Dayton’s history in flight: Inventions and milestones go well beyond the Wright brothers

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Whether you’re from Dayton or not, we all know about the Wright brothers.

But not even Orville and Wilbur could have imagined the many feats of greatness spurred by the invention of flight, especially that were done in Dayton.

In celebration of the Dayton Air Show this weekend (get more information about the Air Show here), here’s a look at Dayton aviation facts you should know.

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The first flight

On Dec. 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, N.C., the Wright brothers made the first powered flight. The historic first flight of the Wright Flyer lasted 12 seconds and traveled 120 feet, with Orville as the pilot.

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FILE - Orville Wright is at the controls of the "Wright Flyer" as his brother Wilbur Wright, right, looks on during the plane's first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903. A backwards image of the Wright Flyer that appeared on the initial version of Ohio’s new license plate was added to the design early and never changed or questioned throughout the approval process, according to public records obtained by The Associated Press. The error was fixed only after the public unveiling in October drew attention to it. (John T. Daniels/The Virginian-Pilot via AP, File)

Credit: John T. Daniels

FILE - Orville Wright is at the controls of the "Wright Flyer" as his brother Wilbur Wright, right, looks on during the plane's first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903. A backwards image of the Wright Flyer that appeared on the initial version of Ohio’s new license plate was added to the design early and never changed or questioned throughout the approval process, according to public records obtained by The Associated Press. The error was fixed only after the public unveiling in October drew attention to it. (John T. Daniels/The Virginian-Pilot via AP, File)

Credit: John T. Daniels

Combined ShapeCaption
FILE - Orville Wright is at the controls of the "Wright Flyer" as his brother Wilbur Wright, right, looks on during the plane's first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903. A backwards image of the Wright Flyer that appeared on the initial version of Ohio’s new license plate was added to the design early and never changed or questioned throughout the approval process, according to public records obtained by The Associated Press. The error was fixed only after the public unveiling in October drew attention to it. (John T. Daniels/The Virginian-Pilot via AP, File)

Credit: John T. Daniels

Credit: John T. Daniels

The first factory

The Wright Company factory, founded in 1909, was the first factory established for the purpose of building airplanes. The first factory building was completed in 1910 and a second was added in 1911.

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Wright Company Factory Buildings are now part Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Dayton.

Credit: File

Wright Company Factory Buildings are now part Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Dayton.

Credit: File

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Wright Company Factory Buildings are now part Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in Dayton.

Credit: File

Credit: File

The first cargo flight

The Wright Brothers hired Philip Parmelee to fly a Wright-B Flyer from Dayton to Columbus on Nov. 7, 1910 to deliver 200 pounds of silk to a department store. The flight is considered the first use of an airplane to deliver cargo.

The first parachute jump

The first successful Army test jump with a free-fall parachute was completed at McCook Field on April 28, 1919. Floyd Smith and Guy Ball, who were both civilian employees at McCook field, designed the parachute used in the jump.

The first emergency parachute landing took place at McCook Field on October 20, 1922, when Lieutenant Harold R. Harris needed to jump from his Loeing PW-2A plane. The control stick malfunctioned, forcing his plane into a nosedive, and Harris jumped from 2,500 feet. He deployed his parachute at approximately 500 feet, after free-falling nearly 2,000 feet. While the pilot survived and landed safely in a grape arbor, the plane was completely destroyed.

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Parachute testing at Dayton’s McCook Field, a forerunner of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, circa 1918. DAYTON HISTORY

Parachute testing at Dayton’s McCook Field, a forerunner of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, circa 1918. DAYTON HISTORY

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Parachute testing at Dayton’s McCook Field, a forerunner of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, circa 1918. DAYTON HISTORY

Early work in aerial photography

In the 1920s, McCook Field pilot George Goddard realized the potential in using airplanes to take photographs. Goddard created the first aerial mapping units, directed photo coverage of the 1921 warship bombings, and made mosaic maps of many cities. This was all before he made the first night aerial photographs while he worked at McCook Field in 1925.

