The birthplace of aviation–Dayton, Ohio–offers several enticements for aviation history buffs.
Our March editorial about the U.S. Air Force Museum at Dayton, Ohio, sparked responses from two other aviation history attractions in that same area. This definitely is not a town to pay a quick visit to if you love to soak up our aviation heritage. Dayton will be where the action is during the 100th anniversary of powered flight in 2003.
Take a Hike
We received literature and an invitation to visit the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and the Historic Trail, which offers a walking tour that includes the Wright brothers’ bicycle shop and several other early aviation-related sites. There’s even a 135-page Field Guide to Flight that lets you take the tour as a self-guided excursion.
The park includes the Wrights’ 1905 Flyer–which has been called the most important aviation artifact in the world–the bicycle shop, the Huffman Prairie flying field and several other interesting sites, including the cemetery where the Wright brothers are buried.
To obtain literature, contact the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park at P.O. Box 9280, Wright Brothers Station, Dayton, OH 45409, (937) 225-7705, or www.nps.gov/daav.
Notables Among Notables
We also heard from the National Aviation Hall of Fame, the who’s who of American aviation history, which recently built a new, 17,500-square-foot facility alongside the Air Force Museum. The hardware that is central to our love of aviation–the aircraft–is what initially draws oohs and aahs from most of us. But as we gain an appreciation for the human effort that made these marvelous machines possible, we want to know more about the personalities of aviation, those who strove to build better aircraft, to develop techniques to fly them and to push the limits of the envelope.
The National Aviation Hall of Fame is dedicated to honoring outstanding pioneers of air and space. Since 1962, it has annually inducted a carefully selected group of aviation greats. The list, now up to 163, includes those who have made significant contributions to the advancement of aviation.
Fittingly, the first inductees were two local boys who made good, the brothers Wright. Other familiar names followed Wilbur and Orville into the Hall of Fame, such as Air Force legends Don Gentile, Chuck Yeager, Joe Kittinger, Curtis LeMay and Paul Tibbetts. The Navy’s first–and only–World War I ace, David S. Ingalls, the “Father of Marine Corps aviation” Alfred A. Cunningham and the Army’s Thomas Selfridge are among those representing other military services.
The civilian contribution is well represented by pioneers in aircraft design and production (Curtiss, Boeing, Hughes, Sikorsky, Rutan and more), space exploration (Goddard, Crossfield, Glenn, Armstrong, et al.) and aviation training and medicine (Dr. Harry Armstrong, Dr. John Paul Stapp, Edwin I. Link, for example).
The Hall of Fame’s new Learning and Research Center building will house interactive educational exhibits conceived to not only to reflect the accomplishments of each honoree but also to fuel curiosity, spark reaction and stimulate the imagination. The Enshrinee Research Lab will serve as an electronic repository, including an online library and computer network, and coordination point for research material relating to aviation pioneers. What better atmosphere in which to inspire the next generation of inventors and scientists, of pilots and aircraft designers?
The individuals to be honored at ceremonies in July will include Air Force and NASA test pilot Fitz Fulton, Experimental Aircraft Association founder Paul Poberezny, aviatrix Louise Thaden and former Navy pilot and President George Bush. The Milton Caniff Spirit of Flight Award, which recognizes an organization that has advanced aviation, will be awarded to the American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers.”
For more information and event schedules, contact the National Aviation Hall of Fame at P.O. Box 31096, Dayton, OH 45437, (937) 256-0944, or www.nationalaviation.org.
Arthur H. Sanfelici, Editor, Aviation History