Prairie Aviation Museum in Illinois

The Prairie Aviation Museum, located in Bloomington, Illinois, aims to educate, entertain and inspire visitors with its meticulously preserved collection of aircraft, artifacts and memorabilia relating to aviation. It is here that visitors can explore more than a century of flight – from the earliest times that man took to the skies, through the developments that have brought us to high-tech aviation as we know it today. The story of flight is a fascinating one, and the Prairie Aviation Museum aims to keep that story alive for the benefit of current and future generations.

Featuring permanent and rotating exhibits, the Prairie Aviation Museum also has a mini-theater and historical aircraft and vehicles displayed outdoors. The museums Carrier Display documents developments in Naval air power, including that of aircraft carriers, following the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan in 1941. The Charles Lindbergh Display details events related to this legendary pioneer of flight who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 33.5 hours in 1927. Other displays include the Illinois Astronauts Gallery, Link Trainer Display and Rosie the Riveter – the iconic image dedicated to women working in defense plants during WWII.

Many of the military aircraft at the museum are on loan for public display, with the proviso that these aircraft be accurately restored to their original state. This rather daunting task requires intensive research into the history of each aircraft, followed by hours of painstaking restoration work. With the assistance of outside resources, most of this work is done by volunteers, as they diligently restore aircraft in compliance with requirements set out by the United States Air Force and Navy Museums. The work does not stop once the aircraft are restored and approved for display, as maintaining the aircraft is an ongoing process. To this end, member volunteers and visitors are encouraged to adopt an aircraft, and then make it a group project to keep it in mint condition.

With nine aircraft at the museum, and plans to add to the collection, there is always a call for new volunteers at the Prairie Aviation Museum. Aircraft on display are: A-4 Skyhawk; A-7 Corsair II; AH-IJ SeaCobra; F-4N Phantom; F-14D Tomcar; F-100 Super Sabre; T-33 Shooting Star; T-38 Talon; and UH-1H Huey. Volunteers of all ages offer their skills, experience, time and effort to help preserve aviation history at the museum. Some of the work carried out by volunteers include administration, public speaking, advertising, mechanics, maintenance, pilots, engineers, security, restoration, wood working, art, transportation, writing, tour guide, photography, video, radio, public relations, history and research.

By means of flight simulators, visitors to the Prairie Aviation Museum will have the opportunity to get behind the controls of an aircraft in an immersive virtual environment to experience the wonders of flight, without a pilot’s license. Certainly a visit to the Prairie Aviation Museum is an outing that the whole family can enjoy and will no doubt engender new respect for the pioneers of flight, and the developments that have taken place over the years.

College Park Aviation Museum

Affiliated with the renowned Smithsonian Institution, the College Park Aviation Museum in the State of Maryland provides educational exhibits, programs, tours, and special events for the general public, school groups and tourists. Located on the grounds of the airport where Wilbur Wright gave flight instruction to the very first military aviators in 1909, the museum was opened in 1998 and is dedicated to researching and promoting the history of the development of aviation.

The state-of-the art building covers an area of 27,000 square feet, with areas large enough to display original and replicated historic aircraft along with a host of artifacts and multi-media information – making the world of aviation both entertaining and educational. Interpretive areas and hands-on activities ensure that children of all ages come to appreciate the wonders of flight, and exhibits change on a monthly basis to keep visitors coming back time and again. The museum offers a venue with a difference for children’s birthday parties, and events such as the Model Rocket Workshop can be enjoyed by all ages.

With more than a century of aviation history, College Park Airport is the oldest continually operating airport in the world. In addition to its association with the famous Wright Brothers, the airport has been home to some significant milestones in aviation history. For example, in October 1909, Lieutenant Frederic Humphreys was the first military pilot to fly solo in a military airplane after receiving flight instruction from Wilbur Wright. In 1911 the first Army Aviation School was opened at the airport, and in the same year the first bomb-aiming device was tested when inert bombs were dropped from the air, using a bomb-sight invented by Riley E. Scott. In 1912, a Lewis Machine Gun was fired from a Wright B airplane, and Lieutenant Henry “Hap” Arnold achieved the first mile-high flight. The first US Postal Air Mail Service operated from College Park Airport between 1918 and 1921, and in 1924 the first controlled helicopter flight was successfully carried out. Between 1927 and 1935 the Bureau of Standards developed and tested the first radio navigational aids.

Today aviation seems to know no bounds, with new innovations taking place at breath-taking speed. The College Park Aviation Museum recognizes these innovations, while paying tribute to the pioneering adventurers who first took to the skies.

