The National Aeronautical Collection originated in 1876, when the Chinese
Imperial Commission presented the Smithsonian Institution with a gift
of kites at the close of the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. The collection
expanded significantly after World War I and World War II, particularly
because of the efforts of Paul Garber, who acquired some of the most important
aircraft in the collection. These include the world's first powered aircraft,
the 1903 Wright Flyer, Charles Lindbergh's
historic transatlantic airplane, "The Spirit
of St. Louis", and the first supersonic aircraft, the Bell
X-1 "Glamorous Glennis". During these years the Smithsonian Institution
and later the National Air Museum/National Air and Space Museum also collected
numerous objects related to the history and technology of flight.
The collections of the Aeronautics Division currently comprise a total
of approximately 28,000 objects, including 356 aircraft.
The major aircraft collections are: Early Flight; Commercial Aviation
(includes piston-engine aircraft, turboprop aircraft, and jet aircraft);
Military Aviation (includes pre-1920, interwar period, World War II, Cold
War, and experimental); General Aviation (includes private aircraft, business
aircraft, utility aircraft, gliders, kitbuilt and homebuilt aircraft,
ultralights and hang gliders); Special Purpose Aircraft (includes research
and experimental, exploration, record-setting, and racing aircraft); Vertical
Flight (includes helicopters, autogiros, and vertical takeoff and landing
aircraft); Lighter-than-Air Flight (includes balloons and airships).
The extensive non-aircraft collections of the division include: Aeropropulsion
(engines, propellers, and auxiliary equipment); Armament and Ordnance
(guns, cannons, bombs, bombsights), Art (includes space art); Awards and
Memorabilia (trophies, medals and ribbons, insignia, memorabilia); Flight
Material and Equipment (uniforms, personal equipment, including helmets,
flight suits, etc.); Instruments, Avionics and Flight Management Systems
(flight instruments, cockpit controls, and related devices); Kites; Model
Aircraft and Engines; Photographic Equipment (aerial cameras); Posters.
The following online resources were compiled by Aeronautics Division