Airplanes

“Bessie Coleman (above: with her Curtiss JN-4 "Jennie" in her custom designed flying suit, ca. 1924) was a real gutsy woman for the era,” says Dorothy Cochrane, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. "Anyone else might have quit at any time.”

For Pilot Bessie Coleman, Every 'No' Got Her Closer to 'Yes'

Despite fierce obstacles in her path, the Black female aviator became a hero that would pave the way for generations to come

"As soon as this idea of aerial application for farming began to take shape, nearly everyone agreed this was the way to go,” says Dorothy Cochrane, curator at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, where one of only two known to exist, is on view.

The Little 'Puffer' That Could, and Did, Change an Industry

The Huff-Daland Duster ushered in the era of agriculture aviation

The T-38 Talon that Jacqueline Cochran flew, pictured before its recent restoration.

When Jackie Cochran Flew This Jet, She Broke All Kind of Barriers

The spirited aviator came out of poverty to soar to great heights

On October 24, 1944, the Battle of Leyte Gulf had just begun when two Hellcat pilots U.S. Navy Capt. David McCampbell and his wingman Ens. Roy Rushing spotted a squadron of 60 Japanese aircraft, including bombers escorted by Zeroes (above: a 1943 photograph of Grumman F6F Hellcats in flight).

In One Mission in October 1944, Two F6F Hellcats Shot Down a Record 15 Enemy Aircraft

U.S. Navy Pilots David McCampbell and Roy Rushing made history in a heroic air battle over the Leyte Gulf

Smoke pours from the west wing of the Pentagon building September 11, 2001 in Arlington, Virginia, after a plane crashed into the building and set off a huge explosion.

Smithsonian Voices

Smithsonian's Chris Browne Was the Manager at Ronald Reagan National Airport on 9/11

The acting director of the National Air and Space Museum reflects 20 years later on the rapid grounding of air traffic across the US

Flight attendant Lorraine Bay carefully recorded every flight she worked in this log book, found near the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

September 11

Thirty-One Smithsonian Artifacts That Tell the Story of 9/11

From a Pentagon rescuer's uniform to a Flight 93 crew log, these objects commemorate the 20th anniversary of a national tragedy

Fixed up to look like "Dusty," the Disney animated aircraft that had high-flying aspirations, the Air Tractor AT-301/400A became a hit at air-shows following the success of the first film and its 2014 sequel Planes: Fire and Rescue.

Disney's Dusty Crophopper—the Little Airplane that Could—Comes to the Smithsonian

Iconic Air Tractor aircraft on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center this Saturday

The P-51 Mustang was the darling of the Army Air Forces. Aerodynamically agile and acrobatic, the aircraft was fast and furious in its effectiveness in downing enemy aircraft.

The P-51 Mustang Was the Quintessential Aircraft of the World War II Era

In duels over Eastern Europe, the agile fighter scored kill after kill

The Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1a Schwalbe, meaning Swallow, held in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum was captured in 1945 by a special U.S. Army Air Force team led by Col. Harold Watson. The Americans and British, who were also developing jet aircraft, used captured Swallows to enhance their own programs.

The Day Germany's First Jet Fighter Soared Into History

Allied pilots were surprised by the aircraft's speed and armament; but it was a case of too little too late

An undated photograph shows Wally Funk standing with a U.S. Air Force jet.

Trailblazing Pilot Wally Funk Will Go to Space 60 Years After Passing Her Astronaut Tests

Wally Funk, the youngest of the 'Mercury 13,' will join the inaugural crewed flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard capsule

“The shape of the Spitfire's wing and all of the compound curves on the airplane made it beautiful,” says the Smithsonian's Alex Spencer, curator of British and European military aircraft at the National Air and Space Museum.

Remembering the Supermarine Spitfire, Iconic Fighter Plane of World War II

'Spit' pilots flew their first combat missions over Dunkirk during the Battle of France

"You can never safely operate a flying bomb," says historian Dan Grossman.

Cool Finds

Watch Newly Resurfaced Footage of the Hindenburg Disaster

A PBS documentary investigates the cause of the infamous 1937 explosion that tanked the airship industry

Stratolaunch's large aircraft, nicknamed 'Roc,' flew for three hours and 14 minutes and reached a maximum altitude of 14,000 feet.

World's Widest Airplane Completes Successful Second Test Flight

Stratolaunch's "Roc" aircraft has two fuselages and a wingspan of 385 feet

Reopening July 24, 2020, the Smithsonian's 300,000 square-foot Udvar-Hazy Center includes singular, memorable and colossal items of air and space history.

Twelve Must-Sees When the Smithsonian Reopens Udvar-Hazy Center May 5

The massive showcase facility offers plenty of space for social distance along with plenty of air and space travel history

The Soviet MiG-15, a formidable aircraft, shocked the West with its ability to do hit-and-run attacks. The National Air and Space Museum displays one of these jets in the Boeing Aviation Hangar of its Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

The Day Soviet Aircraft Attacked American Pilots

On that April 'Black Thursday' 70 years ago, the air war over Korea changed as the Allies scrambled to counter the superior MiG-15 jet fighter

The Ingenuity helicopter is scheduled to attempt flight this week no later than April 8 after the Mars rover completes its first mission of transporting the small chopper to a flat "airfield" free of obstructions.

Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Holds Piece of Wright Brothers History

Secured under Ingenuity's solar panels is a stamp-sized swatch of fabric from the Wright Flyer

The “Spirit of Tuskegee” hangs from the ceiling at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The blue and yellow Stearman PT 13-D was used to train Black pilots from 1944 to 1946.

The Legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen Soars on the Wing of This World War II Aircraft

The 80th anniversary of the first Black flying unit is a time to recall the era when military service meant confronting foes both at home and abroad

Ida Holdgreve answered an ad for "plain sewing"–a typo that turned a new page in women’s history.

Women Who Shaped History

How Ida Holdgreve's Stitches Helped the Wright Brothers Get Off the Ground

In 1910, Orville and Wilbur Wright hired an Ohio seamstress, who is only now being recognized as the first female worker in the American aviation industry

Aviation pioneer Henry “Hap” Arnold (above: with the Fly Fortress "Memphis Bell") lead the Army Air Force to victory in World War II and later establish the U.S. Air Force as the best in the world.

How Gen. Henry 'Hap' Arnold, the Architect of American Air Power, Overcame His Fear of Flying

Despite his phobia, the five-star general built the U.S. Air Force

Jessica Cox sitting in her Ercoupe.

Smithsonian Voices

The World's First Licensed Armless Pilot Is a Devoted Advocate for People Facing Similar Challenges

Jessica Cox, author of 'Disarm your Limits: The Flight Formula to Lift You to Success,' motivates people around the world to overcome their differences

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