Though this technology was in its infancy during World War I, after moving to Wright Field in 1927, Goddard created specialized cameras that played a large part in aerial reconnaissance in World War II. His developments eventually led to the creation of U-2 and SR-71 spy planes, used in the Cold War, and ultimately spy satellites.

Advanced work in training

The world’s most advanced centrifuge was dedicated at the 711th Human Performance Wing on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 2017. G-force training and research has been conducted since the dawn of the jet age at the base. Maintaining fighter pilot G-tolerance is a critical part of flight physiology as the performance of the latest generation of fighter aircraft become more demanding of the pilots.

In 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives, by a vote of 378-3, declared Dayton was the “Birthplace of Aviation.” The U.S. Senate agreed by voice vote.

Historic aviation places to visit

The Wright Cycle Company: 16 South Williams Street, Dayton

This building is one of only two original Wright brothers buildings still standing at their original locations in the West Side neighborhood where the Wrights lived, worked and invented the airplane.

Huffman Prairie Flying Field: Gate 16A off Route 444, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

After their historic first flights at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903, the Wright brothers continued the development of their invention at the Huffman Prairie Field in 1904 and 1905. Later, The Wright Company operated a flying school there, from 1910 to 1916.

Today, the field remains much as it was when the Wrights flew their experimental airplanes over Torrance Huffman’s pasture. Attractions include a replica of the Wrights’ 1905 hangar, a replica of the catapult system they used to launch their early airplanes and interpretive signs erected by the National Park Service.

Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport: 10550 Springboro Pike (Rt. 741), Miamisburg

The Wright “B” Flyer, located at the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport, is a flyable look-alike of the world’s first mass-produced airplane, manufactured in The Wright Company factory in Dayton from 1910 to 1911. The replica was built by a group of local aviation enthusiasts, and the airplane is housed in a hangar that is similar to the Wright brothers’ 1910 hangar at Huffman Prairie Flying Field.

Wright Brothers Aviation Center at Carillon Historical Park: 1000 Carillon Historical Park, Dayton

Among the attractions at the 65-acre Carillon park is the original 1905 Wright Flyer III, the world’s first practical airplane. The Flyer III, housed in Wright Hall, was restored under the personal direction of Orville Wright. Wright Hall is flanked by the Wilbur and Orville Wright wings and is connected to a replica of the bicycle shop in which the Wright brothers built their 1903 airplane. The buildings are a part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park.

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force: 1100 Spaatz St. Dayton, OH 4543

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is the world’s largest and oldest military aviation museum. More than 360 aircraft and aerospace vehicles are on display, many are rare and one-of-a-kind. In addition, you’ll find thousands of historical aviation artifacts.

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park: 16 S Williams St, Dayton, OH 45402

The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park has exhibits dedicated to every phase of the lives of Orville and Wilbur Wright. Uncover their childhood to their careers as businessmen with their printing and bicycle shops, through to their accomplishments as aviation pioneers. In the same building is the Aviation Trail Parachute Museum featuring artifacts from the parachute collection of Dave Gold.

Champaign Aviation Museum: 1652 N. Main St. Urbana, OH 43078

At the Champaign Aviation Museum, you’ll get a close-up look at historic aircraft. More than stationary museum pieces, these aircraft have been, or are being, restored to fly again.

Historical WACO Field and WACO Airplane Museum: 1865 S. County Road 25A, Troy, Ohio

The WACO airfield is a working airfield similar to that of the grass airfields of the 1930s and 1940s, the approximate era during which the airplanes built at the WACO factory in Troy dominated the civilian airplane market. The WACO Airplane Museum includes aircraft, artifacts, historic photographs and other exhibits related to the WACO Aircraft Company and the aircraft it produced.

The airfield buildings also house a Learning Center, vintage aircraft restoration area, reference library and gift shop, and one section of the field is available for radio-controlled model airplane flying throughout the year.

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