National Aviation Day celebrates history of flight

by Senior Airman Travis Whittington
97th Intelligence Squadron

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb — The art of aviation has come a long way since the ballooning regiments of the Army Air Corps and the Wright brothers.

On Aug. 19, National Aviation Day, Americans had the opportunity to celebrate the more than 70-year history of flight and milestones along the way.

On Dec. 17, 1903, Orville Wright succeeded in flying a total of 120 feet for 12 seconds around the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk, N.C. This feat gained world-wide recognition along with successful business opportunities for Orville and his brother Wilbur, as well as creating the first military aircraft prototype for the U.S. Army in 1908.

This led to further industrialization of military aircraft.

Because of aviation and the important role it has played in military and transportation history, National Aviation Day has been celebrated since President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed it as a federal holiday in 1939.

Americans celebrate this event yearly to promote the importance of American aviation. Whether used for transportation or military purposes, people recognize National Aviation Day as an opportunity to learn and appreciate the gift of flight.

Select schools and organizations recognize this day by participating in aviation-related activities, as well as attending aviation museums, and discuss important events and advancements of flight throughout history.

Offutt’s 55th Wing operates extensively in the field of aviation and provides recreational flight opportunities as well. Offutt’s Lemay Aero Club offers personal pilot training to allow people to obtain their pilot license and become an experienced flyer.

"General aviation is really the back-bone of aviation in this country," said Aero Club Manager Cole Weidenbusch. According to Mr. Weidenbusch only a few select states are serviced by small general aviation airfields.

Although the aero club is doing nothing specifically on National Aviation Day, Mr. Weidenbusch noted the importance of all aviation and the impact that it has on military and civilian lifestyle. For example, a person with a private pilots’ license has the benefit of expedited transportation, lower TDY costs and personal aircraft travel.

The Lemay Aero Club offers a number of pilot license opportunities from smaller to large-engine aircraft. On average, 40 percent of active club participants are non-military flyers who express interest in flight and typically accrue 35 hours or more to gain their license. Whether for a military or civilian aviator, the club offers the opportunity to gain flight experience.

Although National Aviation Day is officially recognized on Aug. 19, according to Mr. Weidenbusch, everyday is an important day for aviation. (Airman Whittington is a volunteer staff writer in 55th Wing Public Affairs)