Museum of Airplanes
The idea of human flight fascinated people long before the technology existed to build aircraft. Gliders and other similar craft were built and tested, but true flight was not achieved until 1903. In December of that year, Orville Wright piloted a propeller-driven biplane near Kitty Hawk, NC. The initial flight lasted only 12 seconds, but Orville and his brother Wilbur Wright proved that airplanes could fly. Since that time, advancing technology has allowed planes to go faster and further, and to serve many purposes that the Wright brothers could not have dreamed was possible.
The Wright 1905 plane is known as the world’s first practical plane, since their earlier efforts flew only very short distances. As soon as the plane was introduced, others began to improve on the design and test other configurations based on the physics that allowed it to fly. The early years of aviation were built on innovation and excitement, which sometimes led to flight but more often just led to bizarre-looking contraptions.
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force – The museum’s website offers a look at all of the planes in their collection, including early planes and the first planes produced for the U.S. military.
Classic Air Shows – The website offers an informative article about the early years of flight, titled “The Birdmen and Their Early Airplanes.” The article was originally published in Air Trails Magazine during February of 1946.
U.S. Air and Space Museum – The U.S. Air and Space museum has one of the nation’s most comprehensive early flight exhibitions. The collection features 3 Wright brothers’ airplanes as well as many gliders and early planes.
Unmuseum – Planes have not always looked as they look today. The Unmuseum website showcases pictures and articles about many of the strangely-designed aircraft from the early years
World War I
World War I began in July of 1914, barely a decade after the Wright brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk. Planes, however, quickly proved their usefulness as a tool of reconnaissance. As the war progressed, pilots also began firing machine guns and dropping bombs, creating the first bomber squadrons.
Have Fun With History: World War I Aviation – The World War I Aviation website hosts videos and information about WWI naval aviation as a part of the “Have Fun with History” initiative.
Museum of Flight – The Museum of Flight has an extensive collection of WWI planes and aviation memorabilia on display, and each piece is also catalogued on the website with pictures and a description.
WWI Aviation – WWI Aviation offers a pictorial look at the planes and other aircraft flown during the first world war.
The Aerodrome – The Aerodrome hosts a comprehensive look at the airplanes used in WWI, as well as the men who flew them.
Between World War I and World War II technology advanced greatly in many areas, including aviation. Planes became lighter and faster, and were constructed out of metal instead of wood and fabric. By the beginning of the war, long range bombing was possible and was used extensively.
Museum of Flight – The Museum of Flight in Seattle has a large collection of WWII fighters on display.
U.S. Air and Space Museum – As a branch of the Smithsonian, the U.S. Air and Space Museum exhibits a large collection of WWII airplanes. The collection is housed at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.
Dave’s War Birds – The website offers picture galleries of the American aircraft of WWII.
Ace Pilots – Ace Pilots hosts a comprehensive table of specs for all aircraft used by both allied and opposition forces in WWII.
Aviation during the Korean War often came down to pilot skill, as there were frequent dogfights between the similar Korean MiG-15s and the Air Force’s F-86 Sabres. In addition to bombers and reconnaissance, planes were used for another purpose for the first time in the Korean War. The Pacific Airlift ferried supplies from the United States to the troops in Korea and also carried wounded soldiers back to the states.
National Museum of the Air Force – The National Museum of the Air Force in Ohio has a large exhibition of planes and artifacts from the Korean War. The entire collection is also catalogued and available to view on their website.
Korean-War.com – This website about the Korean War includes a list of Korean war aircraft, sorted by country and military branch. Each entry on the list links to information about each plane and pictures of the aircraft in action.
Air Force Magazine – “Air Force Aircraft of the Korean War,” from the July 2000 issue of Air Force magazine, includes comprehensive specs of each aircraft used by the U.S. in the Korean war.
Military Channel – The website of the Military Channel offers videos of Korean War aircraft and aviation from the channel’s programs, including cockpit tours and in-depth looks at the MiG’s role in the war.
