As the summer comes to an end, it’s time for many to go back to school. Most students have mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation at the thought of returning. Imagine how the students at the earliest aviation schools felt!
In 1909, military aviation began with the purchase of the Wright Military Flyer by the U.S. Army. The Navy sprouted wings two years later in 1911 with a number of significant firsts. The first U.S Navy officers were trained to fly, the Navy purchased its first airplanes from Glenn Curtiss and the Wrights, and sites for naval aircraft operations were established at Annapolis, Md., and at North Island, San Diego, Ca. But the most dramatic demonstration that the skies and the seas were now joined occurred on January 18, 1911, when Eugene Burton Ely made the first successful landing and take-off from a naval vessel.
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.
The afternoon of October 15, 2009 was one of those rare moments when Americans from coast-to-coast were riveted to their television sets by a news story unfolding in real time. Six year old Falcon Heene was reported to be trapped aboard a helium balloon floating across the Colorado landscape at 7000 feet. The image on the screen was surreal, a strange craft looking like a cross between a Mylar grocery store balloon and a flying saucer, with a small circular structure on the bottom that appeared to be just large enough to house a small child. When the balloon came naturally to earth after a fifty mile flight, however, the boy was not aboard.
This summer, the world is marking the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest milestones in aerospace history, and one of the most remarkable of all human achievements—the first Moon landing by Apollo 11. But the summer of 2009 also marks another meaningful event in aerospace history. It is the centennial of military aviation.
The millions of visitors who pass through the doors of the National Air and Space Museum each year come to see the real thing, the actual air and space craft that shaped history – from the world’s first airplane to the back-up hardware for the latest robot spacecraft on its way to explore another world.
"People Standing on Wings" is probably one of the more obscure genres of aviation photography found in the Museum's Archives Division files. Originally, men and women stood on aircraft wings to demonstrate the strength of the wing and struts.