Russell Lee earned a BA at Southwest Texas State University and an MA in American History at George Mason University. Lee curates the collections of sailplanes and gliders; ultralights and hang gliders; amateur-built sport aircraft; and Japanese aircraft from World War II. Lee chaired the Museum Collections Committee from 2010 to 2012, and he has managed the successful treatment of six aircraft lent to other museums for preservation and restoration.
Lee's book Only the Wing: Reimar Horten's Epic Quest to Stabilize and Control the All-Wing Aircraft (Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2011) began with research he conducted to support treatment-loan of four all-wing Horten sailplanes to the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin in 1994. He served as curator of the 2008 Ultralight Aircraft Exhibit Station at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The exhibit includes an original ultralight aircraft used to train endangered birds born in captivity to migrate.
Lee is researching how the low-speed laminar flow airfoils developed in the U.S. influenced the invention in Germany of sailplanes constructed of Fiberglas-reinforced plastic. He earned a private pilot's license in 1979 and a limited commercial license without instrument rating in 1984. Lee has logged more than 600 hours flying a variety of powered and motor-less aircraft.