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Legacy Of The First-Ever Aircraft Hangar

Amazing feats of aviation are only made possible with the help of consistent, stable shelters for the aircraft and engineers, but aircraft hangar buildings are often unheralded in the achievements of magnificent pilots and their flying machines.

Despite this, a hangar is typically critical not only to preserving the structural integrity of a craft and avoiding the issues that being left in the elements can cause, but also often have additional facilities to help test, repair and maintain aircraft as part of their gigantic footprints.

Whilst this is very much the case with the high-tech aviation world of the 2020s, it was true right from the very start of sustained powered flight, and the hangar that made the first ever flight possible.

Two Brothers, Two Buildings

The two brothers, Wilbur and Orville Wright, need little introduction. The pair were pioneering engineers who used their success in selling safety bicycles to fund a growing passion for gliding and flight.

What they quickly realised was that of the three major challenges to powered flight (lift, power and control), the latter still required considerable work. 

Early prototype gliders and planes required the pilot to shift their weight around the craft, possibly contributing to the many failures and crashes.

Whilst they had a potential concept in wing warping, they were heavily limited in their aeronautic endeavours by being located in Dayton, Ohio.

As a result, they moved to Kitty Hawk, a town in North Carolina, somewhere that had been suggested by French engineer Octave Chanute, the man who had designed the biplane glider that inspired the Wright Brothers in the first place.

It had regular breezes that were strong enough for gliding but not so unpredictable as to be dangerous, whilst the soft sand would help cushion their landings as much as possible.

Every autumn and winter, when the winds started to pick up, the Wrights would travel to Kitty Hawk, set up a makeshift workshop with enough space for their gliders and gather data for a future flight.

By 1903, however, they had committed themselves to powered flight and understood that to sustain this flight with the added weight they needed to build much bigger wings and much wider planes.

This resulted in them constructing a 44-foot-long hangar to keep the Wright Flyer safe, and a smaller building next to it to keep themselves sheltered.

They did not build the flying machine in this hangar, instead constructing the plane at their workshop in Dayton before shipping it across to Kitty Hawk where they would put it back together by November 1903.

They would finally succeed on 17th December 1903 in creating a sustained powered flight, flying 260m on its final flight before it crash landed and was ultimately destroyed by powerful winds.

The Wrights would continue to use this hangar until 1911 when it was abandoned and quickly torn asunder by the elements.

It has since been reconstructed no less than four times to commemorate this aviation feat.

The first was in 1953, and it lasted ten years before being destroyed by a termite infestation. 

It was rebuilt again in 1965 before it needed replacing in 1976, and again in 1984 after being ravaged by a storm.

The fifth and final reconstruction was made in 1993, where minor repairs aside it has remained standing to this day.


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