The dream of flight is as old as human history. Based on the outstanding collection of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, Book of Flight traces the remarkable story of the pioneers, inventors, scientists and pilots who turned this dream into reality.
An exciting journey through time, the book includes such remarkable achievements as:
New and updated for this edition:
Packed with fascinating illustrations and photographs, Book of Flight is ideal for enthusiasts of all ages.
Judith E. Rinard was a staff writer for National Geographic, where she specialized in scientific subjects for more than 20 years.
Imagine a time when people only dreamed of flying, when the sight of a jet streaking across the sky would have been astounding, and the idea of launching a rocket into space too fantastic to comprehend. You may be surprised to learn that time was not very long ago. It is possible that someone you know was born before airliners and jets even existed.
The stories you are about to read -- and the amazing pictures you will see -- capture the wonder and excitement of a history that is still unfolding. At the dawn of the 20th century, the first powered aircraft took to the skies. Now the International Space Station is a reality. And in the first years of the new millennium, engineers are developing reusable space vehicles, designing airplanes that will fly at five times the speed of sound and exploring a human mission to Mars.
The pioneers of flight paved the way for a future filled with adventure and achievement, a fact demonstrated every day at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum's two sites -- the flagship building on the National Mall in Washington and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
Filled with history-making aircraft and spacecraft, our buildings brings to life the work of the inventors and scientists who created these machines, and explain how our world is changing because of the progress in aviation and space exploration. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Book of Flight celebrates the Museum's famous collection and reveals highlights of its many exhibitions and displays.
In this book, for example, you will be introduced to Wilbur and Orville Wright. As children they made and flew kites. When they got older they designed and built bicycles. Soon they were able to put their mechanical skills to use in achieving their dream and on December 17, 1903, on a windswept beach near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they flew their first powered airplane. Millions of people come to see the original Wright Flyer at the Mall building every year. In this book you'll also meet Samuel Pierpoint Langley, a scientist and engineer who ran the Smithsonian Institution and competed with the Wrights to build the first piloted powered flying machine. His failed Great Aerodrome hands in the Udvar-Hazy Center.
People also come to the Mall building to see other early airplanes like the Spirit of St. Louis. In it, a 25-year-old airmail pilot named Charles Lindbergh flew nonstop from New York to Paris in 1927, a 33 1/2 hour flight that six other pilots died trying to achieve. Five years later, Amelia Earhart became the first woman pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic. Her bright red Lockheed Vega sits in the Mall. At the Udvar-Hazy Center, you'll see another Vega, Wiley Post's Winnie Mae, which made two record-setting around-the-world flights in the early 1930s.
Aviation's powerful influence on world history is shown in military exhibits. In the Book of Flight, you'll learn all about famous battles and discover how the first bombers and fighter planes worked. You will meet heroes like America's World War I flying ace, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, as well as other military legends such as Baron Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the "Red Baron."
The courage of World War II fliers is shown in the inspiring story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American fighter pilots. This skilled and daring group fought against great odds to defend our country on two fronts -- against the enemy in Europe and against racial prejudice at home.
Both the Mall building and the Udvar-Hazy Center feature famed artifacts from the major wars of the 20th century. The museum continues to collect the newest fighter aircraft including those that are controlled by crews who remain on the ground.
By the middle of the 20th century, aircraft designers were focusing on speed. Suspended from the Mall building's ceiling is the Bell X-1, a bright orange, bullet-shaped plane equipped with a rocket engine. In 1947 an American test pilot named Chuck Yeager accelerated it to 700 miles per hour to break the sound barrier for the first time. At the Udvar-Hazy Center, you'll see a real Concorde, the only successful airliner to carry passengers beyond the speed of sound.
Not long after supersonic flight was achieved, the race to conquer space was on. In 1962 America's effort to orbit the earth was successful. Astronaut John Glenn's Mercury Friendship 7 capsule is in a Mall gallery. At both Air and Space sites, hundreds of displays and artifacts -- rockets, capsules, tools, vehicles, equipment, space suits, even space food -- tell the remarkable story of space exploration. In the Udvar-Hazy Center you can even see the special quarantine trailer that was home to the first moonwalkers after they returned to Earth. They were kept inside the trailer in case they had brought back moon "germs." Thankfully they didn't. One of the Mall building's most popular displays features a rock from the lunar surface in 1972 by Apollo astronauts.
The Air and Space Museum, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is the length of three city blocks, opened in 1976 and became one of the world's most visited museum. The Udvar-Hazy Center, which opened in 2003 to mark the centennial of the Wright brothers' historic breakthrough, features an aviation hanger ten stories high and three football fields long.
At the Udvar-Hazy Center, many engines, rockets, satellites, helicopters, airliners, and experimental flying machines are displayed for the first time in a museum setting. The center will ultimately be home to some 200 aircraft and 200 large space artifacts.
As Director of the National Air and Space Museum, I feel I am one of the luckiest people on the planet. I have the chance to be in some of the world's most fascinating buildings every day. I also know what it is like to be in the cockpit, having served for many years as a Marine Corps pilot. In addition, I played a role in the space program by working at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Although my career has included many roles, the one I care most about is being a father and grandfather. It is for this reason that I want to preserve and share the magnificent history and technology of aviation and space exploration.
In little over 100 years, we have come a long way. But for future generations, the best is yet to come.
General John R. "Jack" Dailey, USMC (Ret)