Wright Brothers Museum proposed for Kitty Hawk 

By on April 8, 2022

The proposed museum could contain everything from classrooms to a theater. (Photo courtesy of Bill Cress)

Several Dare County towns voice their support

Is a new privately financed 30,000 square-foot Wright Brother Museum in the offing for Kitty Hawk? As plans circulate, Dare County’s towns are signaling their support for the idea.

At its March 7 meeting, the Kitty Hawk Town Council passed a resolution in “Support of a Wright Brothers Tribute Museum and Observatory.” In April, the towns of Southern Shores and Duck followed.

The resolution describes the proposed museum as an ambitious undertaking, one including a “30,000+ square foot museum [that] will house the world’s largest display of up to twelve historically accurate Wright Brothers aircraft, an observatory, STEM training classrooms, a multi-purpose theater, an aircraft building workshop, an outdoor performance area, a café and gift shop, an extensive library and archive and a new Outer Banks Visitors Center.”

It also proposes the museum be built on 10 acres of state-owned land adjacent to the Kitty Hawk Visitor’s Center and the Glenn Eure Monument to a Century of Flight. It also notes that the “museum will be fully funded through private investors, to be completed and operated at no additional cost to taxpayers.”

According to a video presentation that has accompanied the resolution, the project is being developed by Bill Cress, CEO of Access Aerospace and Ken Hyde, founder of the Wright Experience.

According to its website, Access Aerospace is a “One-Stop commercial marketplace that can locate a Wright Brothers Aircraft in your museum…or provide historical collectables from prior space programs.”

Ken Hyde is an internationally recognized expert on the accurate reconstruction of the aircraft the Wright Brothers flew. His work has included recreating the original Wright Flyer as well as a some of their subsequent, and improved, aircraft. He has also created precise replicas of the kites and gliders they used to test their theories of lift and control.

“We’ve constructed gliders, 1900 and the 1901 and the 1902. And we tested those and of course, the 1902 was the best flier they made,” Hyde said. According to Hyde, those are the aircraft that would be in the museum.

“We’ve got about seven airplanes showing the progress of what they did from the very start until they were selling their planes to the Army,” he said.

The project has been shepherded by Kitty Hawk Council Member Charlotte Walker. Her early involvement was almost accidental, and it got off to a bit of a rocky start with Cress.

Cress had contacted the town of Kitty Hawk, asking if there were suitable sites in the town for the museum concept, and they recommended he contact Walker about property she and her husband owned. He called, but never heard back from her because when they finally did have a chance to talk, they found there was a mistake in the phone number.

Since then though, Walker makes it clear that things have improved.

“We had nowhere to go but up,” she said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him. He has done every single thing he has ever said he would do.”

In conversation, the two of them quickly realized the Walker property, located on Jejac Street by Henry’s Restaurant in Kitty Hawk would not be suitable. As they discussed what the needs would be, the state land where the Aycock Brown Visitor’s Center is located came to be seen as the best choice.

“It’s really perfect. You see coming in off the bridge. You’ve got an [existing] traffic pattern there,” Walker said. “And there’s ten acres back here and it’s state lands, and it’s not bringing in any money.”

Organizers of the Wright Tribute Museum are adamant that what they are proposing is not designed to be a competitor to the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

“This has never ever been intended to compete with the Park Service property. People are always going to want to go and stand where they stood, look at where they flew the plane, and see what that has to offer. You’re always gonna have to do that. This is in addition to, never in competition,” Walker said

As Mike Barber, Our Banks Group Public Affairs Officer, explained, the mission of the Wright Brothers Memorial is specific to that historic first flight, but the proposed museum may be able to augment the story of that first flight.

“We were recently made aware of Kitty Hawk’s resolution and potential plans for a museum and observatory on or near the site of the Aycock Brown Welcome and Monument to a Century of Flight in Kitty Hawk. The National Park Service is in discussions with Ken Hyde and Bill Cress to explore ways that the potential museum and observatory may complement the visitor experiences available at Wright Brothers National Memorial,” Barber wrote in an email.


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

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  • surf123

    And out of left field comes another way to blow taxpayer dollars on something that is of no benefit to its citizens. All we have heard in last several years is the need for affordable housing for workers. As for those in need of affordable housing”Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!” or in this case get a Tastycake from the vending machine while they enjoy the AC until they are booted out for loitering.