While the U.S. entered the war with the world’s largest and best-equipped air force, the terrain in Vietnam did not allow the type of strategic and wide-ranging bombing that had succeed in previous wars. Instead of dogfighting and dive-bombing, electronic equipment such as lasers and other methods of guiding missiles became important.
Far From Glory – This website about the war in Vietnam includes a comprehensive list of aircraft used during the conflict.
Vietnam Gear – The Vietnam Gear website features a large collection of photos of vietnam-era aircraft from every country involved in the conflict.
Vietnam Online – This webpage offers a look at the weapons and aircraft used in Vietnam, sponsored by PBS’s Vietnam Online, a part of their “American Experience.”
U.S. Navy - The “History” section of the Navy’s website hosts an online version of Edward J. Marolda’s book By Sea, Air, and Land. This book is a pictorial look at modes of transport used by U.S. forces during the Vietnam War.
Planes and rocket-propelled missiles played a central role in the Cold War. With the advances that were made in aviation during World War II planes could reach almost any target within 24 hours. Paired with the introduction of the nuclear bomb, a country with nuclear capabilities could seemingly destroy an enemy with little warning.
National Museum of the Air Force – The National Museum of the Air Force website offers a look at all of the planes exhibited in their Cold War Gallery.
National Cold War Exhibition – This website hosts comprehensive information about cold war aircraft including pictures and specs. The site also provides a timeline of the war and other information.
Environmental Graffiti – The website Environmental Graffiti provides a top-10 list of the most bizarre experimental aircraft of the cold war, including pictures.
Prop Wash Gang Silent Warriors – The site’s tribute to silent warriors includes a list of aircraft that were shot down during the cold war. It provides the origin, final destination and incident details as well as specs for many of the planes.
Advancements in aviation and flight have not ceased. In the early 1990s, planes played an integral part of the Gulf War. They were also used frequently in the Iraq War and continue to be of great importance in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Militaries and private contractors dedicate billions of dollars each year to advancing aviation technology.
Airliners – Airliners hosts photographs and specs for a listing of all modern military aircraft.
Milavia – Milavia provides a directory of modern aircraft and includes more than 1,700 pictures.
The Blueprints – This website offers blueprints of modern aircraft. Blueprints include commercial, private and military planes.
Defence Talk – This online magazine features articles about the military today, including Comparison of Modern Fighter Aircraft, a piece comparing and contrasting modern military aircraft from around the world. The article was first published in August, 2005.
By the mid-1950s, both the Soviet Union and the United States realized they were close to possessing the technology to launch a rocket into space. The Soviet Union reached this milestone first, launching Sputnik 1 in 1957. In April of 1961, they also became the first to put a man in space, when Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit Earth aboard the Vostok 1. Alan Shepard became the first American in space less than a month later. Since that time, advancements in aviation technology have allowed men to walk on the moon, to live for months on orbiting space stations and send unmanned ships to Mars and the outer planets.
Museum of Flight The Museum of Flight has a large spacecraft exhibition. The centerpiece of the collection is the shuttle trainer used to train NASA astronauts for life aboard the space shuttle.
U.S. Air and Space Museum – The space shuttle Discovery is among the large collection in the Space Hangar at this Smithsonian museum. The website features many pictures of the collection as well as a live webcam of the hangar.
NASA – This webpage is the official NASA page about the orbiter fleet. Links are provided to learn more about other spacecraft used by the agency.
NASA Space and Rocket Center – The NASA Space and Rocket Center is a museum located in Huntsville, Ala. The center exhibits a large assortment of retired NASA craft, from early rockets and lunar exploration craft to modern spacecraft. The website includes pictures of much of the collection.
Great Achievements – The website offers an airplane timeline, showing notable events and aircraft that made aviation history.
Have Fun with History – Beginning with attempts to build aircraft in the late 1800s, the videos showcased on the website tell the history of aviation. The material is designed for students, but is interesting to adults as well.
Military Factory- Military Factory maintains a comprehensive list of all known military aircraft, both from the U.S. and from other countries.