The possibility of human mechanical flight held particular fascination for Leonardo da Vinci. He produced more than 35,000 words and 500 sketches dealing with flying machines, the nature of air, and bird flight. He produced one notebook, or codex, almost entirely on flight in 1505-1506, known as the Codex on Bird Flights. In this codex, Leonardo outlined a number of observations and beginning concepts that would find a place in the development of a successful airplane in the early twentieth century. This extraordinary document, exhibited outside of Italy only a few times, is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age gallery from September 13-October 22, 2013. The story of the journey of the Codex on the Flight of Birds from the hand of Leonardo to the National Air and Space Museum exhibit is as fascinating as the document itself.
A leading pioneer in the sport gyroplane community, Ken Wallis passed away on September 1, 2013. He is best remembered as Sean Connery’s stand-in during the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. Wallis appeared as Agent 007 while flying the “Little Nellie” gyroplane of his own design.
As you turn to leave, you suddenly stop, frozen in wonder, beholding an oasis so calm and cool and quiet that your airplane-addled, spaced-out brain can hardly believe it isn’t a mirage. It’s not. On your floor plan it’s labeled Flight and the Arts. And much to their loss and to your relief, most visitors overlook it.
With the depredations of Nazi Germany dominating the international memory of the middle decades of the twentieth century, many German social, cultural, and technical contributions not associated with the tainted influence of the Third Reich have been forgotten or overlooked. One of the individuals who contributed significantly to the prospects of regular transatlantic air service before open warfare ended such endeavors was Wolfgang von Gronau.
On August 15, 1935, in a plane crash near Point Barrow Alaska, famed aviator Wiley Post perished alongside his close friend, the renowned humorist and popular culture icon Will Rogers. With the exception of Charles Lindbergh, no American aviator of the time was as celebrated as Post, while Rogers was widely considered as the nation’s most gifted commentator on American society. Their loss impacted the two brightest spots in American culture during the Depression – aviation and film – and was especially devastating because of it.
Monday, we launched the new National Air and Space Museum website. We’ve given the site an extreme makeover and are very excited to launch this revitalized online presence. This digital “renovation” was completed in-house by our Web & New Media Department with tremendous support from many contributors and stakeholders across the Museum.
In 1987, the historian Michael S. Sherry published a groundbreaking and controversial book titled The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon (Yale UP, 1987). Sherry in effect reinterpreted the history of American air power in a way that was more contextually based and fiercely critical. The result was not to every military historian’s liking because it deviated so dramatically from what was considered the master narrative of American air power, which traditionally had focused on combat tactics and weaponry, and which had neglected the broader implications of air power and its employment. Moreover, Sherry upset the “Good War” narrative (mistakenly from Studs Terkel’s ironically titled The Good War: An Oral History of WWII) that emphasizes the heroic side of war and downplays its destructiveness, death, and tragedy. Thus, The Rise of American Air Power could be seen as representative of what has been termed the “New Military History,” an attempt to bring military history into line with other academic historical endeavor.
What flies using power from the Sun, at the speed of an ultralight, on wings longer than a Boeing 777 airliner? Answer: Solar Impulse! A team of Swiss entrepreneurs, engineers, pilots, and enthusiasts began to design the Solar Impulse in 2003 with the goal to demonstrate flying day-and-night powered only by the electricity that more than 11,000 individual solar cells generate. The electricity is stored in batteries when not used, and spin the propellers on four 10-horsepower electric motors when in flight.
When Secretary of the Navy William J. Middendorf II commissioned the USS Smithsonian, CVM-76, on June 28, 1976, he announced in authentic navy parlance that “the floors are now decks, walls are bulkheads and stairs are ladders. "Welcome Aboard!” Visitors to the gallery may not realize that exhibits artisans built the gallery using the decks, bulkheads, ladders and other parts removed from five famous American aircraft carriers.