National Aviation Day (United States) – 19th August

“Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued a presidential proclamation in 1939 which designated the anniversary of Orville Wright’s birthday to be National Aviation Day. The proclamation may direct all federal buildings and installations to fly the US flag on that day, and may encourage citizens to observe the day with activities that promote interest in aviation.”   (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Aviation_Day)

Thank you Wikipedia.   I’m not a US citizen (yet!) But as a bona-fide dyed-in-the-wool aviation nut,  I couldn’t let the day pass without making some aviation related comment.   This afternoon, I was sitting waiting for a medical appointment reading David McCullough’s excellent book The Wright Brothers and being amazed or fascinated by a few pieces of trivia I dredged up.  I then went browsing through Wikipedia for a picture of the Wright Flyer and although I found a couple, I saw a couple of much more interesting and touching snippets of information which I feel inclined to pass on here.

Firstly from The Wright Brothers,  I found out that:

  • Orville and Wilbur travelled to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 – it was one of the longest trips they had made from Dayton, Ohio at that point.
    I spent many happy hours (and still do) teaching a little bit about the “White City”  in my American History course,  and one semester the class read Erik Larson’s excellent book The Devil in the White City  about Daniel Burnham, the Director of Works of the Exposition, and H.H. Holmes, possibly America’s greatest serial killer of the age whose grim ‘hotel of death’ preyed on visitors and others in the Chicago suburb of Englewood.
  • While Wilbur was demonstrating the Wright Flyer III in Le Mans in 1908,  he met Louis Blériot.  It shouldn’t be a surprise,  but it was still fascinating to read.  It also highlighted the sheer amount of risk that Blériot‘s flight across the channel the following year represented.

From Wikipedia I found out the following about pieces of the flyer itself:

  • Portions of the original fabric and wood from the flyer traveled to the surface of the moon aboard the Apollo 11 lunar module. The pieces are on display at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

    Wright Flyer fragments

    Presentation plaque containing portions of the Wright Flyer transported to the Moon and back by Apollo 11.  (NASA)

  • Portions of original wood and fabric were taken by North Carolina native astronaut Michael Smith aboard the space shuttle Challenger on mission STS-51-L which as we know was destroyed on liftoff on January 28, 1986. The portions of wood and fabric were recovered from the wreck of the shuttle and are on display at the North Carolina Museum of History.
    Fragments of the Wright Fflyer taken aboard STS-51-L By RadioFan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

    Fragments of the Wright Flyer taken aboard STS-51-L
    By RadioFan (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

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