More than one pilot has compared landing on an aircraft carrier to searching for a postage stamp in the middle of the ocean. Add darkness to a disruptive sea state that keeps the landing area in constant and often unpredictable motion, toss in bad weather and low visibility, and it makes for perhaps the most challenging approach in aviation.
Even with 100 years of technological innovation since the first taildraggers set down on the wood deck of the USS Langley in 1922, carrier aviation still demands courage and determination. Having flown F-14 Tomcats myself, I know the thrill of catching the cable—along with thousands of other Navy fliers who’ve now spent 10 decades on these floating airbases, projecting military power in a way that revolutionized how battles are fought.
In our first Air & Space Quarterly (ASQ) cover story, we examine how the carrier revolution unfolded, where naval aviation is today, and what’s on the horizon. In exhibits at the National Air and Space Museum, we tell the history of naval aviation every day, and this new magazine gives us another way to tell the grand story of the naval-aviation visionaries who dared to try something different—and changed the world.
In the tradition of Air & Space/Smithsonian, Air & Space Quarterly will continue to deliver great air and space stories, but readers will now get expanded access to our one-of-a-kind, world-leading collection of aviation and space-exploration artifacts—and behind-the-scenes glimpses of how we care for our exceptional collection. Upcoming stories in ASQ will draw on the expertise of our curators and historians and report on the innovative research coming out of our Center for Earth and Planetary Studies.
In this inaugural issue of ASQ, you’ll find a report on the handy cuff-mounted mission checklist worn by Apollo 16 astronaut John Young. The instructions printed on the checklist guided Young and his crewmate Charlie Duke as they worked on the lunar surface. You can also read a reflection on the Caroline, JFK’s campaign airplane, by hearing from Caroline Kennedy herself on what it was like to fly onboard the Convair 240. And you’ll discover how astronomers are exploring the deepest depths of the galaxy by studying archaeology on a cosmic scale.
So join me as we hook up to the catapult and launch this new magazine, building on decades of fabulous work by our predecessors at Air & Space/Smithsonian. We hope you’ll join us on this new and thrilling flight.
Christopher U. Browne is the acting director of the National Air and Space Museum.
Let us know what you think about the premier issue of Air & Space Quarterly. Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.