Road Trip: Aviation history in Ohio
It wasn't until a decade ago that Congress settled a longstanding dispute between Ohio and North Carolina: Congress affirmed that Ohio, indeed, is the nation's birthplace of aviation.
Though aviation-themed attractions pepper the Buckeye State, the House resolution specifically recognized Dayton, some 256 miles west of Pittsburgh, as the birthplace. Although Wilbur and Orville Wright took their test flight in 1903 at North Carolina's Outer Banks, on a hill called Kitty Hawk, Dayton is the Wright brothers' hometown. They made their flight plans in Dayton, and constructed the plane in their bicycle shop there. The city contains 14 aviation attractions and sites.
According to NASA, 25 astronauts in American history — including Neil Armstrong and James A. Lovell Jr. — came from Ohio.
With all of these flight connections, it's no wonder that so many aviation-theme attractions are just a few hours away from the western border of Pennsylvania by car. For a full list of the aviation sites throughout Ohio, visit consumer.discoverohio.com
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7824.
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
While you're by the Air Force base, visit the National Museum of the United States Air Force, said to be the oldest and largest military-aviation museum in the world. The museum includes more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles, presidential aircraft and a B-2 Stealth Bomber exhibit. Next year, a new, 200,000-square-foot building will house three new galleries, including the Space Gallery.
Details: 937-255-3286 or www.nationalmuseum.af.mil
Also, check out the National Aviation Hall of Fame, where you'll learn about the many larger-than-life figures from air travel history, including space exploration. Figures include the Wright brothers, of course, along with Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh and astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong.
Details: 888-383-1903 or www.nationalaviation.org
Carillon Historical Park
You can continue your Wright-themed journey at Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, which includes 30 historic buildings among a 65-acre campus just south of downtown Dayton. One of the artifacts there is the 1905 Wright Flyer III, which is the world's first practical airplane. Also at the park is Hawthorn Hill, Orville Wright's home and a National Historic Landmark, which still has original furnishings and his study.
Details: 937-392-2841 or www.daytonhistory.org
Tri-State Warbird Museum
South of Dayton, in the greater Cincinnati area, visit the Tri-State Warbird Museum in Batavia. Here, you'll learn about aviation history by exploring restored and fully operational vintage aircraft, many used in war battles. The museum also includes exhibits such as a replica of World War II barracks used by members of the 353rd Fighter Group of the Eighth Air Force while stationed in England.
Details: 513-735-4500 or www.tri-statewarbirdmuseum.org
International Women's Air & Space Museum
Closer to Pittsburgh, in Cleveland, is the International Women's Air & Space Museum, which focuses on the roles females have played in aviation. You can learn about prominent women pilots and other aerospace workers, like Amelia Earhart, Jackie Cochran and the WASPs — Women Airforce Service Pilots On display are artifacts including the “Pretty Purple Puddy Tat,” a Smith mini-plane built and flown by Tracy Pilurs.
Details: 216-623-1111 or www.iwasm.org
In Dayton, you might start out with the Aviation Trail, a driving tour that will take you to several stops with flight-theme attractions in or near Dayton.
On the trail, you can make stops at places including the Wright Cycle Co., where it all started, and the Wright Memorial — erected in 1940, and re-dedicated in 1998 after a reconstruction. The memorial, located at Dayton's Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, honors the flight pioneers and overlooks the Huffman Prairie Flying Field, where the Wright brothers conducted tests of their early airplanes. Many of the world's first pilots were trained at this field, where you can see a replica of the 1905 airplane hangar and a replica catapult system.
The WACO Air Museum and Aviation Learning Center, in nearby Troy, tells the story of the WACO Aircraft Co., a major manufacturer of civilian airplanes in the 1920s and '30s.
Another site along the drive is the Aviation Trail Parachute Museum, which displays the collection of David Gold, who designed, sold and serviced parachutes. The Parachute Museum is at the Aviation Trail Visitor Center & Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center.
To download an Aviation Trail brochure, visit www.aviationtrailinc.org
Some sites on the aviation trail are part of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, which is a collaboration between the National Park Service and the region's most valuable historic sites.
Details: 937-225-7705 or www.nps.org/daav