U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission
National Plan For the Centennial of Flight Commemoration

Section 1 - Executive Summary

Born of dreams. Inspired by freedom.

On December 17, 1903, at 10:35 a.m., the world's first successful powered aircraft lifted off the beach at Kitty Hawk for a 12 second voyage. Driven by two brothers unwavering in their task, that flight accomplished what people had only imagined since the beginning of time. Realizing this dream took more than wings, wheels and a motor; it took the spirit of adventure, the tenacity brought on by risk and failure, and the desire to achieve a freedom which humans had never before experienced.

When the Wright brothers made the first successful powered and controlled flight in 1903, they changed the destiny of the United States and the world forever. No other innovation in the last century has so defined our time and initiated such a series of technological advances as the airplane. Many of today's advanced technologies can trace their origins to the development and growth of aviation. Equally important from a historical perspective, the airplane has dramatically changed the course of transportation, commerce, communication and national defense, effectively bringing the U.S. and the world closer together.

Congress created the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission in 1998 to expand national and international interest in the Wright brothers' achievement by enhancing interest in the commemorative activities such as those planned by the First Flight Centennial Foundation and the First Flight Centennial Commission of North Carolina, and Inventing Flight: Dayton 2003 of Ohio. Aviation professionals, enthusiasts and those familiar with the accomplishments of the Wright brothers share the belief of Congress and others in the importance of commemorating this event. Supporters of the centennial celebration agree that activities should share a fundamental purpose: to educate the public about the centennial and its meaning, and to encourage them to participate and engage in commemorative activities, thus gaining something from the experience.

While the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission was created by Congress as the Nation's official advisory body, numerous other organizations are also developing plans for commemorative and/or celebratory activities. In April of 2001, the Centennial of Flight Commission convened a meeting of interested organizations in Shepherdstown, W. Va. One outcome of that meeting was a recommendation to develop a comprehensive national plan to capture all of the actions planned for the centennial. At the August 2001 meeting of the First Flight Centennial Federal Advisory Board, this recommendation was considered and the Advisory Board requested that the Centennial of Flight Commission staff prepare a "National Plan" to be developed and submitted for their review. This document, designated as the National Plan for the Centennial of Flight Commemoration, responds to the Advisory Board's request and provides a comprehensive outline for the broad range of activities that are being planned for 2003. It presents not only the initiatives of the Centennial of Flight Commission, but also the planned activities of other relevant agencies. These include federal agencies, state agencies and commissions, private groups, and organizations specifically established for the centennial.

Actions, some underway and some planned, range from Web sites to aviation world's fairs; from educational books, posters and contests to authentic replicas of early Wright aircraft; from traveling exhibitions to aviation art displays; and from small local events to national commemorations in places like Kitty Hawk, N.C. Because events and activities will continue to be developed, this National Plan is a living document that will evolve over time. An update to the document is planned prior to 2003.

The celebration of the centennial of powered flight represents a unique opportunity for the Nation to focus on the historical significance of aviation related events leading up to, and following, December 17, 1903. This celebration is not about a single event, but rather a century of powered human flight. Vision, persistence and ingenuity have taken people from the dunes at Kitty Hawk to the surface of the moon in the course of that century. There are literally thousands of unsung heroes spread throughout the century in the form of people whose ability to dream of flight was only surpassed by their ability to make it happen. Their efforts have revolutionized the world, and the milestones achieved are the guideposts to aviation history. More importantly, the celebration represents an opportunity to stimulate a new generation of inventors, innovators and dreamers. The National Plan, therefore, presents an overall strategy for the Centennial of Flight Commemoration to encourage the broadest national and international participation in the commemoration, while publicizing and encouraging programs, projects and events that will involve, educate, enrich and inspire the maximum number of people.

The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission has accomplished much in 2001. With the acceptance and the implementation of the recommendations below, even more can be accomplished in the future. The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission members and the First Flight Centennial Federal Advisory Board members endorse the following recommendations to the Congress and the President:

  1. Full Funding for the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission: The fiscal year 2002 and fiscal year 2003 budgets for the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission should be funded at the authorized levels of $900,000 as provided in the Centennial of Flight Commemoration Act.

  2. Federal Government Participation: Congress and the President are urged to encourage all relevant Federal agencies (including, but not limited to, the Department of Interior, Department of Transportation, Department of the Air Force, Department of the Navy, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of State, Department of Commerce, and Department of Education) to develop plans for participation in the centennial commemoration.

  3. Fund the Aviation Theme Study: This study, proposed by staff members of the National Park Service, is a high priority project. This national survey of historic sites important to the history of flight represents a tool for underscoring the role flight has played in the development of communities across the Nation. The recognition of local sites, events and people represents an important legacy of the centennial.

  4. Issue a Commemorative Stamp: The U.S. Postal Service should consider issuing a series of aviation history stamps representing the major events that occurred in the first century of aviation. Historic aviation events around the country would be included and a celebratory ceremony would take place in the location of that particular historic event.

  5. Issue a Commemorative Coin: The U.S. Mint is working with the First Flight Centennial Foundation of North Carolina to issue three commemorative coins celebrating the centennial of flight. Both Ohio and North Carolina have chosen centennial themes for the 50 State Quarter Program. An additional consideration for the U.S. Mint would be to change the image on one of the coins currently in circulation for 2003, the centennial year. A special Wright brothers image could be used.


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