The year 2003 marked the 100th anniversary of Orville and Wilbur Wright's historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina that led to the creation of an entire new industry, new dimensions to military tactics, and public transportation infrastructure.
The obverse was designed by John Mercanti and features a depiction of the 60 foot granite Wright Brothers Monument that can be found in Manteo, North Carolina. Above the design is the word "LIBERTY" and to the left are the words "IN GOD WE TRUST".
The reverse was designed by Donna Weaver and features the Wright Brother's plane, the 1903 Wright Flyer, in flight. Above the design are the words are the words "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" and "E PLURIBUS UNUM". Below the design are the words "HALF DOLLAR". Directly below the design on the far right side is the mint mark "P" for Philadelphia.
1903 Wright Flyer
The 1903 Wright Flyer made four flights at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903, the best covering 852 feet in 59 seconds. It was the first heavier-than-air, powered aircraft to make a sustained, controlled flight with a pilot aboard.
The Wrights used their proven canard biplane configuration which was rooted in their initial 1899 kite design. Key to the Flyer's success was its three-axis control system, which featured wing-warping for lateral balance, a moveable rudder, and an elevator for pitch control.
Prior to 1903, the theory of flight was conceivable but the problem was the lack of enough power to generate lift. This changed with the introduction of the combustion engine as Orville & Wilbur discovered the possibility of the new power source to use with their initial plane the 1903 Wright Flyer.
Another struggle was the use of a propeller. Initially, the brothers believed they could use maritime technology but their research soon discovered there was no established formulas for propellers. The two discussed and at times argued over the theory of a propeller for flight. In the end, the two agreed that an aeronautical propeller is essentially a wing rotating on a vertical plane.