All posts tagged 'National Aviation Day'

National Aviation Day: A Look Back at Aviation through the Years

Photo: Library of Congress

August 19th is National Aviation Day, a day on which many of us involved in aviation reflect on the past, present and future of our industry. Since it's the past that got us to where we are today - an aviation industry focused on innovation and technology - this year on National Aviation Day, take time to consider how far the aviation industry has come. From the earliest balloons to the Boeing 747, and from the Wright Brothers to the F-35, here are a few aviation highlights that will take you back in time.

Early Flight
Birds and Balloons - Before airplanes, scientists were studying birds, balloons, and other flying contraptions. According to the Library of Congress, the first kite was invented as early as 1000 B.C. in China. The Chinese later used kites to measure distances and for reconnaissance. As kites and other flying wings were being developed during this time, Leonardo Da Vinci was studying the flight of birds and developing designs for flying machines. Balloons became popular in the 1700s, after the Montgolfier brothers powered the first balloon flights.

The First Fixed Wing Aircraft - Balloons were no match for Sir George Cayley, also known as the Father of the Aeroplane, who first noticed and recorded the four forces of flight. Cayley also design the first fixed-wing aircraft and was perhaps the first modern engineer, researching and recording the first theories about stability & control and wing dihedral.

Langley vs. Gustav Whitehead vs. the Wright Brothers - In the early 1900s, Samuel Langley was designing and building the first airplanes with a grant from the U.S. government. Langley was unsuccessful, and during the same time, the Wright brothers successfully made the first flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Later, witnesses would claim the Gustav Whitehead had actually successfully completed the first manned flight in 1901, two years before the Wright brothers, but his flight are unrecognized due to lack of proof.

Going the Distance
The 1900s brought considerable advancements in aviation. With two world wars, competition was heavy, bringing many "firsts" in aviation and rapid progression.

Crossing the English Channel - 1909 brought the first crossing the English Channel by a heavier-than-air aircraft - a simple monoplane piloted by aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot.

US Airmail - In 1911, the U.S. started using aircraft for air mail. In 1911, the first U.S. airmail flight occurred. Many more would follow, and in 1914, with World War I about to being, The Benoist Company started the first scheduled passenger airline service between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida.

Crossing the Atlantic - In 1919, the infamous Vickers Vimy made the first nonstop Atlantic crossing while the military developed bombers and fighter aircraft. Charles Lindbergh completed the first flight solo nonstop Atlantic crossing in 1927, becoming an aviation legend.

The post-World War I era brought a surplus of inexpensive aircraft - specifically the Curtis JN-4 "Jenny" - to the civilian world, and people started flying these airplanes around to give rides and performing air show type stunts. These "barnstormers" as they were named, operated out of fields and traveled frequently.

Modern Flight
Post- World War I and World War II brought even more advancements, like instrument flight, jet engines, supersonic flight and a trip to the moon!

First Instrument Flight-In 1929, Jimmy Doolittle took off, flew and landed without any outside references. Doolittle is also credited with discovering the visual and motion limitations involved with instrument flight, including the idea of trusting the instruments over bodily sensations.

Jet Engines, Supersonic Flight and Moon Landings - The 1930s brought us the first practical jet aircraft - the HE-178 Heinkel - and Chuck Yeager's legendary flight that broke the sound barrier for the first time. By the 1970s, Boeing was making the 747 and the first Concorde entered service, capable of supersonic flight from New York to London in just less than three hours - incredible by anyone's account. And do you think Sir George Cayley or the Wright brothers have ever imagined we'd land on the moon in 1969?

While the supersonic transport aircraft industry didn't take off, today's technology is amazing, nonetheless. With airliners like the A380, capable of transporting over 800 passengers, stealth technology found in the B-2 Bomber and now the F-35, composite materials and electric powered aircraft, the aviation industry continues to advance in fascinating ways.

This year on National Aviation Day, what part of aviation history will you remember and celebrate?

Happy National Aviation Day!

Outside the office, tour guides here at Bowman Field (KLOU), presumably next door from Louisville Executive Aviation, one of the FBOs at the airport, or perhaps leaders from the local Civil Air Patrol, led a group of children around the tie-down area behind our building. Just after lunchtime today, they strolled through the line adjacent to one of the runways, looking at various aircraft on the field, mostly pistons, a couple Citations probably and a European trainer-fighter jet. The tour was fitting, as today is National Aviation Day.

In this post, we will pause and honor the history of flight, as well as recap how other groups are celebrating across the country. Why confine the commemoration to a single day, though?  In order to allow us to celebrate the feats and marvels that have taken place within the industry, many push back the schedule and observe the entire week as National Aviation Week. [more]


Events this week include:

A look at how an EAA Chapter reconstructed the 1940s crash of a warbird

Civil Air Patrol events take place in North Carolina and Alabama

A free event at the New England Air Museum in Connecticut

How to make a tiny airplane out of a few pieces of candy

Celebration at the Chennault Museum in Louisiana

Pilots in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania reflect on their passion to fly

Review some posts on the blog that detail aspects of aviation history

Oh yeah, by the way, it's also National Potato Day


The federal observation of National Aviation Day, which coincides with Orville Wright’s birthday, began 71 years ago today when President Franklin Roosevelt made the distinction with the stroke of a pen and a nod to the pioneers of controlled flight. The moment took place in an era that many look back as one that crested within a movement that sprinted toward today’s modern aviation.

Scrappy fighters and burly bombers played key roles in determining the fate of humanity in World War II. Within a year of Roosevelt’s declaration, Allied and Axis forces would see planes evolve from experimental objects into speedy military assets like the P-51 Mustang and A6M Zero that battled in the sky. The Germans flew the Heinkel He 178 during the era, the first usable jet, amongst a span of a few short years that saw rapid innovation in aviation and technology on both sides of the wire.

Planes like the B-29 Superfortress delivered greater payloads in increasingly efficient manner, and it forever changed warfare tactics and global politics by dropping a pair of atomic bombs on Japan.  Thus, Roosevelt’s decision to honor the spirit of aviation by setting aside a national day was a small but important key in boosting American defense and technological progress. When the war ended, it set the stage for even further development amongst aircraft.

Commercial aviation ballooned. Suddenly, cross-country and international travel became attainable to the public. Then, three decades after Roosevelt’s declaration, mankind took a giant leap and placed footprints on the moon.

Soon private space travel, too, will be within the realm of possibility. Today is a great day to reflect backward and, at the same time, imagine the possibilities ahead.

 Hopefully, you get a chance to celebrate the day by visiting an airport or aviation museum, while getting a chance pass the spirit on to others.

Drop a line in the comments section and let us know how you are celebrating the moment.  What do you think the world of aviation will look like when we celebrate the 100th National Aviation Day in 2039?

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