stories at strategic places. Topics covered include aircraft comparison, first flight descriptions, wind tunnel, motors, wings, test venues and more. These displays were designed by the National Park Service with input from NASA. A static model of the Mars “Ingenuity” helicopter will be on display on the 1903 Wright Flyer platform and will be transported to the program tent for public presentations.

Dare County Regional Airport: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Our friends at the First Flight Society will host their fourth annual National Aviation Day celebration at the Dare County Regional Airport on Friday, August 19! The mission of the celebration is to provide a fun and educational experience promoting and honoring the accomplishments of the Wright brothers and to help educate locals and visitors about aviation.  

The event will feature several airplanes on display, a variety of exhibitors and a food truck. Confirmed exhibitors include Kitty Hawk Kites, Elizabeth City Composite Squadron (Civil Air Patrol), Aviation Influence, Military Aviation Museum of Virginia Beach, Elizabeth City State University, Dare County Radio Control Flyers, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and Dare County, among many others.  

Dr. Larry Tise, adjunct professor of history at East Carolina University, will serve as the keynote speaker and present his educational program, “The Elusive Orville Wright: From Kitty Hawk and Beyond.” Dr. Tise will also sign books after his presentation. First Flight Society Secretary Paul Carr will also speak in character as “The Spirit of Wilbur Wright.” Doug Dino of 99.1 The Sound (WVOD) will be broadcasting live from the event.  

The Dare County Regional airport (MQI) is located at 410 Airport Road, Manteo, North Carolina, 27954. More information can be found at www.nationalaviationday.org.