Franklin Delano Roosevelt made August 19 the official National Aviation Day with a presidential proclamation in 1939. The date honors Orville Wright’s birthday and the year reflects a particularly exciting time in aircraft development.
It was the tail end of what has come to be known as the Golden Age of Aviation. Only 36 years had passed since Wright made the first powered flight in a kite-like, heavier-than-air craft, but much had changed. Aviation had grown into a bustling, highly competitive industry marked by innovative developments and widespread experimentation.
Pioneer pilots were regularly setting records for speed, distance, and altitude while pushing airframe and engine technology to the limit and often beyond. With World War II on the horizon, aviation was about to prove its strategic importance domestically and abroad.
Today, aircraft of various shapes and sizes are common sights, yet they remain technological marvels. Aviation Day is a time to reflect on how far aviation has come and consider where it might head in the future. Below are museums and other organizations holding events to mark the occasion.
National Aviation Day
First Flight Society National Aviation Day Celebration
Dare County Regional Airport (KMQI)
Manteo, North Carolina
The First Flight Society will celebrate its fourth annual National Aviation Day event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The free event includes warbirds and other aircraft on display, numerous exhibitors, food trucks, and more. Presentations will include keynote speaker Larry E. Tise, a renowned historian who was the Wilbur & Orville Wright Distinguished Professor at East Carolina University from 2000 to 2015. Tise will give a talk titled “The Elusive Orville Wright from Kitty Hawk and Beyond.“
Wright Brothers National Memorial
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
First Flight Airport (KFFA)
If you are already in the Outer Banks area for the festivities at KMQI, you should stick around for an evening program at the Kill Devil Hills site where the 1903 Wright Flyer made history. The National Park Service and its partner organization, Outer Banks Forever, will welcome J. “Bob” Balaram of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who will give a series of talks on Friday and Saturday. Those unable to attend in person can stream the events. Balaram was chief engineer for NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its development, testing, and mission on Mars. The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter made its first Martian flight on April 19, 2021, marking the first powered flight on another planet.
Wings Over the Rockies Museum
Centennial Airport (KAPA)
Celebrate National Aviation Day with pay-as-you-wish admission at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. Numerous exhibits include the Bell UH-1M Iroquois helicopter, affectionately known as the Huey, which helped transform the nature of mobile warfare during the conflict in Vietnam. There is also a three-quarter scale model of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing fighter. You might also check out the museum’s Exploration of Flight center at Centennial Airport. The Air & Space Museum is roughly a 14-mile drive from the airport.
Henry Ford Museum
Detroit City Airport (KDET)
We tend to associate Henry Ford with the auto industry but the man sought to move aviation into the mainstream in the same way that he transformed car travel with his Model T. The museum includes a range of aircraft from a Wright Flyer replica to Ford and Fokker tri-motor transports. To help mark National Aviation Day the museum is offering free tours of its Heroes of the Sky exhibit, a flight-themed story time and experiments in aerodynamics using everyday household materials.
Community Fly-In Friday: National Aviation Day
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Members of Microsoft Flight Simulator forums are planning virtual fly-ins to mark National Aviation Day. The group plans to fly to Dayton, Ohio, Orville Wright’s birthplace. Dayton’s other links with aviation include Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The group plans to depart from Godman Army Airfield (KFTK) in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and includes a flight plan and suggested aircraft to fly in its announcement.