The Day the Music Died: 55 Years Ago, February 3, 1959.
This is the Civil Aeronautics Board’s Accident Report of Buddy Holly’s deadly plane crash in Iowa on February 3, 1959. It includes details of the weather, a map of the location and a description of what the “entertainers” were doing in Iowa. On page two, we see the name of Buddy Holly as “Charles Hardin” and the other musicians — “The Big Bopper” (J.P. Richardson), and Ritchie Valens (Richard Valenzuela), who were traveling with him.
You can take a look at the entire 13 pages of the report here: Aircraft Accident Report , 02/03/1959.
"GYRO" FLIES TO CAPITAL! 12/19/1928
An autogyro piloted by H.F. Pitcairn flew from Philadelphia to Washington DC, passing landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument, in this newsreel from December 19, 1928.
I Saw Kitty Hawk: Film, Memory, and Archives
December 17th marks the 110th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ historic flight at Kitty Hawk. To celebrate the day, our colleagues in the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Lab have shared I Saw Kitty Hawk, featuring a first-hand account from a man who claimed to be present at the first Wright brothers flight:
The man is not identified in the film, and there is no further information in the production file. However, a little research turned up this 1962 article with details similar enough that we can reasonably say that this is Frank B. Wood. According to Wood’s story, he and automobile racing pioneer Barney Oldfield were present for the Wright brothers’ earliest flights in Kitty Hawk.
Wood’s story, although compelling, is not without critics. In First in Flight: The Wright Brothers in North Carolina, author Stephen Kirk disputes Wood’s version of events.
Certainly, there are elements of Frank Wood’s story that seem more likely to be embellishment, like his claim that it was Barney Oldfield that made a crucial suggestion to change the wing that made the December 17th flight possible. But which parts are fact and which are fiction?
Perhaps we can explain the discrepancies with the adage (commonly attributed to Mark Twain) that advises one should “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” In the case of the making of this little Air Force film, it could be that Wood’s account was too interesting to spend much time fact-checking. Maybe we don’t need to know whether Wood was there since it has no bearing on the events of December 17th, 1903 or the Wright brothers’ historic flight.
But it certainly makes a good story.
Does anyone out there have more information that could add to our understanding of this film? We would love to hear from you.
Wright Brothers Take Flight
On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first successful sustained powered flight of a heavy-than-air vehicle near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Surfman John T. Daniel of the U.S. Life-Saving Service snapped this picture when the Wright Flyer made its historic first flight.
“Original Wright Brothers 1903 Aeroplane (‘Kitty Hawk’) in first flight, December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, NC. Orville Wright at controls. Wilbur Wright at right (First flight was 12 seconds)”
By Orville Wright and John T. Daniels, December 17, 1903 (165-WW-7B-6); Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs; Record Group 165; National Archives.
[12/17/2013 1:00pm - Correction made to photo ID number]
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Celebrating Aviation with Magee’s “High Flight”
You may be familiar with these lines—the first of John Gillespie Magee, Jr.’s 1941 sonnet “High Flight”. Many of us likely recognize them from President Ronald Reagan’s speech on the day of the Challenger disaster, but “High Flight” has a much longer history with aviators and astronauts.
In 1966, astronaut Michael Collins took the text of the poem with him into space during the Gemini 10 mission. Cadets at the United States Air Force Academy must learn to recite it from memory. In addition, “High Flight” is showcased in a number of films produced by the United States Air Force, like the one below.
John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was an American who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940, before the United States entered World War II. He wrote “High Flight” shortly before he was killed in a midair collision on December 11, 1941. In his honor, we present you with a short 1972 Air Force film celebrating the joy of flight.
So You Want to be a Naval Pilot in 1919?
Only applicants of “unquestionable high moral character’ and under thirty years of age may apply.
Circular Letter Number 238-19 Training of Enlisted and Warrant Aviation Pilots, 10/25/1919
"First Lieutenant E. V. [Eddie] Rickenbacker, 94th Aero Squadron, American ace, standing up in his Spad plane. Near Rembercourt, France." 10/18/1918
From the series: Signal Corps Photographs of American Military Activity, 1754 - 1954
Modern Aviation’s First Fatality
"Bystanders help extricate the mortally wounded US Army (USA) Lieutenant (LT) Thomas Selfridge from the wreck of the Wright Brothers Flyer after its crash at Fort Myer, Virginia (VA). At right, several men attend the injuries of Orville Wright, who lies on the ground at their feet, 09/17/1908”
Lieutenant Selfridge became the first fatality of powered aviation, succumbing to his injuries shortly after this crash. The flight had been part of a series of tests by Orville Wright to demonstrate the aircraft’s ability to carry a passenger.
Around the World with the Concorde
The Concorde was jointly developed by by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC). The fleet of aircraft had an average cruise speed of Mach 2.02 (1334 mph), which is more than twice the speed of conventional aircraft.
The Concorde is seen above at the Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland, during an around the world test flight on September 1, 1977.
Happy National Aviation Day!
Orville Wright takes flight with observer Lt. Frank P. Lahm at Ft. Myer Virginia to win the Army’s prize for sustained flight with a passenger in September 1908.
National Aviation Day was proclaimed by President Franklin Roosevelt in honor of pioneering aviator Orville Wright’s birthday (August 19, 1871).
“Make America First in the Air" from the series Moving Images Relating to Military Aviation Activities, 1947 - 1984, from the Records of the U.S. Air Force.
The Berlin Airlift begins 65 years ago, June 24, 1948
WORLD IN FILM. Issue no. 176, 100 DAYS OF BLOCKADE, 1948
On June 24, 1948, Soviet forces began a blockade of West Berlin, severing all land connections between the city and western Europe. In response, U.S. and British Commonwealth Forces launched the Berlin Airlift (aka “Operation Vittles” for the Americans) to supply their garrisons and the population of Berlin.
At its height, the airlift delivered 5000 tons of supplies daily, including food, milk and coal, with aircraft arriving at Berlin every 30 seconds (at multiple airports). The blockade was eventually lifted on May 12, 1949.