Have you ever stopped and wondered who came up with the idea of aviation, or where it all began? Maybe you have heard stories of the Wright brothers, but never really appreciated what a monumental impact they had on the world today. Perhaps you learned in school that North Carolina is where it all began, but you have heard recently that this is not exactly true. Could taught history be incorrect? Absolutely! It may have taken more than a century, but in November 2004, Congress labeled Dayton, Ohio as the National Aviation Heritage Area.
Wilbur and Orville Wright are famous for their first flight in 1903, but it was in the late 1800s when the idea began. To capitalize on the bicycle craze, the brothers opened a bike sales and repair shop in 1892 and by 1896 were manufacturing their own brand. They were intrigued by flight, despite the fact that two people had recently been killed while hang gliding. They knew they could perfect upon whatever had gone terribly wrong.
In 1899 wing warping was put to the test with a biplane kite and their ideas quickly progressed. Although the brothers did journey to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for gliding experiments, everything they created was built in their bicycle shop in Dayton.
For years they tweaked and tested and then on 17 December 1903, history would be changed forever. The flight was not much. It lasted 120 feet and only 12 seconds, but it was controlled, and there were people there to witness it. This was one of the greatest moments of the entire century. The Wright brothers actually flew three additional times that day, with the final flight lasting 59 seconds and carrying Wilbur 852 feet.
Advancements in Aviation
As if being the home state to the Wright brothers is not enough, Dayton is also responsible for many advances in aviation as well. The city is well known for its high concentration of aviation and aerospace technology. In fact, two of the country’s most significant research and development organizations have been born here as well. These include the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC). The Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is headquarters to both organizations.
Places to Visit
Whether you live in the area or are visiting, there are a few places you must visit to learn more. These attractions are as interesting as they are educational.
- National Museum of the United States Air Force – This museum is amazing! There are several replicated airplane hangers from the Wright brothers, as well as a rocket engine, missiles, an Apollo capsule and even a drone. It literally takes you from the birth of aviation to the present.
- Air Force Museum Foundation – This venue is separated into three timelines. You will find planes, and space-related items from the Wright brothers, WWI, WWII, Vietnam War, Cold War, and space travel.
- Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park – This place is actually operated by the Parks Department, and there are interactive exhibits here, so it is ideal for children. The rangers here are friendly and extremely knowledgeable, so if you have questions while you are browsing through do not hesitate to ask. There is a very good chance that they have an answer for you.