Take to the Skies in an Ultralight

Ultralight or microlight aviation generally refers to an aircraft that seats either one or two people and became very popular during the 1970s through to the 1980s, as it was more affordable than other aircraft. Due to the development in popularity of this type of aircraft, each country set up their own rules and regulations in regard to ultralight aviation, taking into account speed and weight, with allowances being made for amphibian and seaplanes. Some countries also make allowances for the installation of ballistic parachutes, meaning that there are no internationally recognized regulations, as each country has their own guidelines.

In affluent countries such as the United States and Canada, a large number of their civil aircraft consist of ultralight planes. The strictest regulations in regard to ultralight or microlight aircraft are in Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Italy. In the United Kingdom, New Zealand and India, the usual term is ultralight, while other countries will refer to these aircraft as microlights if they are three axis aircraft and depending on their weight. Varying from country to country, ultralights are viewed under the general aircraft specifications, requiring that pilots and aircraft have the necessary certifications.

Generally microlight and ultralight aircraft are used for sport and leisure, but pilots need to ensure that they are aware of the rules and regulation of their country before they lift off. For instance, under the Federal Avaition Regulation, an ultralight aircraft has a maximum speed of fifty-five knots, has a five gallon fuel capacity, is a one-seater aircraft, and has a maximum powered weight of two hundred and fifty-four pounds. In Australia, ultralights fall under their Recreational Aviation regulations and allows for two seats with a maximum of five hundred and forty-four kilograms as take-off weight. It is therefore vital for pilots to ensure they know the regulations of their local aviation authority.

Ultralights are also divided into various categories, such as weight-shift control trike, powered parachutes, powered paragliding, powered hangglider, autogyro, and electric powered ultralights. Due to the high number of ultralight accidents that were recorded, it is standard regulation in most countries that pilots must have a certification or license to pilot an ultralight. There are also numerous academies that offer ultralight pilot training and certification to ensure the safety of pilots and their passengers.

The Federation Aeronautique Internationale

Founded in the year 1905, the head office of Federation Aeronautique Internationale, a governing body in the world of aviation, is located in Switzerland. It keeps record of achievements within the aviation industry, and it does not limit itself to airplanes, but records aeronautics, astronautics and even air sports that include everything from air balloons and unmanned aviation vehicles to spacecrafts. The Federation Aeronautique Internationale therefore regulates the sport of flying as set out by the Olympic Congress, and rewards the achievements in various disciplines.

Some of the activities that are governed by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale include aeromodelling, aerobatics, ballooning, rotocraft, gliding, hang gliding, general aviation, parachuting and microlighting. The Yuri A. Gargarin Gold Medal was created in 1968 by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, and has been awarded to aircraft in various classes. The classes are as follows: Class A – Free Balloons, Class B – Airships, Class C – Aeroplanes, Class CS – Solar Powered Aeroplanes, Class D Gliders & Motorgliders, Class E – Rotorcraft and Class F – Model Aircraft. Class F has five subdivisions that consist of Class F1 – Free Flight, Class F2 – Control Line, Class F3 – Radio Control and Class F5 – Electronically Powered Model Aircraft. The remaining classes include Class G – Parachuting, Class H – Vertical Take-Off and Landing Aeroplanes, Class I – Manpowered Aircraft, Class K – Spacecraft, Class M – Tilt-Wing / Tilt Engine Aircraft, Class N – Short Take Off and Landing Aeroplanes, Class O – Hang Gliding & Paragliding, Class P – Aerospacecraft, Class R – Microlights and Paramotors, Class S – Space Models and Class U – Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

Most of the record breaking events that have been recorded by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale have been made by military aircraft, and all records have to exceed standing results by a predetermined percentage. Military aircraft seem to perform well when looking at height, speed, payload and distance, while civilian aircraft take over other divisions. Even though some records are not officially recognized by the organization, they are recorded by their individual countries. To have an achievement recorded by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, records have to meet strict standards set by the federation, and thus all records on their list are of world class standards.

Tour the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

The USS Intrepid was nicknamed The Fighting “I” and was commissioned into military action in 1942, during World War II. She was used as an aircraft carrier and was instrumental in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. After a short decommission, she underwent a modernization process and rejoined the United States Navy as an attack carrier in the 1950s. Intrepid also fulfilled a role as an antisubmarine carrier and participated in the Vietnam War. She also assisted the space industry by being the recovery ship for the Gemini and Mercury missions. Even though she was instrumental in various missions, she also spent a lot of time in the dry docks for repairs. She was officially decommissioned in 1974.

Intrepid was brought back into duty in 1982, not as the war machine she was originally but as a museum that is now known as the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. As one of the most prolific war ships in the history of the United States, it is only fitting that she would become the vessel that would educate the public and visitors on the history of war. She also stands as a monument to all the soldiers who worked aboard her, as well as every soldier who fought in the same wars she did. Almost a million visitors walk aboard the Intrepid each year, and there are exhibits for both young and old to enjoy, also providing interactive exhibits and educational programs for school groups. The A-6 Cockpit Simulator is one of the most popular attractions in the museum, as well as the Fleet Week celebrations that are hosted by the museum to honor all military personnel.

