Posts Tagged ‘aviation’

SI Research Notes: The Wright Flyer

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Linda Stevens is the Field Notes Coordinator for Smithsonian Journeys. Combing the Institution for interesting projects happening around the world, she prepares these research notes especially for travelers. Click here to learn more about Linda.

The centerpiece of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) is the 1903 Wright Flyer. But its journey to Washington, D.C. from Kitty Hawk, NC was long and complicated.

The 1903 Wright Flyer began to acquire the status of a national treasure in the 1920s as a feud developed between Orville Wright and the Smithsonian. The dispute centered on the Institution’s public display of the aeronautical achievements of its former Secretary, Samuel Langley, and its reluctance to credit the Wright brothers as the true inventors of the airplane. Langley had tested his aircraft, the Aerodrome, in October 1903 and again two months later. Both times it failed to achieve sustained controlled powered flight.

Orville Wright at controls of the Wright Flyer and Wilbur running alongside at Kitty Hawk, 1903. Photo: Library of Congress

Orville Wright at controls of the Wright Flyer and Wilbur running alongside at Kitty Hawk, 1903. Photo: Library of Congress

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Albuquerque by Air

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Tom Crouch is Senior Curator of the Division of Aeronautics at the National Air and Space Museum, and many Smithsonian Journeys travelers have had the pleasure of attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta with his knowledgeable guidance. Tom is now completing his latest book, Lighter than Air: A Concise History of Balloons and Airships. Click here to learn more about Tom and traveling with him.

There is nothing quite like Balloon Fiesta! For nine days every October, the sky over Albuquerque is filled with hundreds of colorful balloons in all shapes and sizes. There are mass ascensions, when as many as 600 balloons will take to the air in less than two hours. Visitors to the Fiesta watch as pilots compete to see who can come closest to a target. The intrepid aeronauts entered in the America’s Challenge gas balloon race will launch one evening, with the prize going to the team that flies the farthest before landingoften thousands of miles and many days later. Then there are the special shapesballoons shaped like animals, snowmen, flowers, advertising iconsyou name it. At the end of each day, Fiesta Park “glows” as hundreds of hot air balloons fire their burners and light up their envelopes while tethered to the ground. Fireworks cap the evening festivities.

Balloons fill the sky at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Photo: Courtesy Flickr user dherrera_96

Balloons fill the sky at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Photo: Courtesy Flickr user dherrera_96

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