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Wright Brothers Day in the United States

Wright Brothers Day is celebrated in the United States on December 17 each year. The date commemorates the Wright brothers' first successful flight in heavier-than-air, mechanically propelled craft, accomplished on December 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Wright Brothers Day falls on the same day as Pan American Aviation Day. It must not be confused with National Aviation Day.

Is Wright Brothers Day a Public Holiday?

Wright Brothers Day is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.

The Wright Brother's Memorial at Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina.

©iStockphoto.com/Terry Healy

What Do People Do?

The United States president annually makes a proclamation inviting Americans to observe Wright Brothers Day with appropriate ceremonies and activities. Observations, including the annual Wright Brothers dinner where the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy is awarded in Washington DC, take place on or around this day. Celebrations are also held at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina and in Dayton, Ohio, where the brothers were born.

Events focused on the day also take place at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, a 425-acre (about 1.7km2) area that features a 60-foot (about 18.3 meters) granite pylon (tower) on top of Kill Devil Hill, where the Wright Brothers' camp was located. Other activities include: luncheons in honor of the Wright brothers; school activities focused on aviation and the Wright brothers' achievements in opening doors for future flight advancements; and field trips to aviation and flight museums and centers.

Public Life

The Wright Brothers Day is an observance but it is not a federal public holiday in the United States.

Background

Orville and his brother Wilbur are given credit for building the world's first successful airplane with aircraft controls that enabled them to steer the plane. The brothers' first aircraft, named Flyer, made its maiden flight for 12 seconds and 120 feet (about 36-37 meters) around the site of Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina on December 17, 1903. This day is observed nationally since 1963 to honor Wilbur and Orville Wright.

The Wright brothers were not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft but they are the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed wing flight possible. In the years that followed, aviation advancements were made. The Wright brothers' efforts paved the way for modern day aeronautics. The brothers' status as inventors of the airplane has been an issue of debate, particularly as there were competing claims regarding other early aviators.

Symbols

Images of the Wright brothers and the first flight have been seen in posters, flyers, stamps and other memorabilia. First Flight stamps, in honor of the Wright brothers' first flight, were issued in 2003 at the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial Park in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.  The stamp illustration depicts Orville Wright at the controls of the 1903 Wright flyer. The text at the bottom of the design reads “First Flight. Wright Brothers. 1903”.

A large memorial tower, located on top of Kill Devil Hill, is also dedicated to the Wright Brothers. Orville Wright attended the monument dedication in 1932. The first floor interior showcases special pink granite-lined walls and a black granite floor. Only the first floor of the monument displays this color granite. The rest of the monument is made of white granite stone.

Wright Brothers Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010FriDec 17Wright Brothers DayObservance 
2011SatDec 17Wright Brothers DayObservance 
2012MonDec 17Wright Brothers DayObservance 
2013TueDec 17Wright Brothers DayObservance 
2014WedDec 17Wright Brothers DayObservance 
2015ThuDec 17Wright Brothers DayObservance 
2016SatDec 17Wright Brothers DayObservance 
2017SunDec 17Wright Brothers DayObservance 
2018MonDec 17Wright Brothers DayObservance 
2019TueDec 17Wright Brothers DayObservance 
2020ThuDec 17Wright Brothers DayObservance 

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