Before Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon and before he flew on Gemini 8, he was a NASA test pilot. Noted for his engineering excellence and technical capability as a pilot, Armstrong became one of only 12 pilots to fly the ultimate experimental aircraft – the North American X-15.
Only two survived the crash of the Wingfoot Express—Henry Wacker, the chief mechanic, and John Boettner, the pilot. They became known as members one and two of the Caterpillar Club, an organization formed in November 1922 consisting of people who had used parachutes to make an emergency jump.
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.
Until recently, a Lockheed U-2, one of the most successful intelligence-gathering aircraft every produced, was on display in the Museum's Looking at Earth gallery. The U-2 was designed by a team led by Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson at the famous Lockheed 'Skunk Works" in Palmdale, California. The jet played a crucial role during the tense years of the Cold War.
May 2, 2019, marks the United States’ Days of Remembrance, the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. Today the National Air and Space Museum remembers Dezsö Becker, a Hungarian aviator who served in World War I and died in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in January 1945.