(WWLP/NASA) – The National Aviation Day (August 19) is a United States national observation that celebrates the development of aviation.
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Orville Wright wasn’t sure exactly how long his first flight lasted. He and his brother, Wilbur, think it was about 12 seconds, but according to what Orville wrote in his diary of that December day in 1903 at Kill Devil Hills, N.C., the time is “not known exactly as watch was not promptly stopped.”
It’s perhaps a minor detail given the historic significance of what had just transpired on those wind-swept, sandy dunes along the Outer Banks – namely the first ever controlled flight of a heavier-than-air machine rising by its own power.
But there is much we do know about the first flight of an airplane. With Orville at the controls, the Wright Flyer took off at 10:35 a.m. EST and flew a distance of 120 feet, about 10 feet off the ground, at a top speed of about 6.8 mph.
Three more flights followed that day, with Wilbur and Orville taking turns at the controls, the last flight by Wilbur lasting 59 seconds and covering a distance of 852 feet. The fourth flight ended hard, damaging the airplane enough to halt any more attempts.
But it was Orville who made the first flight. In honor of that fact, President Franklin Roosevelt declared in 1939 that August 19, Orville’s birthday, would be National Aviation Day – an annual occasion to celebrate the importance of aviation.
From Wikipedia: The holiday was established in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who issued a presidential proclamation which designated the anniversary of Orville Wright’s birthday to be National Aviation Day (Mr. Wright, born in 1871, was still alive when the proclamation was first issued, and would live another nine years). The proclamation was codified (USC 36:I:A:1:118), and it allows the sitting US President to proclaim August 19 as National Aviation Day each year, if desired. His/her proclamation may direct all federal buildings and installations to fly the US flag on that day, and may encourage citizens to observe the day with activities that promote interest in aviation.