General Aviation

General aviation refers to any nonscheduled, nonmilitary flight operation—in other words, all civil aircraft not flown by commercial carriers or the military. It includes everything from personal to business flying, air taxi, sightseeing tours, and life-saving medical flights. General aviation accounts for nearly 80 percent of the civil aircraft and three-fourths of all flight operations in the United States.

Speed, flexibility, convenience, safety, and security make general aviation appealing. For many it offers a viable, more efficient alternative to commercial aviation. The General Aviation section describes the evolution of general aviation and its diverse roles.


Piper J-3 Cub at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Piper J-3 Cub
First built in 1937, the Piper J-3 earned fame as a trainer and sport plane. Its success made the name "Cub" a generic term for light airplanes. The little yellow tail dragger remains one of the most recognized designs in aviation. J-3 Cubs and subsequent models are still found at fields around the world. Thousands of pilots, including three-fourths of those in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, trained in Cubs.

More information: Piper J-3 Cub

Arrow Sport A2-60 at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Arrow Sport A2-60
The Arrow Sport A2-60 is a rare example of an alternative design, depression-era biplane. It complements the Smithsonian's Kreider-Reisner Challenger and Waco 9, conventional tandem open-cockpit biplanes. The Arrow Sport offered a side-by-side, dual-control cockpit arrangement. Its cantilever wings were attached only to the upper center section strut and lower fuselage — they had no other struts or external flying wires for bracing. However, enough pilots were uncomfortable without some sort of visible wing support that "N" struts later became standard.

More information: Arrow Sport A2-60

Cessna C-180 "Spirit of Columbus"

Cessna 180
Flying the Spirit of Columbus, Jerrie Mock became the first woman to pilot an aircraft around the world. She departed from Columbus, Ohio, on March 19, 1964, and arrived back home on April 17, 1964, after flying 36,964 kilometers (23,103 miles) in 29 days, 11 hours, and 59 minutes. Mock wrote about her exceptional solo flight in Three Eight Charlie. Introduced in 1952, the Cessna 180 high-wing utility aircraft was a rugged and popular tail-wheel design which led to the tricycle gear-equipped model 182 still in production today.

More information: Cessna 180

Beech 35 Bonanza "Waikiki Beech"

Beechcraft 35 Bonanza
The classic Beechcraft Bonanza was introduced in 1947 and is still built today by Raytheon Aircraft. The four-place aircraft sported all-metal construction and retractable landing gear for the sophisticated or executive pilot. Initially designed with the distinctive butterfly or V tail—a conventional tail model was offered too—it was the basis for later Beech aircraft.

More information: Beechcraft 35 Bonanza

Travel Air D4D

Travel Air D4D
From 1931 to 1953, Andy Stinis performed skywriting in this airplane for Pepsi-Cola. During those years, skywriting with smoke was a premier form of advertising, and Pepsi-Cola used it more than any other company. Pepsi-Cola acquired the airplane in 1973 and used it for air show and advertising duty until retiring it in 2000. Peggy Davies and Suzanne Oliver, the world's only active female skywriters since 1977, performed in it.

More information: Travel Air D4D

Fulton Airphibian FA-3-101

Fulton Airphibian FA-3-101
In 1950, the Fulton Airphibian became the first roadable aircraft, an aircraft designed to be used as a car or an airplane to be certificated by the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA). Other roadable aircraft had already been built, for example Waldo Waterman's Arrow/Aerobile and William Stout's Skycar, both of which are in the NASM collection—as well as other designs, but none won certification.

More information: Fulton Airphibian FA-3-101