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.
Many older African Americans who grew up in the South painfully remember the time when black passengers had to sit in the back of busses or use separate train compartments; and when train stations and bus terminals provided separate but mostly unequal facilities such as drinking fountains, restrooms, waiting lounges, and eating facilities for black and white passengers.
In the years before the invention of the flight data recorder, the "black box" that records essential flight data, an aircraft accident investigation could occasionally degenerate into a mere finger-pointing exercise, like this one from Russia during World War I — a group of aviation cadets at the Gatchina Military Flying School near Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) point fingers of scorn at a student pilot identified only as "Ivanov" after his less than perfect landing, fortunately injuring only his dignity.
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 relationship between film, history, and mass culture is especially intriguing when we examine the correspondences between the representation of pilot-heroes in film and public perceptions of aviation. These connections are applicable during the heyday of the aviation genre film—the interwar years and WWII.
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.