“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 day is Thursday, February 24, 1949; the pens on the automatic plotting boards at South Station are busy tracking the altitude and course of a rocket, which just moments before had been launched from a site three miles away on the test range of the White Sands Proving Ground.
On February 10, 2012, retired Vought employees officially rolled out the one-of-a-kind Vought V-173 Flying Pancake, following eight years of painstaking restoration work. The Flying Pancake dates to World War II when the Chance Vought Division of the United Aircraft Corporation built and flew the airplane to test Charles H. Zimmerman’s theories about extremely low-aspect ratio wing design that allowed an aircraft to fly at very slow speeds.
The newest arrival in the National Air and Space Museum’s inventory of historic aircraft is the C-49 airship control car. Produced by Goodyear Tire and Rubber, it first took to the air as the pressure airship Enterprise (NC-16A) on August 23, 1934. The craft operated in the Washington, D.C. and New York metropolitan areas until November 1941, when it was flown back to Wingfoot Lake, Akron, Ohio to serve as a training craft. Early in WW II it patrolled northern Ohio checking on compliance with blackout regulations.
In 1925, Mr. S. Claus was looking for a modern alternative to his old-fashioned reindeer-powered sleigh. Having once shown an interest in lighter-than-air flight in the form of hot-air balloons, Santa was favorably inclined when Goodyear came up with a solution — toy delivery via airship, in this case, Pilgrim I, renamed the Santa Claus Express for the occasion.
Airplane designers will tell you that the wing is the heart of an airplane. For conventional airplanes, it provides most of the lift generated by the airplane; the fuselage and tail contribute only a few percent of the overall lift of the airplane.
When the floods in Thailand appeared in the news recently, my friends and colleagues recommended that I stay away. But how could I? It was only a 4.5 hour flight from China (where I would be attending the Lishui International Photography Festival November 5 - 9) and photographing the Bangkok (BKK) air traffic control tower at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport was a high priority on my “to do” list. Actually, the highest. It is the tallest freestanding air traffic control tower in the world at 132.2 meters (434 feet) and a major tower to include in my upcoming book and Smithsonian exhibition The Art of the Airport Tower.
Turkeys are generally considered to be flightless birds, but as this postcard from the files of the Museum's Archives Division vividly illustrates, they are capable of short hops, especially when at the controls of biplanes. If you're flying to your Thanksgiving destination, bon voyage, and keep your eyes peeled for flying turkeys. Allan Janus is a museum specialist in the Archives Division of the National Air and Space Museum.
What comes to mind when you think of the Statue of Liberty? America, freedom, democracy. Her image is immediately recognized around the world as an ambassador for the United States and icon of the American dream. She has been the focal point of many a celebration over the years and in several cases, the gracious hostess (and waypoint) for aerial races and demonstrations. In celebration of her 125th anniversary, we gathered a few images, objects, and posters that feature inspiring views of Lady Liberty in the context of flight.
Blogs across the Smithsonian will give an inside look at the Institution’s archival collections and practices during a month long blogathon in celebration of October’s American Archives Month. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website .