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CHAPTER ONE

THE EVENT OF THE CENTURY

“To invent an airplane is nothing. To build one is something. But to fly is everything.”

Otto Lilienthal (1848–1896), aviation pioneer

It was an odd assortment of men that made the four-mile trek from “Camp Wright” over to Kitty Hawk. One, a lumber dealer from Manteo, had come over to search the rugged Atlantic coast for debris from a recent shipwreck. Hearing talk about a couple of guys who were planning to fly, he had hung around to “see the show.” Three others were surfmen from the Kill Devil Hills Lifesaving Station, grizzled veterans of the sea who had befriended the two “odd ducks” from Dayton. The ...

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