Exciting Edutainment at the National Soaring Museum
Located at Harris Hill near Elmira (the ‘Soaring Capital of America’), New York, the National Soaring Museum was established in 1978 and is dedicated to preserving the history of motorless flight. It features an impressive collection of gliders for visitors to view, while offering a range of fun educational programs and access to computerized flight simulators. Moreover, the museum oversees the National Landmark of Soaring program which currently recognizes sixteen sites as having had a significant impact on the history of motorless aviation in the United States.
Visitors to the museum can expect to see a large collection of gliders on display, some of which date back to the late 1890s and many of which are on permanent display, having been restored at the museum’s Restoration Shop. These include two gliders built by Backstrom (1954 and 1963), jokingly referred to as ‘flying planks’; four gliders by Bowlus nicknamed ‘Super Albatross’, ‘Baby Albatross’, and ‘Senior Albatross’ (1933-1942); a 1896 Chanute-Herring glider; three 1930 Franklin PS-2s; two gliders by Goppingen, nicknamed ‘Minimoa’ and ‘Wolf’; Nelson gliders ‘Dragonfly’ and ‘Hummingbird’ (1949 and 1953 respectively); fifteen gliders built by Schweizer between 1937 and 1972; and two Wright glider replicas.
Educational programs include the popular “Sleep with Sailplanes” – an overnight camp which includes a tour of the museum; fascinating presentations on meteorology and aeronautics; a hands-on ‘aerogami’ experience of paper sailplane construction and flight testing; cockpit orientation; building a full-scale replica of the wing rib of a 1902 Wright Glider; testing flying skills on computerized flight simulators and an overnight stay at the museum.
Named in honor of Col. Eileen Collins of Elmira, who was the first American woman commander of a Space Shuttle, the Eileen Collins Aviation Camp hosted by the National Soaring Museum features a week-long program offering children the opportunity to discover the wonders of aviation, among other activities. The program includes bus trips to the Eileen Collins Observatory, the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, the Elmira-corning Regional Airport flight tower and the Schweizer Aircraft Corporation. Presentations by various groups, a sailplane ride, a power plane ride and a tethered hot air balloon ride are other aspects of the camping experience, as are swimming, picnic lunches and building and launching a rocket.