National Geographic : 1955 Apr
46( forerunner of heavier-than-air flying machines. After the kite, they experimented with gliders. The problem of tailspins baffled them at one time. In the course of their studies they found little information available about screw propellers; therefore they developed a propeller of their own. Meantime, they found it possible to leave their bicycle shop long enough to develop and test their gliders at Kitty Hawk. On a cold December day in 1903, man's first successful powered and controlled flight in a craft heavier than air took place. Orville and Wilbur Wright had accomplished a mag nificent advance in man's conquest of the air. Dayton's 7,900-acre Airbase Today the little bicycle shop on West Third Street, Dayton, where two determined men worked out what for centuries had seemed an impossibility, is gone. New buildings have taken its place, but its site has become a shrine. In 1927 Dayton citizens gave the Federal Government a tract of 4,000 acres northeast of the city to be used as a flying field. The Government accepted the site and fittingly named it Wright Field.* Near by lay an other Federal airport, Patterson Field, named in honor of a Dayton flyer killed there while making tests. Today the two fields are combined in 7,900 acre Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, one of the largest air installations in the world. Here, in a vast industrial complex containing more than 1,000 buildings, the Air Force has clus tered 32 separate units. Chief among them are the Air Materiel Command and the Wright Air Development Center of the Air Research and Development Command. This vital base houses much of the Air Force's equipment-testing and research organi zation and is the headquarters for its globe girdling chain of supply (page 456). At the heart of the base, on the crest of a hill, stands a shaft erected to the memory of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Below, the Mad River Valley swings in a broad arc. Within that arc lies Huffman Prairie, the historic * See "New Frontier in the Sky," by F. Barrows Colton, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, Septem ber, 1946.