Air Transport World

Centennial of flight.(Biography)

Looking out his window at the Kill Devil Hill life saving station on the morning of December 17, 1903, Capt. S.J. Payne watched through binoculars as a flying machine, its noise muffled by the distance, rose into the air, its wings rocked by wind, flying straight ahead, finally landing with a light spray of sand. The impossible had been done; Payne was a distant witness to the Wright Brothers' conquest of powered flight.

The day had started poorly for flying. While the previous day's breezes had been too calm for flight, this morning brought blustery winds to the flat sands below Kill Devil Hill, cold air skimming standing pools of water with ice.

Wilbur and Orville Wright tried to wait out the 27-mph winds, but around 10 a.m. they decided the winds were as good as they were going to get that day and put out the signal--a cloth on their shed wall--for the men from the life saving station to come down to assist and to witness the event. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.