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”!
2019 marks the 70th anniversary of two long-distance light plane records by William P. Odom. Those records were set in the Museum’s Beechcraft 35 Bonanza, which is displayed at our Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. In addition, it is also the 100th anniversary of William Paul Odom’s birth, on October 21, 1919, in Porum, Oklahoma.
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.
On October 7, 1929, Anne Morrow Lindbergh gazed out the window of a Sikorsky S-38 flying boat, entranced by the view before her: gleaming stone structures only recently freed from the thick tropical vegetation of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico—Chichén Itzá, a remnant of the Mayan civilization that thrived there between 750 and 1200 AD. Her husband Charles A. Lindbergh piloted the aircraft that skimmed just above the ruins and treetop canopy.
Women’s History Month in the United States began as Women’s History Week in 1982. The event was expanded to the entire month of March in 1987. Throughout the past month, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Air and Space Museum, have sponsored many events for Women’s History Month. On March 28, 1988, just the second official Women’s History Month, an all-female Air Force flight crew flew a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy across the Atlantic Ocean to commemorate the month.
As we await the exciting results of New Horizons’ flyby of Pluto on July 14, it is all too easy to think that this mission was inevitable: the capstone to NASA’s spectacular exploration of all the planets (and ex-planets) of the solar system since the 1960s. Yet, it proved extraordinarily difficult to sustain a Pluto project.
In April, the Smithsonian X 3D team pointed their lasers and scanners at the Bell X-1, the same iconic aircraft that shot Capt. Charles 'Chuck' Yeager across the pristine skies of the Mojave Desert to a record-breaking speed. On October 14, 1947, in the Bell X-1, Yeager became the first pilot to fly faster than sound. Now, we can all get as close to the Bell X-1 as Yeager himself with the recently released 3D model of the exterior of the aircraft. In honor of the new 3D model and that resounding flight, we've compiled five facts to help you begin your exploration of the aircraft and that key moment in history. We also reached out to Smithsonian X 3D team to find out exactly how one goes about capturing a 3D model. But first, our five facts: 1. To conserve fuel, the X-1 was flown up to 7,620 meters (25,000 ft) attached to the bomb bay of a modified Boeing B-29 bomber and then dropped.
I asked many friends if they knew about the first flight around the world. No one did. How does such an incredible tale escape popular history? I decided that younger generations, especially, would enjoy reading about this dramatic saga.