Debate over Wright brothers flight reignites in NC after Ohio’s license plate mistake

·2 min read

A tribute to the Wright brothers went awry when Ohio had the plane going the wrong way on its new license plate design.

And that mistake didn’t escape some North Carolinians, who have long argued their state should get recognition as the place where the siblings launched the “first successful airplane flights” in the Kitty Hawk area more than a century ago.

“Y’all leave Ohio alone,” the N.C. Department of Transportation wrote on Twitter. “They wouldn’t know. They weren’t there.”

On Thursday, Ohio debuted new license plates featuring a plane carrying a banner that reads: “Birthplace of Aviation.” The state claimed that place in history with the help of Orville and Wilbur Wright, inventors who “refined their mechanical ingenuity to develop the world’s first practical airplane” in the Dayton area, according to the National Park Service.

But there was a problem with Ohio’s tribute: the plane was flying backwards, the Associated Press reported. Though the state fixed the orientation of the plane, the initial design mishap reignited the debate about North Carolina’s place in the history of flight.

For its part, North Carolina has a license plate design that says “First in Flight,” paying tribute to the first manned flight to leave the ground with its own power. The flight took off in 1903, after the Wright brothers tested it in Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks.

The plane — which made history on Dec. 17, 1903, as “the first powered flight of a heavier-than-air aircraft” — in its first flight of the day reached a speed of 6.8 miles per hour, traveling 120 feet in 12 seconds, according to NASA. The brothers took part in three additional flights that day, NASA says, “the longest traveling 852 feet in 59 seconds.”

“Now let’s talk about which state Kitty Hawk is in,” one person commented on the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles Twitter post.

The Raleigh-Durham International Airport also chimed in on the mistake with: “Glad we could finally settle this debate.”

While North Carolina and Ohio have had an ongoing feud for years, there’s at least one thing they have agreed on. Both states in 2018 rejected a Connecticut claim that Gustave Whitehead flew “the first manned, controlled flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft,” McClatchy News reported.