Early Flight
Opening in 2022

Artist rendering of the future Early Flight exhibition, scheduled to open at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. in 2022.


The Museum gratefully acknowledges those who have generously supported this gallery

Glenn and Donna Boutilier

Richard W. McKinney


Exhibition Preview

    The most significant pre-Wright brothers aeronautical experimenter was the German glider pioneer Otto Lilienthal. 

    Otto Lilienthal in flight in his Lilienthal (Otto) 1894-96 Glider Normal Segelapparat (Sailing Apparatus); note Lilienthal's legs are swung to left to shift weight for control.

    The Blériot Type XI was designed primarily by Raymond Saulnier, but it was a natural evolution from earlier Blériot aircraft, and one to which Louis Blériot himself made substantial contributions.

    Four children watch a Blériot XI in flight from a beach. The original French caption seems to indicate that the aircraft is being piloted by Louis Blériot himself.

    Original French caption: Le monoplan XI de Bleriot pique droit vers la côte anglaise. (Blériot's monoplane XI heads right for the English coast.)

Behind the Scenes

"Early Flight" Gallery

Two conservators, wearing masks, work on the Wright Flyer.
Conservation of the
Wright Military Flyer

Follow along as our experts conserve the 1909 Wright Military Flyer, which will be on display in the Early Flight gallery.

Explore Photo Album