“The Millionaires’ Unit” was a moniker given by the New York press to group of wealthy Yale students who formed a private air militia in 1916 to learn to fly in preparation for the United States entering World War I. Author and historian Marc Wortman wrote a book about them in 2006, and a college friend of mine, Ron King, saw his grandfather’s face on the book’s cover. The archival material seemed rich, and we decided to make a documentary.
The phrase is really shorthand for a deeper question, namely, what happened to the optimistic predictions for air and space travel after the historic Apollo landings on the Moon, between 1969 and 1972? Why, after 45 years, are there no permanent colonies on the Moon?
When the vernal equinox in Washington, DC, is accompanied by a cold, wet day, it’s hard to imagine that spring is actually here. But over the last few weeks the nation's capital, has been celebrating one of its biggest annual events—the National Cherry Blossom Festival. But did you know the National Air and Space Museum has some cherry blossoms of its own?
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.
Every week or two we see news of another museum digitizing its collection and making it accessible online. The Smithsonian is no exception, and efforts are under way across our campus to scan artifacts, works of art, documents, and films and put them on our websites. These projects take months if not years to complete, but it is our high priority to open the museums to visitors beyond our walls, and digitization is a key part of our strategy. The National Air and Space Museum, working closely with the Smithsonian’s central Digitization Program Office, already has made a pioneering step in this direction by scanning the iconic 1903 Wright Flyer in 3D and creating a number of “tours” that enable online visitors to examine the aircraft as a whole and take detailed looks at many of its features. We have just scanned Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and are preparing the auxiliary content for online access.
Following months of preparation, members of the Collections Processing Unit moved the center section of the Horten Ho 229 V3* from the Paul E. Garber Restoration and Storage Facility to the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the Udvar-Hazy Center last Friday.
Did you know that staff at the National Air and Space Museum enjoy dressing up for the annual Halloween event, Air and Scare, just as much as our visitors? The event, which will kick off tomorrow at 2:00 pm (ET) at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia, will bring out lots of superheroes, Star Wars characters, princesses, pumpkins, and many more. It also brings out a creative side in the Museum’s Visitor Services staff, who have teamed up over the years with group costume themes.
As I was flipping through a set of historical National Air and Space Museum photographs in the Archives a few months ago, one caught my eye—was that a Hecht’s window display? Upon closer examination, it was! But the display from the 1950s wasn’t highlighting the usual dresses, jackets, or shoes. Instead, it featured models from the National Air Museum in celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Anacostia Naval Air Station (NAS) in Washington, DC.
What truly captivated me this summer was feeling a personal connection to the history of aviation. I’ve always been interested in the topic, largely because my dad was a Marine Corps fighter pilot. Until this summer I hadn’t had a chance to truly dive into the subject, and finally learning about what my dad did as a pilot has given me a new perspective on his career. He flew F -18s for most of his pilot days, but he also flew F-4 Phantoms, the same plane used for simulator rides here at the museum. I’m sure piloting the simulator isn’t nearly as thrilling (or difficult) as flying a real fighter jet, but it gave me a small taste of my dad’s everyday job. As soon as I hopped out of the ride, I emailed my dad to tell him how exciting my three minutes of pretend-jet-flying had been. He responded by telling me, not for the first time in my life, that he had the “best job in the world.” I never understood the excitement he felt until now.