The Hangar Deck is the heart of the Intrepid. It is the major indoor exhibit of the museum, as it takes visitors on an in-depth tour of the ship that has so much historical value. The Flight Deck goes hand in hand with the Hangar Deck, as it not only allows visitors to experience the adventure of discovering the bridges and islands of ship, but has a massive display of aircraft. Visitors are also allowed to explore the restoration tent where these historical aircraft are kept in pristine condition, and a concord is amongst the collection. The Exploreum Hall is an extension of these first two decks as it focuses on the history of the Intrepid, as well as zones made especially for children where space, life on the seas and in the air is highlighted. For those who have always dreamed of exploring a submarine, the Growler Museum will give them that opportunity, as well as a look at a missile command centre that was once a top secret facility. The Gallery Deck hosts the Pilot Ready Room, information on marine berthing and a variety of combat information. After exploring this massive ship, visitors to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum are invited to get a bite to eat at the mess deck or at the Au Bon Pain Café.

New Boeing Factory in China

Monday, 18 April 2011, was a big day for both China and Boeing, as the plans to construct an addition to their existing factory were unveiled. Aviation Industries Corporation of China, along with Boeing, has entered into a joint venture that will see a new division of the factory in Tianjin produce more composites for the aviation industry. The factory, known as Boeing Tianjin Composites Co, will be able to expand with the $21 million investment Boeing has made, and the factory will be able to run at full production capacity by the year 2013.

Boeing Tianjin Composites has been vital to the production of components used on a variety of Boeing’s aircraft, such as the 777, 737, 747-8 and 787. Companies such as Goodrich, Korean Aerospace Industries and Hexcel rely on Boeing Tianjin Composites to provide them with the components they need. Outsourcing is no longer a questionable route to go for major companies, and it is estimated that almost nine thousand six hundred aircraft are dependent on the parts supplied by China. Current value of the partnership that the Chinese aviation industry has with Boeing is estimated at $2.5 billion. The expansion of the factory is a positive gesture for China, as they believe that it will encourage Boeing to assist the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China with their new venture, which is the production of an aircraft named the C919. It will be a passenger jet aircraft, and if all goes well and according to schedule, the aircraft will be ready for release by the latest 2014.

Commenting on the new addition to the factory, Boeing Supply Chain Management and Operations General Manager, Ray Conner, commented: “It is win-win cooperation. Our Chinese partner will provide high quality components to increase Boeing’s capacity, which in turn boosts our employment in China.” The new addition, which covers an area of fifty-five thousand square meters and provides floor space of twenty-five thousand square meters, will increase employment. To date, Boeing’s involvement in China, with direct and related businesses, has already created approximately twenty thousand employment opportunities within the country.

Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum

Located in a picturesque setting alongside the Hood River at the Oregon airport, the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAAM) is home to an impressive collection, including more than 80 aircraft and over 130 automobiles, motorcycles, tractors and military jeeps, the majority of which are still in good working order. With over two acres of indoor hangar displays, a visit to the WAAAM is not dependent on the weather and is a great venue for a family outing. Moreover, on the second Saturday of every month the displays get mobile, with planes taking off and landing, and antique vehicles cranking up to go.

The restoration and upkeep of the Museum’s airplanes and vehicles is carried out by gifted and dedicated volunteers who make sure that not only are the engines in working order but they are kept in peak condition. Instead of gathering dust in a showroom, the majority of the aircraft, whether purpose built for recreation, work or military use, are regularly taken out and put through their paces in the sky.

The Museum’s ‘Crown Jewel’ is the Curtiss JN-4D. Commonly referred to as ‘Jenny’, the Curtiss JN-4D was the military training aircraft of choice during WWI and was used by both England and the United States. Following the war, the Curtiss Airplane Company refurbished the military airplanes for civilian use, where they became popular as barnstorming airplanes – travelling from town to town to entertain the locals with acrobatics and wing-walking. Other antique airplanes at the museum include a 1928 Boeing 40C, a 1929 Curtiss Robin, and a replica of a 1912 Curtiss Pusher.

The antique military vehicles at the WAAAM are often used in parades, while the military aircraft perform ceremonial flybys on special occasions. Visitors to the center on the second Saturday of the month may get the opportunity to take a drive in one of the military vehicles, with the driver ready to share a war story or two with his passengers. Among the antique military vehicles are the standard all-purpose Willys Jeep and Ford GPW, along with the two-wheeled Bantam trailer.

