When Adam Evans sent me a link to this clever 3D video on historical events in aviation, it proved quite a coincidence. Since seeing Red Tails last weekend, I've been ruminating about great moments in aviation history and which I'd most want to have seen. So, let's suppose you find the magic lantern in the back of the hangar and out pops the genie with three wishes, all confined to great moments in aviation history. Which three would you pick?
For me, the first two are relatively easy, although picking the order isn't. The landing of Apollo 11 on the moon would be my first pick. Obviously, you couldn't be standing there on the lunar surface watching it, but the next best thing would be a fly on the wall in mission control in Houston on that hot July afternoon in 1969. Apollo 11 was by no means the most important event in aviation because its overall impact was neither long lasting nor particularly meaningful. But it certainly was one of the most inspirational events in the history of flying machines.
My second choice may be obvious: First Flight on December 17, 1903. I'm a long-time visitor to the Outer Banks and have been to the site of the Wrights' work many times. The event itself certainly had a more powerful influence on the arc of manned flight than did Apollo 11, despite the fact that it was merely one development in frenzy of research into powered flight going on at the time. The Banks were far more desolate then than today and the sight of that frail machine beating into a strong wind would have been breathtaking.
Now what about choice three? This one's not so easy. I finally decided on October 14th, 1947. Know the date? You should. That's when a young Air Force captain named Chuck Yeager flew the research aircraft, the X-1, beyond Mach 1. For me, the actual date and Yeager himself is less of interest than the entire period from about 1947 to 1959, when the X-15 flew. This was the golden age of high speed research aircraft and although no one knew it at the time, it provided the underpinnings for Neil Armstrong to plant his boot on the moon. Lake Muroc would have been an interesting place to hang around.
Last, a word about the video Evans sent. He's an instructional technologist at Utah Valley University, which has a lively aviation program. The video was prepared as part of project to build interactive media for training that goes beyond mere two-dimensional presentations.