There have been great movies about military aviation for almost as long as there have been movies and airplanes—seriously, the very first Best Picture Oscar went to a WWI aero-epic called Wings (and if you ever win bar trivia with that, buy us a drink). Eventually, the US military realized that high adventure onscreen could boost their recruiting efforts, and began to officially cooperate with films featuring flying service members. In this episode, we’ll look at two movies staring iconic aviators—Top Gun and Captain Marvel—and discuss how the military leans into their role as supporting players on the silver screen.
Every Wednesday at noon in the National Mall Building, a Museum staff member talks to the public about the history, collection, or personalities related to a specific artifact or exhibition in the Museum.
After Charles Lindbergh departed on his historic flight in 1927, the Smithsonian Institution expressed interest in acquiring the plane. Lindbergh was enthusiastic about the idea and he and his backers gave us the airplane. One of his terms required the door to be left open to allow visitors to look inside.
The Bell XP-59A Airacomet was the first American jet aircraft. The XP-59A was intended to be a jet fighter, but it was still slower than the best conventional airplanes at the time. Instead, the XP-59A was used to teach fighter pilots how to fly a jet. These jets were America's first step into the jet age.
Credits: Archival footage - Bell Helicopter Textron via Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum