National Aviation Day: 7 ways to celebrate
National Aviation Day falls on Saturday, August 19.
National Aviation Day was created in 1939 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to celebrate the birthday of Orville Wright and highlight the industry's achievements. In honor of this day, we've put together a list of seven things every AVGeek must do in his or her lifetime.
1. Go to a major air show
The must-attend show for all aviation enthusiasts is the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture, the world's largest aviation celebration. Taking place on the last week of July in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Wittman Regional Airport becomes the busiest in the world, handling over 10,000 aircraft movements. Attendees can see thousands of aircrafts on display, ranging from the Boeing 787 to a spectacular display of World War II aircrafts. You can also attend aviation-themed workshops, visit vendor booths, watch aerial shows, indulge in a plate of cheese curds and watch aviation-themed movies at the Fly-in Theater.
2. Visit an aviation museum
The Washington, D.C., area is home to two locations of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. The downtown D.C. outpost is home to the Spirit of St. Louis, the Bell X-1 jet that General Chuck Yeager flew while breaking the speed of sound and the original studio model of the Starship Enterprise featured in the wildly popular 1960s television show Star Trek. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, near Washington Dulles International, is home to an Air France Concorde, the Boeing 367-80 — a precursor to the 707 jet — and Space Shuttle Discovery.
Some other great aviation museums to consider visiting are:
- The Museum of Flight in Seattle, home to numerous aircraft, spacecraft and galleries.
- The Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, where you'll find museum exhibits and reproductions of the 1903 airplane and 1902 glider.
- The Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona, features a boneyard spanning 2,600 acres and containing 4,000 retired aircraft.
- The Air Museum of Flying in Palm Springs, California, is one of the few museums that allow its visitors to climb inside and explore the exhibits.
3. Take a general aviation discovery flight
Flight schools and general aviation airports across the country offer discovery flights for sightseeing and passengers curious about aviation. Most offer rides on a four-seat piston aircraft like a Cessna Skyhawk or a Piper Cherokee to view cities and towns from a higher view. A discovery flight on average can cost $99 but it is well worth it for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. And who knows? It could be the start of your journey to becoming a pilot.
4. Fly in a hot air balloon
When thinking of aviation, people tend to forget about hot air balloons. They allow passengers to see a city like Palm Springs from a unique vantage point. Balloon Rides Across America offers more information on how to book a hot air balloon ride from certified operators all over the U.S.
5. Become a plane spotter
Airports across the country have great spots for aviation geeks to spot commercial aircraft, but the number-one plane-spotting destination is the Sunset Bar and Grill in St. Maarten, across from Princess Juliana International Airport. Planes swoop down so low on final approach that it's almost unreal. Other great plane-spotting locations include Gravelly Point, a grassy knoll where you can watch an aircraft's final approach coming into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C., or if you like to eat while you plane spot, head to the In-N-Out Burger near Los Angeles International Airport.
6. Visit an aircraft manufacturing plant
It's a thrill for aviation geeks to visit an aircraft production line. The greatest to tour is the Future of Flight Aviation Center, home to the Boeing Factory Tour in Everett, Washington, just 20 minutes north of Seattle. Visitors can take a look at the 747, 777 and 787 jets on the production line during one of the aviation center's 90-minute tours. Or head down south to Piper Aircraft in Vero Beach, Florida, for a facility tour.
7. Fly on an airline's final or inaugural flight
United launched service between San Francisco and Munich, Germany on May 24, and it was quite a party. Airlines like United like to celebrate inaugural flights or new aircraft launches by holding formal ceremonies, throwing celebrations and providing certificates to mark the occasion. It's fun for both the passengers and the crew to participate in these milestone events.