Huffman Prairie Flying Field

Gate 16A on Wright-Patterson Airforce Base, off of OH 444
Dayton , OH 45402

937-225-7705   |
Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from March 4th through November, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday the rest of the year

The Wright Brothers' Life and Achievements

Huffman Prairie Flying Field is one of Dayton’s heritage sites that tells the story of the Wright Brothers' challenges and achievements in powered flight with the invention of the airplane.

Orville and Wilbur Wright grew up in Dayton and showed signs of a taste for invention early in their lives. The two were self-taught engineers; taking inspiration from great engineers and mathematicians, like Otto Lilienthal, who paved the way for the Wrights with his own flight experiments. Orville and Wilbur did not begin their careers in aeronautical invention, instead they opened a printing press in 1889 where they printed local newspapers on machinary they designed. After finding success and securing a place for themselves among the local business community in Dayton, they opened the Wright Cycle Company in 1892. By the turn of the twentieth century, the Wrights found enormous success with their bicycle company and had spent time experimenting with designs for a bi-plane that combined their knowledge of bicycle mechanics with engineering.

During a trip to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December of 1903, they recorded the first flight of a heavier-than-air machine in human history. Following this momentous achievement, they returned to Dayton to perfect their design. In early 1904 they were granted permission to continue their work at Huffman Prairie, an 84-acre tallgrass prairie that was being used as a cow pasture. Huffman Prairie was a far cry from the windy beaches at Kitty Hawk, but the Wrights found that its convenient location in Dayton allowed them the opportunity to continually test their new designs. From 1904 to 1905, Orville and Wilbur experimented with a third flyer design, and by the fall of 1905, the brothers had worked out the challenges of maneuvering and control. On October 5th of that year, Wilbur Wright successfully circled the flying field 29 times, not landing until the flyer’s fuel tank was empty. This achievement cemented the Wright Brother’s legacy as the pioneers of flight.

Read More

Notes for Travelers

Huffman Prairie Flying Field is one site in the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park. Other sites include historic buildings, parks, and visitor centers that offer an interpreted experience of Dayton’s history told through the lives of three of its most famous citizens: Orville and Wilbur Wright and poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. The three worked together in the late nineteenth century when Dunbar was editor of The Dayton Tattler, which was published on the Wright Brothers' printing press. Dunbar went on to become one of America’s most celebrated early African American poets. The Paul Laurence Dunbar Historic Home is one of the sites that visitors can experience as part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park. Travelers looking to learn more about the Wright Brothers lives in Dayton can visit the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center before traveling 20 minutes to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where they can walk through Huffman Prairie Flying Field.

Additional Resources

The Wright Brothers, David McCullough.