2019 was a big year at the National Air and Space Museum, as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, commemorated the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, and worked hard on our ongoing renovation. We shared stories about these projects and more on the blog this year. Let’s dive into five of the most popular stories of 2019.
What does it take to organize a fly-in at the National Air and Space Museum? Lots of time and lots of good friends! As we head into our sixth year of Become a Pilot Day, it’s a great time to look back at how it all started and where we go from here. As a pilot myself, the idea of a fly-in was a no-brainer.
Many visitors express the wish to see the interiors of aircraft and spacecraft on display in the Museum. But to protect these historic treasures, they must be displayed behind barriers, which makes it impossible to see inside. But there are several cockpits you can see in the Museum, a day devoted to getting up close with aircraft, some cool electronic views, and a couple of great books that give those who are curious some excellent interior views.
May 20-21, 2010, marked the 83rd anniversary of Charles A. Lindbergh’s historic solo, nonstop flight from New York to Paris. As a result of this feat, Lindbergh became an instant hero and celebrity. But how do we explain the overpowering public reaction to what some thought was a stunt? In his essay titled, “The Meaning of Lindbergh’s Flight,” published in 1960, historian John William Ward theorized that Lindbergh enabled Americans to look both forward to the technological future, which they feared and misunderstood, and backward to their pioneering past. A more cynical interpretation is that while Lindbergh’s flight was a truly courageous act, he became famous for being famous. Also, we know that his advisors crafted a tightly-managed persona and created a squeaky-clean, idealized public image of him. There is perhaps more than a grain of truth in each analysis.
On May 20, 1932, that Amelia Earhart set out in her Lockheed 5B Vega to become the first woman to fly nonstop and alone over the Atlantic Ocean. Departing from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland and landing in Londonderry, Northern Ireland about 15 hours later, she also became only the second person to solo the Atlantic, the first being Charles Lindbergh in 1927. It was also her second trip across the Atlantic. Earhart first came to the public’s attention four years earlier, in June 1928, when she made headlines for doing nothing more than riding as a passenger--but she was the first female to do so. And although it didn’t matter to the public that she never touched the controls of the aircraft during the transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Wales, it mattered to Earhart.
This month marks 80 years of female flight attendants. It's hard to imagine a time without them, but until 1930, airlines employed male stewards. That changed when Ellen Church, a nurse from Iowa, approached Steve Simpson at Boeing Air Transport (later United Airlines) with the radical idea of putting women nurses on airliners.
The superlatives tend to pile up pretty quickly when it comes to the rigid airship Hindenburg, the pride of the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei line...It’s a shame, though, that the Hindenburg is remembered today primarily for its tragic final flight.
Sometimes seemingly ordinary people become extraordinary by staying remarkably calm and capable in a crisis. The crew of US Airways Flight 1549 performed exceptionally on January 15, 2009, when their Airbus A320 jetliner became disabled over New York City after flying through a flock of geese moments after they took off from LaGuardia Airport. Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey B. Skiles masterfully guided the powerless aircraft to an emergency “landing” on the Hudson River.
National Air and Space Museum staff are hard at work renovating the Pioneers of Flight gallery, scheduled to open later this year. It will be filled with the fascinating stories of the colorful personalities of early aviation, including Jimmy Doolittle, Bessie Coleman, Amelia Earhart, and Charles and Anne Lindbergh, plus Robert Goddard and other rocket pioneers. One of the featured artifacts is the newly cleaned Lockheed Sirius Tingmissartoq, the dual cockpit plane that carried Charles and Anne Lindbergh on their exploratory trips across several continents in 1931 and 1933. The trips made headlines and were the basis for two popular books written by Anne, North to the Orient and Listen, the Wind! Cognizant of their place in history, the Lindberghs carefully saved the majority of items they packed for the trips. Now after several decades in storage, many will be on display for the first time.