From the Archives

Sun, July 26 2020

Alverna Williams: Returning to the Skies – Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Part 2

Alverna Babbs challenged the Civil Aeronautics Administration in 1944 for a waiver to earn her student pilot’s license. The CAA was reluctant due to Babb’s disability—a double leg amputation at the age of 13 months. With her own persistence and the assistance of Roscoe Turner, Babbs earned her waiver and her full pilot’s license in 1946, the first person with a disability to do so (as documented in the previous blog in this series celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act). After remarrying and having children, Alverna Williams took a 30 year hiatus from flying. She returned to aviation in the 1970s, determined once again to take her place in the sky. 

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Alverna Williams in Ercoupe Cockpit
Sun, July 26 2020

Alverna Babbs: Fighting to Fly – Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Part 1

Thirty years ago, on July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act came into effect. This important civil rights law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. Forty-six years earlier, without the protection of law and its accommodations, Alverna Babbs, who had lost both legs as a child, fought to receive a waiver for her student license. When she succeeded, she became the first American pilot with disabilities to earn a pilot’s license.

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Alverna Williams and Her Ercoupe 415CD
Mon, March 30 2020

Before the WASP: American Women Pilot Service Organizations

Women in the United States have long served their country and women aviators have been no exception.  Perhaps the best known efforts are those of the Women Air Service Pilots (WASP), formed in 1943, merging the Women’s Auxiliary Flying Squadron and Women’s Flying Training Detachment.  But before the WASP, women pilots, such as Ruth Law, Opal Kunz, Florence “Pancho” Barnes, and Mary Charles were determined to serve their country in whatever way they could.

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Women's Air Reserve Aerial Ambulance
Mon, March 23 2020

Transcribing the Sally K. Ride Papers

We are pleased to announce that the Sally K. Ride Papers, consisting of over 23 cubic feet (38,640 pages!) of archival material chronicling Ride’s career from the 1970s through the 2010s, have been fully scanned and are available digitally. Air and Space fans can help make them more accessible by transcribing them in the Smithsonian Transcription Center.

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Signed Portrait of Sally Ride
Thu, August 29 2019

Back to School

As the summer comes to an end, it’s time for many to go back to school.  Most students have mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation at the thought of returning. Imagine how the students at the earliest aviation schools felt!

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Coffey School of Aeronautics Waco UPF-7
Fri, June 28 2019

"Passenger Number One" on Pan American's First Transatlantic Flight

In 2019, we commemorate several transatlantic firsts, including the 100th anniversaries of the first transatlantic flight by the Navy NC-4 in May and the first nonstop transatlantic flight by John Alcock and Arthur Brown. June 28 marks the 80th anniversary of the inaugural Pan American Airways transatlantic passenger flight in 1939. For William John Eck, it was a voyage for which he had waited eight long years. Finally, he was “Passenger Number One”!

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William J. Eck Accepts Ticket for First Pan American Transatlantic Flight
Thu, May 2 2019

Days of Remembrance: World War I Aviator Dezsö Becker

May 2, 2019, marks the United States’ Days of Remembrance, the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust.  Today the National Air and Space Museum remembers Dezsö Becker, a Hungarian aviator who served in World War I and died in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in January 1945.

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Dezsö Becker, 1916
Tue, April 16 2019

The 100th Anniversary of the First Transatlantic Flight: Transcribe the Albert Read NC-4 Collection

In May 1919, the U.S. Navy sponsored three Curtiss flying boats—the NC-1, NC-3, and NC-4—each with a crew of six, in an attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Lt. Commander Albert C. Read commanded the NC-4, the only aircraft to succeed in its mission.  As we prepare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NC-4’s historic transatlantic flight, the materials in Read’s collection are available to transcribe in the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center. 

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Curtiss NC-1, NC-3, NC-4, Leaving Rockaway, Long Island
Thu, March 28 2019

The Many Flights of the Czar of Baseball

In the wake of the Black Sox Scandal, Baseball was looking to restore its integrity with a leader with his feet firmly on the ground. They elected Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the first Commissioner (or “Czar”) of Baseball.  A long-serving jurist from Chicago, Landis was known for his decisions against big businesses, such as Standard Oil, and for slipping out to Cubs and White Sox games.  But Landis also had his head in the clouds, a true aviation enthusiast!

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Capt. Thomas Boland and Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis
Tue, December 25 2018

Christmas at Wright Field

In 1917, the United States Army Air Service established an aviation engineering section at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio. In 1927, the Engineering Division, as it was then known, moved to nearby Wilbur Wright Field and there remained as the Air Force Material Division (AFMD) and Air Material Command (AMC). Throughout the years, those stationed at Wright Field celebrated the holidays.

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Wright Field Christmas Card, 1940

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