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I bought the five tickets for $25 to the First Flight Centennial back in late Sept just for souvenirs
with no intention of going. Then two weeks later the tickets for Dec 17 were sold out. Meanwhile
everyone was saying if I knew you got tickets I would have too, so with everything else I decided to
go, you only live once. I got on the internet and found a camp site about 30 miles south of Kitty Hawk
on route 12 Camp Hatteras in Waves N.C. Which was close to the south parking area on route 12, you
had to park in a remote parking place and take a bus to the park which was free by showing your
ticket to the site. Now I’m all set to go.
Less than a week before I’m ready to leave for Kitty Hawk the transmission in my van started to act up.
Now I’m in a dilemma go or get the transmission fixed. I want to go and I don’t want to go all at the
same time. As I waited until the last moment to decide to go
I didn’t load everything I needed, I figured if the van gave me any trouble I could always come back,
After picking up my wife from work and going to dinner I left for Kitty Hawk at 5:20 PM Saturday Dec 13.
Around midnight I started getting drowsy and decided I had better stop and get a motel room. So
somewhere in Georgia I did but when I got to the room I couldn’t sleep I tossed and turned all night.
(That would make a good song title) Out the door at 5am it was raining and cold and it rained all the
rest of the way.
As I approached the outer banks on US 64 it was still raining with very low clouds I saw a thousand
foot tower but all I saw was the top and bottom of it. And when I crossed the Virginia Dare Bridge over
Croatan Sound to Roanoke Island it looked like it ended in the ocean. The bridge is 5.2 miles long the
longest bridge in North Carolina and was finished Aug 2002. (I digress) Anyway half way across it
cleared up and I could see Dare County Regional Airport on Roanoke Island.
As I turned south on state road 12 you could imagine what it looked like a hundred years ago nothing
but sand dunes with a road running down the middle with a power poles running alongside. Fifteen
miles down the road there are two bulldozers pushing the sand back off the road. I arrive at Camp
Hatteras around 3:30PM got settled in and now I’m hungry but everything is closed and I didn’t want
to drive the 30 miles back to Nags Head with the van acting up. So I got two cans of devilled ham and
some crackers at the office, store, and club house and went back to the van to eat. Well wouldn’t you
know it one of the things I didn’t bring was a can opener or spoons, out with the pocket knife to open
the cans and used the crackers to dig out the ham? I didn’t know it at the time but they had all these
things in the kitchen at the club house. With nothing else to do I went to bed earlier than usual as it
was getting windier and colder. The van was a rocking from the wind.
Monday Dec 15 2003
Protecting the Home of the Brave
Each day had a theme, celebrating the impact of aviation in the military, this day is designed to honor
those men and women who developed and flew military aircraft through the years.
The whole setup was similar to Sun N Fun they had the following organizations exhibits in tents NASA,
Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA), United States Coast Guard, First Flight Society/Outer Band Stamp
Club/U.S. Postal Service, Air Force Command and Control.
They also had about a dozen static aircraft spread throughout the site and Military fly-bys all day long.
I got there early and went to site of the first flight and walked from the rail to the last marker which is
852 feet from the start. Wilbur flew it in 59 seconds.
Orville was the first to fly but Wilbur got the knack of flying it pretty quick. Orville’s two flights (1st &
3rd) totaled 320 feet in27 seconds whereas Wilbur’s flights (2nd & 4th) totaled 1,027 feet in one
minute and 11 seconds. Just standing there gave you an eerie feeling.
Getting there early I got to take pictures without very many people in the way. But my eleven o’clock I
turned around and said “where did all these people come from”.
Monday was my day to go around to each exhibit and collect all the goodies they were giving out.
Tuesday Dec 16 2003
In History’s Footsteps, Celebrating 100 Aviation Pioneers
Got there early took more pictures without the crowds.
Back to the rail where they lifted off for the first time and got some sand in two film containers and as
I was headed for the Centennial Pavilion a V-22 Osprey came flying in and went into a hover and
landed next to the DC-3. Then I headed for the EAA pavilion as I was in a short line to fly the Wright
flyer simulator I stayed there. When it was my turn I crawled on the wing took it off flew over 120 feet
and landed it. It was more fun standing there watching everyone else fly and crash.
Sometime during the morning they had 100 skydivers jump from three airplanes one for each year of
the centennial. What a sight. Lee Greenwood was on stage at 1PM and the air show started at 2PM.
Collected more bags of goods because I didn’t want to carry anything around tomorrow. The weather
today is a bright blue sky not a cloud in sight all day. Rain predicted for tomorrow.
Wednesday December 17
12 Seconds That Changed The World
The parking lots opened at 6am today in anticipation of getting the big crowds in early.
It was cold with a low gray ceiling but not raining yet. Everyone scrabbling to find their vantage point
to watch the Wright Flyer Fly people were everywhere the biggest crowd yet. I found a spot on the
south side of the 800 ft Flight Zone right next to the rope and there we dug in. John Travolta was the
Master of Ceremonies for the morning event.
It started to rain around 9am then a Coast Guard helicopter was circling above.
Then five Marine Corps helicopters came into the First Flight airport and disappeared behind the
trees. The motorcade made its way to the stage area were President George W Bush addressed the
crowd. After his speech it was back to the helicopter and he left, not long after Air Force One made a
low fly by.
Found out later that when the president stepped off the helicoper his aides asked if he wanted to
wait in the trailer. He asked them how many people were waiting in the rain and when they told him
35,000 he said if they can wait in the rain so can I.
10:35 came and went and still no flyer the rain and no wind wasn’t helping either by now the place is
becoming a mud hole but still everyone held their ground. Finally around noon they rolled the flyer
out to its takeoff point. When Ken Hyde thought the wind was right Kevin Kochersberger climbed into
the flyer and the engine was started but as it was running down the rail the wind died down and it just
ran off the end into a mud puddle. The high humidity also caused the engine to loss RPMs. They tried
again at 3:30 but they just ran the engine so everyone could hear it.
I stopped in town to get something to eat before I got on the road home. I left town at 4:20pm and
headed west on 64 to Rocky Mount and 95 south and the temperature was also heading south. The
trip home was uneventful as I stopped about every 200 miles to check the transmission fluid. I got
home 11:30 am Thursday Dec 18.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Sure glad that I went.