2003 Flight Forecast

2003 Flight Forecast

Why Kitty Hawk, North Carolina?

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Wilbur and Orville Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio. Yet they made Kitty Hawk, North Carolina "First in Flight" with their achievement on December 17, 1903. Did you ever wonder why it was Kitty Hawk, (more specifically Kill Devil Hills), that became so famous?

The brothers began their journey into human flight by experimenting with gliders. When they had a full size glider large enough for a man, they needed a place to fly it. On November 27, 1899,  Wilbur wrote to the U.S. Weather Bureau for information on the windiest places in the US. Wilbur made a "request for wind velocities, Chicago or vicinity for August through October.  If possible the information should include average and maximum velocity each day."
Data Source: Monthly Weather Review, August - November, 1899 Data Compiled by: Dr. Peter J. Robinson (The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

According to "Miracle at Kitty Hawk" the Wright Brothers wanted a "sandy area for soft landings, slopes free of trees or shrubs for gliding and adequate winds." 

Looking at the list, Chicago, Illinois would have had too many people, ( no way to keep the experiment secret.) Sioux City, Iowa would not have had nice soft beaches and Amarillo, Texas might have been too far away. The brothers chose a remote sandy area on the outer banks of North Carolina named Kitty Hawk, where winds averaged 13 m.p.h. They wrote to the weather station at Kitty Hawk. Mr. Joseph J. Dosher responded:

August 16, 1900

In reply to your of the 3rd, I will say the beach here is about one mile wide, clear of trees or high hills and extends for nearly sixty miles same condition. The wind blows mostly from the north and northeast September and October......
James J. Dosher

Wilbur also got a letter from William J. Tate, Kitty Hawk's best educated resident informing him that Kitty Hawk had Telegraph communication, daily mail, and hospitable people, and confirming that Kitty Hawk would be a "fine place...to try your machine." He and Orville then journeyed to Kitty Hawk where they tested the 1900 glider. .

For the next four years Kitty Hawk provided open space and a hill from which to launch their flying machines.


Table 4.2.2: Monthly average wind speeds (mph), August - November 1899, for stations in the Monthly Weather Review having at least 3 of the 4 months with wind speeds of 12 mph or above






Amarillo TX





Block Island RI





Cape Henry VA





Chicago IL





Hatteras NC





Kitty Hawk NC





Mt. Tamalpais CA





Sandy Hook NJ





Sioux City IA





N.B. Other stations along south Atlantic Coast -

Norfolk VA, Wilmington NC, Charleston SC, 

Savannah GA, Jacksonville FL -all had average wind speeds below 12 mph

Data Source: Monthly Weather Review,
Aug-Nov, 1899
Data Compiled by: Dr. Peter J. Robinson
 The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Photo by Sean Coffey


Photo by Sean Coffey


National Science Education Content Standards
[K-4] Content Standard D: Objects in the sky; Changes in earth and sky.
[K-4] Content Standard G: Science as a human endeavor.

Principles and Standards for School Mathematics
[Pre-K-2 | 3-5] Number and Operations Standard: Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems.
[Pre-K-2 | 3-5] Algebra Standard: Understand patterns, relations, and functions.
[Pre-K-2 | 3-5] Measurement Standard: Understand measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems, and processes of measurement.
[Pre-K-2 | 3-5] Data Analysis and Probability Standard: Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data; Understand and apply basic concepts of probability.
[Pre-K-2 | 3-5] Connections Standard: Recognize and apply mathematics in contexts outside of mathematics.

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