    Friday, Apr 8 @ 8:27 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Surf, the story clearly states this is to be built and operated with private funds.

    Friday, Apr 8 @ 9:13 pm
  • Dickie Ashe

    It’s a fantastic idea for the Outer Banks, I would suggest that every resident of Dare County read the latest book published about the Wright Brothers.
    What they accomplished and what they were able to figure out about flight is the science still used today, they invented the science of flight and they were just bicycle mechanics. It’s an inspiration for all people.
    Let’s teach the kids something worth teaching especially when it’s right here in our backyard.
    The Wright Brothers loved the NC Outer Banks and we are lucky to live here. So hopefully everyone will get behind this project and make it happen and not strangle the developers with red tape. I for one say Godspeed and thank you to everyone who will make this project possible.
    Dickie Ashe

    Friday, Apr 8 @ 8:54 pm
  • Eric

    Surf123 clearly didn’t read the article saying it would be privately funded. On the other hand, I would be willing to gamble my retirement that it will be sold and need tax money in less than 5 years.

    Friday, Apr 8 @ 10:10 pm
  • Sandfiddler

    The article states: “there’s 10 acres back here and it’s state land and it’s not bringing in any money.”
    Why does state land need to bring in money? Who will receive the money it brings in? Is this a non-profit effort? Do the developers expect a return on their investment or are they making a private charitable contribution out of a love for the origin of aviation? Do these developers expect the state to gift the land for their private project? Why would we want all available land to be developed? Once developed, it will never be returned to its natural state. Do we think we aren’t able to attract enough tourists now? Do we think that our local residents will benefit from developing that specific area? Will it exacerbate current traffic congestion?
    Isn’t this duplication of the concept behind the Wright Brothers Museum in Dayton, Ohio and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, where the original Wright flyer resides?
    Right now it’s just a concept, but one that seeks to utilize public (state) land for a private effort. Our state and local representatives need to make sure that this use is for the public good.

    Saturday, Apr 9 @ 12:04 am
  • Robert Rhodes

    I don’t understand why local governments are so desperate to use any and every piece of public land to make money. Why not focus on developing a project that will appeal to both the tourism trade and the local community (which will be here after tourist season)?

    Saturday, Apr 9 @ 5:33 am
  • Jackie Harris

    This is in ref: to New proposed Museam, There is no way it will be able to survive without some kind of Govt. Funding (waive of taxes/bldg permits), Grants from Tourist Bureau, And the Big One the State will have to sell the 10 ac. and then Saga and the big developers will be allowed to upset bid!, And I am sure they will apply to be a 501 (3C) Non-profit and not pay taxes!

    Saturday, Apr 9 @ 9:33 am
  • Lucy Power

    Regarding the 10 acres of state owned land, I haven’t a doubt that a project paying tribute to The Wright Brothers and the origins of flight won’t be anything less than spectacular.
    My first thought, however, goes to our current housing shortage and how the said 10 acres could be used for helping locals , or anyone that wants to live and work in Dare, find long term housing. It seems to me that Dare County should be considering the locals needs rather than providing a tourist destination.

    Saturday, Apr 9 @ 9:54 am
  • Mike Martin-Avon

    Its either preserve it for all or have it divided up for residential/commercial parcels which is not all bad. There is a need for a aviation museum. In the 1990’s (before the 2003 100 yr. celebration of the Wright Brothers flight) the NPS was trying to get approval to build an addition on the north end to the original Visitors center structure to hold additional artifacts-displays. This was rejected because the visitor center is classified as an historic structure- reason the pavilion structure was built(white roof) for the 2003 100 yr. celebration of flight-to house the additional displays-artifacts. When it was removed the displays etc. were given to other sites.
    Also form a partnership with the Military Aviation Museum in Pungo-Va. Beach-especially for the Dec. 17th flyover.
    Dayrel Collins of (Manteo) is the perfect person to consult.

    Saturday, Apr 9 @ 11:12 am
  • Bryan Jones

    No one “strangles developers” here . Quite the opposite. Is the county being paid for the land that could be used for, just randomly, worker housing? And if so, how much? Market at current prices?
    Just a brand new bad idea. And I agree, we will be on the hook, sooner or later.

