Pilots Fly In From Across The Country To Share In Grand Opening
An all-new Pilot Facility, sponsored by the AOPA on behalf of
its members, is now open to assist the nation's pilots who visit
the birthplace of powered flight during its centennial year. AOPA
donated the funds to build the 900-square-foot Pilot Facility at
the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kill Devil Hills (NC).
Despite threatening weather to the north and south of First
Flight Airfield (FFA), several hundred pilots and visitors from
around the country (one from as far as California) flew into the
park and another nearby airport to attend the grand opening
ceremonies. Speeches, hot dogs, and tours of the Pilot Facility and
historical park were the highlights of the day.
"The Wright Brothers came here for the weather," joked AOPA
President Phil Boyer (above, left) as a gust front from an
approaching storm swept across the crowd, "and weather is once
again making its mark. But let's have a round of applause for the
nearly 400,000 AOPA members who have made this first-class facility
Deputy FAA Administrator Robert A. Sturgell told
the crowd that the new facility represented "what AOPA is all
about, supporting the general aviation community." He told the
crowd that AOPA members should not only be proud of the facility,
but also proud "of the work AOPA does day and day out for pilot
safety, training, and development." He said that FAA "values its
partnership with AOPA and the work we do together."
Sturgell, who is a former naval aviator and airline pilot, said,
"Pilots can't help but be reflective when they visit this site.
There isn't a lot of difference between what Wilbur experienced
that first flight and what every pilot experiences on their first
solo. We must never lose that spirit of flight."
Adm. Ferg Norton, executive director of the First Flight
Centennial Foundation, said that AOPA had "flown solo" in
sponsoring the project and expressed the gratitude of the
foundation. "This facility is so much like AOPA," he said. "It is
simple, efficient, and attractive. It admirably serves the needs of
aviators, and it will do much to attract transient pilots to this
One Of A Kind
The Pilot Facility, built in coordination with the National Park
Service and First Flight Centennial Foundation, will be the only
permanent structure built at the historic site to remain following
the 2003 100th Anniversary of Powered Flight celebrations. The
facility includes a dedicated pilot briefing room complete with a
computerized Meteorlogix MxVision AviationSentry weather briefing
system and a second computer equipped with Jeppesen FliteStar route
planning software and access to AOPA Online, as well as
wall-mounted navigation charts and workspace for flight planning.
The facility is located adjacent to the 3,000-foot First Flight
Airfield and also provides rest rooms and space for an air tour
During the ceremony, Boyer unveiled an AOPA
recognition plaque on the exterior of the building that welcomes
pilots to the Wright Brothers National Memorial Pilot Facility.
AOPA's recognition of the Wright brothers' 100th anniversary
includes the Pilot Facility as well as exclusive centennial
editorial coverage in AOPA Pilot magazine and AOPA's ongoing
Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes, which gives winning members the
chance to experience monthly flights in a Waco biplane and the
ultimate prize of winning a rebuilt 1940 Waco three-seater