Technical and scale drawings
  • Technical and scale drawings
  • Aircraft technical manuals
  • Aircraft technical manuals
  • Captured German & Japanese air technical documents
  • Captured German & Japanese air technical documents
  • Technical reference files
  • Technical reference files
  • Film Archives
  • Film Archives
  • Photo Archives
  • Photo Archives
  • Audio collections
  • Audio collections
  • Aircraft history cards
  • Aircraft history cards
  • The Technical Reference Files comprise an artificial collection that currently contains 1,900 cubic feet of aviation and space related materials, organized in 22 subject series. File materials include photographs, press releases, clippings, correspondence, reports, and brochures, on individuals, organizations, events, and objects.

    The majority of the Archives Department's public reference requests can be answered using material in these files, which may be accessed through the Reading Room at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. More specific information can be requested by contacting the Archives Reference Desk.


    List of Series

    Aircraft (240 cubic feet)

    Heavier-than-Air (180 cubic feet) 
    Human-carrying, heavier-than-air craft which are supported primarily by dynamic lift, including airplanes (powered fixed-wing aircraft), gliders and hang gliders (unpowered, fixed-wing aircraft), helicopters (powered-rotor rotorcraft), and autogiros (unpowered-rotor rotorcraft). Also included are unmanned vehicles that were originally designed as man-carrying aircraft. (Aircraft designed from the start as unmanned vehicles can be found in the Space History reference files with missiles and rockets.)

    Lighter-than-Air (LTA)(60 cubic feet)
    History, science, and art of airships and balloons from the 18th century to the present.

    Explore Aircraft Technical Files

    Propulsion (175 cubic feet)

    Air-breathing engines. (Other power plants for aircraft (including rocket motors) are filed under the Space Propulsion subseries.) 

    Accessories and components which support air-breathing engines; also fuels, coolants, and lubricants. 

    Specific models, listed by designer or manufacturer; also general topics. 

    Space Propulsion 
    All methods of spacecraft propulsion (even "passive" concepts such as the Solar Sail), spacecraft power sources (such as solar batteries and fuel cells), all rocket motors (including those used to power aircraft and other vehicles), and all accessories and components.

    Explore Propulsion Technical Files

    Biographical (261 cubic feet)

    Information on specific people involved in the history of aviation and space exploration listed alphabetically by name.

    Explore Biographical Technical Files

    Organizations (27 cubic feet)

    Aviation and space related organizations.

    Explore Organizations Technical Files

    Corporations (15 cubic feet) 

    Basic information about aviation and space corporations.

    Explore Corporations Technical Files

    Air Transport (105 cubic feet)

    Broad air transport topics such as air cargo; economics; insurance; refueling and maintenance; regulation; salvage; and statistics. 

    Specific regularly scheduled passenger and/or cargo carrying airlines. 

    By Region or Nation
    Materials covering air transportation topics within specific world regions. 

    Specific U. S. and foreign airports; also general topics such as airport equipment, planning, and security. 

    Air Mail 
    Basic history of air mail services, foreign and domestic.

    Explore Air Transport Technical Files

    Electronics and Communication (24 cubic feet)

    Electronics and communications equipment; also related topics such as air traffic control, navigational aids, and radar. 

    Avionics equipment by manufacturer.

    Explore Elections and Communication Technical Files

    Education (42 cubic feet)

    Type Recognition 
    Aircraft recognition training programs and materials, both U. S. and foreign (predominantly World War II). Includes various aircraft spotter's guides and information on WWII's National Model Building Program. 

    General topics; also specific aviation schools (predominantly U.S.) Training Guides Documents used for training.

    Explore Education Technical Files

    Events, Air Expositions, Meets, Races, and Shows (42 cubic feet)

    By Date and Location 
    Information organized by date (1868 to the present) and location of event; includes assorted ephemera such as brochures, programs, advertisements, and tickets.

    By Subject 
    Information dealing with broad categories of flights or events, for example: transatlantic, around-the-world, and altitude attempts.

    Explore Events, Air Expositions, Meets, Races, and Shows Technical Files

    Awards and Trophies (12 cubic feet)

    Specific awards and trophies by name; also general topics pertaining to many awards.

    Explore Awards and Trophies Technical Files

    Equipment (54 cubic feet)

    Assorted aviation-related general equipment topics; includes the Brodie System, specialized tractors and trucks, and general information on markings, insignia and camouflage.

    Clothing, Flight Gear, and Insignia 
    Information on clothing and related flight gear, and the insignia used on them (both U.S. and foreign). Does not include pressure suits and g-suits, which appear in a separate subseries below.

    Information on oxygen equipment.

    Information on the history of parachutes; also some specific types. 

    Pressure Suits and G-Suits 
    Information on pressure suits and g-suits. 

    Instruments by type (altimeter, compass, air speed indicator, etc.) and by manufacturer. Also includes general topics such as instrument illumination, lubrication, and testing.

    Explore Equipment Technical Files

    Space History (270 cubic feet)

    Topics related to space exploration, astronomy, missiles, rocketry, or remotely piloted vehicles. Also includes technologically related programs and vehicles that were designed to function entirely within the Earth's atmosphere.

    Explore Space History Technical Files

    General Aviation (12 cubic feet)

    Non-scheduled civil aviation. 

    General topics such as aerial refueling, aerobatic flying, and business aviation. 

    General aviation by state; also some information on general aviation in other countries.

    Uses of Aircraft 
    Agriculture, advertising, fire fighting, insect control, meteorology, and tourism.

    Explore General Aviation Technical Files

    Government and Law (12 cubic feet)

    National and international government agencies and regulations.

    Explore Government and Law Technical Files

    Arts, Literature, and Entertainment (12 cubic feet)

    Aviation and space exploration as depicted in art, literature, motion pictures, radio, and television; also includes aircraft nose art.

    Explore Arts, Literature, and Entertainment Technical Files

    Military (84 cubic feet)

    Military aviation by country (non-U.S.); includes general information on aces.

    U.S. military aviation, including selected Air Force bases and units, basic information on aircraft carriers, and military flight demonstration teams. 

    Guns, bombs and bombing, bombsights, ammunition, gun mounts, gun turrets, gun sights, chemical warfare, anti-aircraft guns and accessories.

    Explore Military Technical Files

    Wars and Conflict (12 cubic feet)

    Aviation's role in various wars and conflicts, from the 1914 Mexican Punitive Expedition through Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

    Explore Wars and Conflicts Technical Files

    Museums (144 cubic feet)

    Non-Smithsonian aviation and space museums around the world, by name. 

    Basic information on the National Air and Space Museum, and related past and present Smithsonian Institution facilities and exhibits. Researchers seeking detailed information on the history of the Museum or its past exhibits should contact the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

    Explore Museums Technical Files

    Models (9 cubic feet)

    Various types of scale aircraft models and related topics; also wind tunnel test models.

    Explore Models Technical Files

    Safety (15 cubic feet)

    Includes basic information on topics such as accident investigation, safety equipment, medicine, rescue, survival training, noise abatement, and windshear.

    Explore Safety Technical Files

    Miscellaneous (33 cubic feet)

    Very small subseries of miscellaneous topics such as natural flight (birds and insects), preservation of air- and spacecraft, sonic booms, and toys. 

    Engineering related to specific types of aircraft systems, such as landing gear, rotors, materials, tires, seats, and wings. Also information on wind tunnels. 

    Air navigation history, equipment, and systems. 

     Aerial refueling and reclamation and salvage. 

    Aerial photography history and equipment. 

    Explore Miscellaneous Technical Files

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