National Aviation Day, a celebration of the nation’s aviation history, is observed each August 19. The date coincides with Orville Wright’s birthday and was established in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Dayton is the birthplace of aviation and the region continues to benefit the advancement of flight. Here are 7 things to know about the region’s history and contributions to aviation:
1. One of a kind. The only airplane designated a National Historic Landmark, the Wright Flyer III, is located at Carillon Historical Park’s Wright Brothers Aviation Center. This aircraft was considered by the Wrights as the most important of their work as it was flown at Huffman Prairie to refine the control of flying machines. The Wright Flyer III is on display in Wright Hall, which was designed with input from Orville Wright.
As Orville Wright was laid to rest at Woodland Cemetery in 1948, a formation of P-80 jet planes passed over in tribute. The grouping was “battle-type” but with just four planes, the fifth was absent in honor of Wright.
“The planes made two other passes over the cemetery, dipping their wings on the final pass in honor of a departed brother,” the Dayton Daily News reported.
2. Cutting edge technology. 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.
By practicing a G-straining maneuver in the centrifuge, pilots learn how to counteract the blood pooling G-force by tightening and flexing muscles in the legs, butt and abdomen to keep more blood in the brain.
3. A repeat visit. The Memphis Belle, along with her crew, was the first Army Air Forces heavy bomber to fly 25 missions over Nazi-held Europe and return to the United States.
The iconic World War II bomber is now on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force but it had originally flown to Dayton decades ago.
In 1943, the Memphis Belle flew into Dayton during a war bond tour of 30 cities. The tour, a way to raise money and boost morale, was dubbed the “26th mission.”
4. Aircraft parade. A parade of historic aircraft closed down local roadways in 1970 as the caravan rolled toward its new home, the United States Air Force Museum.
The “circus parade,” as it was described in a Dayton Daily News article, slowed after a Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star jet trainer rubbed its right wing tip along the railing of a bridge over the Mad River.
Highway signs and signal lights were taken down, tree limbs cut and chain link fences were “peeled back” to make room for the larger airplanes’ sprawling wing spans.
5. Bury the lede. On Dec. 17, 1903 in Kitty Hawk, N.C., the Wright brothers made the first powered flight. But in the days after the local media just never seemed to grasp the historic event.
Under a headline, “THE WRIGHT BOYS ARE COMING HOME” an underwhelming brief with a Norfolk, Va. dateline was published in the Dec. 19 edition of the Dayton Daily News.
“Orville and Wilbur Wright, inventors of the “Wright Flyer,” which made several successful flights near here Thursday, left today for their home in Dayton, O., to spend Christmas with their parents.”
6. Say cheese. Charles Lindbergh, the famed aviator, made a visit to Hawthorn Hill, the historic Wright family mansion. On June 22, 1927, a month after his 1927 solo transatlantic flight.
Lindbergh briefly stepped out onto a balcony to greet a crowd that had gathered. The only known photograph of the event, taken by William Preston Mayfield, captures the crowd waving toward the balcony. But the angle the photo is taken from does now reveal Lindbergh himself.
In 2017 Lindbergh’s grandson visited and recreated the moment. This time he was caught on camera.
7. Birthday questions. Days before Orville Wright would celebrate his 75th birthday on August 19, 1946, Dayton Herald reporter Marj Heyduck interviewed him for a story commemorating the occasion.
“When you reach 75, birthdays aren’t so unusual anymore. Wright said. But “there IS one question nobody will ask me on my 75th birthday – a question which is often asked of other persons who reach 75 – and that is: “When are you going to take your first ride in an airplane?”
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