    Saturday, Apr 9 @ 11:19 am
  • Glenn Roessler

    Please use that land to build affordable housing for our local workers! Truly affordable housing…not $350,000+ condos/homes!

    Saturday, Apr 9 @ 5:00 pm
  • charlie

    There is another big hunk of land which could be used for this…. The event sitein Nags Head…. It is basically empty and not being used…

    Saturday, Apr 9 @ 5:42 pm
  • Rosie

    And if this tourist trap is built how many will it employ and at what pay rate? It may attract a few flight enthusiasts but the average visitor to the Outer Banks will go once, if ever.

    Sunday, Apr 10 @ 9:31 am
  • C A

    New museum,…….not a fan. Leave the land vacant. Love the Wright Brothers, I’m a huge fan but we already have the Wright Brothers Memorial, and accompanying elements.

    If anything, pursue diligently the expansion of the current Wright Brothers Memorial with the artifacts stated in the article.

    Just because state land is vacant, it does not mean it must be developed. Please just leave things alone.

    Keep the focus on where a local worker can live, and continue to support what is here.

    Sunday, Apr 10 @ 9:53 am
  • Shevawn

    Not to mention what impact of the already nightmare bottle neck of traffic going to the North beaches this will have.

    Sunday, Apr 10 @ 11:33 am
  • surf123

    I’ll clarify my how taxpayer funds will be sucked into this project. It will not be direct funding, but will take the form of grants from the Board of Commissioners and from the Tourism Board.
    These two entities have no shame in handing out awards to non-profits. With classrooms the school board could get in on the action. Permit waivers could be on the table as well as financial and/or political help with land acquisition. One can only hope the land is put up for sale so others can have to opportunity to purchase it at its fair market price. A far better use would be housing given the location with easy access to communities to the north and south.

    Some key points:
    North Carolina nonprofits are presently exempt from virtually all state and local taxes, except for state sales tax. This includes property and business equipment taxes.

    North Carolina is one of the few states that does not require nonprofit corporations to file annual reports.

    So they do not pay their fair share like every other business and the citizens of the county and do not have to file annual reports so we can see what they are doing with the money they are receiving.

    When the endeavor becomes unsustainable the same groups will step in to “make it work” financially. Any chance the BOC and Tourism Board will commit to not fund this operation in any way at anytime?

    Monday, Apr 11 @ 5:23 pm
  • Travis

    I don’t see the need for another Wright-themed museum, but heck we have Wings stores and service station right next to each other up and down the beach, so why not museums for the same thing in adjacent towns?

    If they are hell bent on using the space for a museum there are plenty of other topic areas that could be the focus. Or maybe make another aquarium. The aquarium in Manteo is packed to the gills with people almost every day in the summer. The need for a second aquarium is clearly indicated by the high level of interest. The Roanoke Island Aquarium is listed as occupying 68,000 square feet: 10 acres gives you well over 400,000 square feet. The Kitty Hawk Aquarium could be spectacular.

    Wednesday, Apr 13 @ 9:47 am
  • Steven

    Folks, the idea is to not escalate visitor numbers, our towns and communities are over saturated as it is.

    Thursday, Apr 14 @ 5:58 am
  • Honestly, great plan!

    If this is SOLELY funded by a private owner, I say go for it!
    No county, state or national funds should be accepted…or even solicited.
    If any Local has been to the KDH monument and then goes to the Smithsonians exhibit it is a bit embarrassing, in my humble opinion. Perhaps it’s funding? I really don’t know…but as a person in hospitality, I can tell you this…there are aviators, or fans of aviation that come here, especially in the off season, that just want to pay homage to the Wright Brothers and a hill with a beacon was not what they were looking forward to see.
    Let me just put it this way..if you were a HUGE baseball fan and you traveled to Cooperstown and all you got is a hill, a monument, and a small museum of Babe Ruth would you be impressed or happy you made the trek?
    Sidenote: included should be other monumental airmen/women, with 10 acres this should be a no brainer as well.
    Good luck!

    Sunday, Apr 17 @ 10:50 am