Aviation history is pretty incredible. From the Wright Brothers to SpaceX, it’s been a wild ride over the past 100 years of powered flight. While visiting Ohio I got to visit the famous Wright-Patterson USAF Museum in Dayton, in addition to the Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop, all in one day. These two museums are packed with some of the best aviation history in the entire world.
Really, the most impressive one of the two is the USAF Museum. Not that they can really compare, as one is literally the conception of flight (the Wright Brothers) and the other is the execution of flight (the USAF Museum).
And really, it’s been a packed nearly 120 years of aviation. Speaking of just the theaters of war, you’ve got WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, Gulf War, Middle East War and everything in between.
The USAF wasn’t just involved in war, but also research. We know and recognize aircraft like the P-51, P-47, P-38, B-17, B-25, B-26, B-29, C-46 in WWII, to the F-111, F-4 Phantom, F-86, of latter years, all the way to the F-16, F-15, F-22, SR-71 Blackbird, B1 Lancer, B2 Bomber, etc, etc, etc. Gosh, the list is a mile long. And the museum was exactly that way. One amazing aircraft and airplane after another, in an endless array of beautiful flying machines.
Of particular interest in this video, to avoid boring you with a whole day of airplanes, I spent a little bit more time talking and sharing a few subjects. Namely, the Dolittle Raiders, the Memphis Belle, Bockscar, the Air Force One that brought Kennedy home after his assassination, and polishing up with the XB-70.
The Dolittle Raiders were a group of men on a secret mission not long after Pearl Harbor. They trained to launch B-25 Bombers from aircraft carriers on a secretive mission to bomb mainland Japan. Under this secrecy, they were found, before their planned time of departure, and had to launch early to avoid their carriers being sunk.
This meant that the pilots knew, beforehand, if they’d be able to make their planned escape route to parts of China where they could be rescued and repatriated. With longer to fly and less reserves, it was possible some wouldn’t be able to make it. All the pilots and brave aviators made the journey knowing this was the case.
I was able to meet Lt. Col. Dick Cole, who was Jimmy Dolittle’s copilot in the first airplane to launch from the carriers, just a few years ago at AirVenture. He’s since passed on, the last of the Dolittle Raiders.
What brave men!
Next we show you the Memphis Belle. Many of you probably saw the movie from the 90’s, which I still think is one of the better aviation movies made. Memphis Belle was one of the first B-17s to survive 25 missions, which was known as the time a crew could return home. At the time this was nearly impossible. After a harrowing final journey, they returned home and did war bonds tour. The B-17 that was the ACTUAL Memphis Belle was fully restored and is now on display in the USAF museum.
Next onto Bockscar, a Boeing B-29 Bomber, which we almost passed up. This aircraft dropped the second and final nuclear bomb on Nagasaki Japan, which essentially ended the war. It was an unimaginable tragedy, but one that likely saved far more lives than it took.
Now onto the Air Force One exhibit, where we came across many of the different types used by presidents. The most impressive was the actual Air Force One, a Boeing 707, that brought JFK’s body home after he was assassinated. They literally had to cut part of the cabin out and remove seats to fit his casket in.
Finally we come to the XB-70 which was capable fo flying around 70,000 feet at Mach 3+. It never did see production, but this prototype aircraft looks really impressive and futuristic. It’s hard to believe that it broke all those records in the 70’s. Makes you wonder what we have now.
And to end the day we went to a historical sight in Dayton, Ohio where the Wright Brothers once owned a bicycle shop. They started as businessmen running a bicycle shop, perfecting their engineering skills, before they pursued powered flight. It was literally in this spot that they dreamed and planned powered flight, which would forever change the world.
My time in Ohio was absolutely awesome. I enjoyed it a ton. Thanks so much to Flight Outfitters and Sporty’s for all their support and for the great trip.
Chief Flight Instructor and President of Angle of Attack. Founded in 2006.
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