Put your tray tables in their full and up-right position and make sure your seat belt is securely fastened. For those who have a love for aviation, scattered across the U.S. are an amazing selection of winged attractions just waiting for folks to take to the air to “touch and go” again and again.
The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., maintains the world's largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft with 50,000 artifacts. It is complemented by the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, across the Potomac River in Chantilly, Va., with two hangers displaying large air and space craft.
Let Kitty Hawk be your second destination. Here on the Outer Banks, Wilbur and Orville Wright found the optimum conditions to test their invention. Visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial and feel the wind at your back.
On to Dayton, Ohio, home of the Wright Brothers. Follow the trail created by the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and discover the Wright Cycle Company Complex, Carillon Historical Park with the original restored 1903 Wright Flyer and Huffman Prairie Flying Field where the two perfected flight. Nearby is the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the world's largest and oldest military aviation museum.
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site honors the nation’s first black military aviators. Before 1940, African Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military. Following pressure from the media and civil rights organization, an all African-American pursuit squadron was formed in Tuskegee, Ala. These Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II.
Charles Lindbergh flew solo from New York to Paris in 1927. He designated the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis the recipient of his personal affects. The Lindbergh collection includes photos, memorabilia and papers, as well as a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis, the Ryan airplane flown by Lindbergh on his historic journey.
Wichita, Kan., known as the “Air Capital of the World,” is the home of the Kansas Aviation Museum that showcases restored planes created locally by such well-known names as Boeing, Beech, Mooney and Stearman. Learn how this cowboy town, famous for the Chisholm Trail, became a leader in airplane manufacturing.
Colorado Springs, Colo., is the home of Pikes Peak and the United States Air Force Academy. Visit the school’s multi-spire chapel and learn about traditions of the airmen.
The Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Ariz., presents 200 restored aircraft from a Wright Brothers plane to the SR-71 Blackbird. The nearby graveyard has more than 5,000 aircraft from World War II to U.S. presidential planes.
Visitors can take the only public tour of a commercial jet assembly plant in North America outside Seattle in Mukilteo, Wash., at the Future of Flight® Aviation Center and Boeing Tour. The center features everything from airplane designs, materials, engines and flight systems to flight simulators.