Wind was the Essential — How the Weatherman Instigated Flight

            After a recent talk, I received a copy of David McCullough’s well-researched book, The Wright Brothers. Most pilots think they know the Kitty Hawk story, but I learned I didn’t. Wilbur and Orville Wright determined early in their multitude of experiments that wind was a must. Wilbur (oldest of the two) wrote to the United States Weather Bureau in Washington regarding prevailing winds in the country. The brothers received extensive records of monthly wind velocities from over a hundred weather stations. The outer banks of North Carolina (Kitty Hawk) piqued their interest.

            To confirm their choice, after all, Kitty Hawk was 700 miles from their home in Dayton, Ohio; Wilbur wrote directly to the Kitty Hawk weather station. Steady winds and sand beaches to cushion the landings were guaranteed. Their exact location just south of Kitty Hawk, and where their experiments were flown, was sinisterly named Kill Devil Hills. It also offered isolation to carry on experimental flights in privacy.

            Kitty Hawk not only had wind but unbearable summer heat and an infestation of mosquitos, but the Wrights persevered. Nearby is Cape Hatteras, infamous for the Hatteras Low, aka the East Coast Deepener, the Cyclone Bomb, or the Nor’easter, and with the odd hurricane dropping by. Many of their temporary cabins, sheds, and tents never made it through the winter.

            No one ever expresses gratitude for the weatherman, but history shows their knowledge helped launch aviation. Heck, a meteorologist discovered plate tectonics, but that’s another history lesson.

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