Ever since our colleagues over at the National Zoo introduced their seven beautiful lion cubs to the public, some of the staff here at the National Air and Space Museum have been feeling a bit envious. Yes, we have priceless historic artifacts like the 1903 Wright Flyer and the Spirit of St. Louis; but lacking a single lion cub or even a panda, we do have something of a cuteness gap - we simply can't compete with the Zoo when it comes down to Cute.
Although the reindeer-powered sleigh is the form of transportation most usually associated with Santa Claus, the right jolly old elf displays an unexpected interest in lighter than air flight by launching festive fire balloons over the North Pole while a polar bear watches admiringly. Santa wasn't the last to attempt an LTA mission to the Pole, though - on May 11, 1926, the airship Norge took off from Spitsbergen, Norway.
On December 23, 1986, nine days, three minutes, and 44 seconds after taking off, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager touched down at Edwards Air Force Base, CA, in the Rutan Voyager aircraft to finish the first flight around the world made without landing or refueling.
In 1929, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company merged with the Wright Aeronautical Corporation to form the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. The merger of these two companies created one of the largest aircraft manufacturers in the country, which held numerous patents for aircraft.
This week, the Museum moved its first aircraft into the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hanger in the new wing of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. The aircraft is the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, the same type of aircraft flown by former Museum director, Don Engen during World War II.
Built in 1918, the Aircraft Building housed most of the Museum's aviation collection for decades. Taken in 1938, this photo also shows a tank and artillery piece displayed by the front door.
Featured in National Air and Space Museum: An Autobiography
In the years following WWII the United States and her Allies conducted engineering and flight tests of many different types of captured or surrendered Axis aircraft, primarily from Germany and Japan. Many of these aircraft were acquired by Allied and US technical intelligence collection teams. It was ordered that at least one of each type of enemy aircraft be captured and evaluated by these teams, and that each aircraft type be maintained in flyable condition for a minimum of one year. To make this possible all technical data and support materiel available (such as tool kits, parts, etc.) had to also be captured to meet this requirement.
Next year, the National Air and Space Museum will begin restoring and preserving aircraft in the brand-new Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, part of the Phase Two complex now under construction at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. To treat the aircraft, the Museum applies a philosophy and range of techniques that have steadily evolved through the years.
To American industrial designers of the 1930s airplanes were not simply machines of transport, but emblems of technological innovation and progress. The National Air and Space Museum’s newly redone Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery includes a unit devoted to “The Airplane and Streamlined Design,” which demonstrates how industrial designers appropriated the imagery of the modern airliner for their products.