The pride of the antique civilian automobiles is undoubtedly the 1927 Ford Model T which was one of the last Model T’s to be built before production of this distinctive little car came to an end in May 1927. Other vehicles on display include a 1933 Harley Davidson and a 1925 Ford Model T 1-Ton Truck, which has quite a story attached to its discovery and subsequent restoration.

So pick a date, plan an outing and visit the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAAM) Website for more information.

Seagull Made of Metal

Joachim Huyssen, from the Nortwest University located in South Africa, started rethinking the principles and technologies that apply to aerodynamics and how to create an aircraft that was energy efficient. He began collaborating with Geoffrey Spedding, from the University of Southern California, and together they began creating an aircraft that now closely resembles a bird we often marvel at, namely the seagull. Nature is often looked at when it comes to aviation technology, although the men have confirmed that though their design resembles a seagull, it was purely by accident.

While Spedding was in South Africa, Joachim Huyssen approached him with his design ideas, which were extremely unconventional. Even though the design was unique in many ways, Spedding was intrigued by the new challenge and jumped on board as a collaborator. The new energy efficient and aerodynamic body of the aircraft is short, as well as the tail being best described as stubby. The fact that it does not have a conventional tail means that there is less drag on the aircraft and its bowed wings (gull wing configuration) are therefore the instruments that are moved to control pitch and stability. Most of the technology in regard to aviation has already been tried and tested, but when it comes to designing more fuel efficient aircraft, the challenge is still out there and there are new frontiers to be explored.

Spedding was quoted saying, “The most important point is that we may be wasting large amounts of fossil fuel by flying in fundamentally sub-optimal aircraft designs. At the very least, we can show that there exists an alternative design that is aerodynamically superior. One may argue that there is now an imperative to further explore this (and perhaps other) designs that could make a significant difference to our global energy consumption patterns.” As the fuel consumption and environmental crisis become more of a threat, there will be a greater need for more energy efficient forms of transportation, and currently, Spedding and Huyssen find themselves on the frontlines of new discoveries in regard to aviation. The new aircraft designed by them might be a familiar sight in our skies sooner than we might anticipate.

Frontiers of Flight Museum

Located in Dallas, Texas, the Frontiers of Flight Museum was founded in November 1988 by a group of aviation enthusiasts – Jan Collmer, Kay Bailey Hutchison and William Cooper – who wanted the public to have the opportunity of viewing priceless documents, artifacts and photographs chronicling the journey of aviation from its earliest days through to today’s high-tech commercial, military and aerospace craft. The majority of the exhibits at the Frontiers of Flight Museum are from the collection donated by aviation historian George E. Haddaway to the University of Texas at Dallas. This noteworthy collection has been added to over the years and visitors to the museum now have access to an extensive range of fascinating exhibits, including a number of restored and well preserved aircraft.

The Dallas/Fort Worth region has long played an important role in global aviation, which is well supported by the exhibits at the museum and by the fact that it is referred to as the “Aviation Capital of the World”. Visitors to the Frontiers of Flight Museum can imagine what it would have been like to be a pioneering aviator in the airplanes of the 20s and 30s, a time period that came to be known as the “Golden Age of Flight”. It took great courage, and certainly a sense of adventure, to take to the skies at a time when aviation was just starting to spread its new-found wings. On a more serious note, visitors can get the sense of dedication and duty of the brave pilots of World War II as they patrolled the skies to protect their countries, or went on the attack as part of war strategy.

Taking pride of place in the museum is the “Lighter Than Air” collection, focusing on the famous LZ-129 Hindenburg Zeppelin which measured 803.8 feet in length, was kept aloft by means of seven million cubic feet of hydrogen, and carried 50 passengers as well as between 50 and 60 crew members and freight. It took this amazing aircraft three days and two nights to cross the Atlantic Ocean between Frankfurt, Germany, and Lakehurst, New Jersey, at an average cruising speed of 77 mph. Sadly, the Hindenburg went up in flames at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station on 6 May 1937 with 35 people losing their lives. Among the items on display at the museum is the radioman’s chair from the Hindenburg, as well as items from other airships operating at the time.

Stepping into the present, and looking toward the future, the Frontiers of Flight Museum details the rapid development of aviation since World War II, reminding us that as far as aviation and aerospace technology is concerned – the sky is surely not the limit.

It’s Healthier to Fly than Drive

I don’t like to write about airplane crashes. For one thing, they’re depressing. I also don’t like to write about them because too many people out there are already afraid of flying, and I don’t want to add to their anxiety. Flying, in my opinion, is one of the most fun things you can do. Another reason I don’t write about plane crashes is because dying in one is much less likely to happen than dying in a car crash, so again, why alarm people?

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