No trip to Ohio would be complete without a visit to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park with locations throughout the Dayon, OH area. Having been in aviation for almost half of my military career, I’m embarrassed to admit that I never really understood why North Carolina license plates claim “First in Flight” and Ohio license plates proudly pronounce “Birthplace of Aviation.” Well, after visiting multiple sites associated with the Natl Historical Park, I learned that even though the actual first flight happened at Kitty Hawk in NC, all the designing, planning, and refining of the Wright Brothers’ flying machine actually happened in their offices in Dayton and at Huffman Prairie Flying Field in OH.
The Visitors Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was closed the day I was there, but I was able to ride and walk the interpretive path at the site. According to one of the signs at the site, after their “59-second straight-line hop at Kitty Hawk, NC,” they knew they would have to refine their flying machine if aviation were to advance. But they needed a site that was flat and fairly secluded, away from prying eyes that might steal their ideas. They built what would become the first airport at Huffman Prairie, as well as a catapult with rail to launch their flying machine in shifting winds.
After walking the prairie airfield, I rode into Dayton and explored the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center. Located in the neighborhood where the Wright brothers once lived and worked, the center highlights the Wright brothers’ printing and bicycle businesses, their family history, and their association with poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (author of the poem I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings).
After spending most of the day exploring the origins of aviation, it was time to hit the road to Louisville, KY for a gathering of combat vets. I was only about an hour away when I realized I wasn’t going to beat the thunderstorm clouds gathering in the distance. Just as I was contemplating how long I should wait before pulling over to don rain gear, the sky lit up with several streaks of lightning. I immediately turned into the next driveway and pulled up under the awning of a VWF post in Madison, Indiana. A member was parking as I pulled off my helmet and the skies opened up, so he invited me in as his guest and I was able to wait out the weather in comfort and with company. In less than 45 minutes, the skies had cleared enough for me to hit the roads and continue my journey south.
Next up, a gathering of combat vets on two-wheels!
I’ve been in a musical mood lately so my comment is “I Believe I can fly”. As many times as we have traveled Ohio we never knew about this place.
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I only went to 2 if the multiple sites associated with the Natl Park, but I learned a ton!
That catapult is almost as interesting as the first “arresting gear” on the first carriers. The arresting gear consisted of ropes across the deck with sand bags tied to the ends, hanging off the deck. I never got an explanation of how they figured out how many sandbags were needed for the first landing. If it didn’t work, you got to ride the plane all the way to the scene of the crash.
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