tv American Artifacts First Half- Century of Aviation CSPAN April 16, 2020 11:51am-12:53pm EDT
podcasts. c-span has round-the-clock coverage of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, and it's all available on demand at c-span.org/coronavirus. watch white house briefings, updates from governors and state officials, track the spread throughout the u.s. and the world with interactive maps. watch on demand, any time, unfiltered, at c-span.org/coronavirus. each week, american artifacts takes viewers into archives, museums, and historic sites around the country. up next, we visit the smithsonian national air and space museum, located in washington, d.c., and just down the national mall from the u.s. capitol. our guide is curator jeremy kinney, who shows us some of the museum's rare and one-of-a-kind artifacts, to tell the story of
the quest to go higher, faster, and farther during the first half-century of aviation. >> hi, i'm jeremy kinney. we're going to go through a tour of some artifacts that really stand out in terms of this story of higher, faster, and farther in the history of aviation. but first i want to talk about the air and space museum overall. the air and space museum has over 8 million visitors a year between the national mall building and the stephen f.udvar-hazy center. we're looking at over 500 aircraft and helicopters. of those aircraft, about 67 are on display on the national mall building. so, what supports these artifacts is up to 60,000 individual small and medium artifacts. but what we're going to talk about today is the story of higher, faster, and farther, which is scene sooen as a cliche in many ways throughout the history of aviation but actually has a real meaning to it, in which we look at the people who
made this quest of flying in the third dimension a reality. and so, the idea of flying the highest altitude, the fastest speed and the longest distances tells us a lot about the technical development of the airplane but also the reinvention of what the wright brothers do. and that's what i'd like to talk to you about in terms of the airplanes and the people that you can only see at the smithsonian that tells that story. so, behind me you see the wright flyer, the world's first airplane. on the morning of december 17th, 1903, at 10:35 a.m., orville wright at the controls takes flight for 120 feet. that is the first time a man has entered into the air in a powered flying machine. at the end of the day, after four flights where orville and wilbur alternate, the fourth flight with wilbur at the controls, 852 feet, 30 miles per hour at an altitude of 30 feet. and they usher in this aerial
age, the age of aviation. and how they came to create that moment is very important, because not only do the wright brothers invent the airplane, but they invent aeronautical engineering, the processes that are needed to create actual flying machines. so, beginning in 1899, wilbur and orville wright -- wilbur's the older, orville's the younger -- they are unmarried. they own a bicycle shop. they run a printing business. they are yankee mechanics. they know tools and they know mechanical devices. and they take that interest in applying to printing presses, to bicycles, and they apply it to solving the problem of building a flying machine. so, in 1899, they write the smithsonian institution, and they ask for all of the literature on flight. and they learn about these predecessors like george cayley, father of aerial navigation. they learn about samuel langley, who is going to be the secretary of the smithsonian and going to be a competitor. they learn about octave chanute,
the connection between europe and the united states. but what sets the wright brothers apart is that they break the problem down. they have to look at an airplane as a system of systems, looking at propulsion, structures, control, and aerodynamics, the science of flight. and so, between 1899 and 1902, they start flying gliders. they start with kites. they had their gliders. and by 1902, they have a controllable glider in which they've made this new fundamental contribution called wing warping. rather than using your weight to shift the balance of the actual glider, they actually have a mechanical system where they can twist the wings. how they come to that conclusion is that the brothers always complemented each other as intellectuals. and so, they argued, how are we going to control this airplane? how are we going to make it move in the air? how are we going to keep it from
flying in just a straight line? and it's one day in the bicycle shop that wilbur is talking to a customer and has an innertube box for a bicycle tire, and he's twisting it as he's talking to this individual. and he sees in his mind's eye -- and the wright brothers are all about nonverbal thinking, a mind's eye, envisioning what the actual dimension, the three-dimensional technology is. and he says, well, if we start twisting the wings of our glider, we can control it. you lift one wing up, the other goes down, it will turn. and so, that's how they come up with these new ideas about what the airplane is. they create the world's first working wind tunnel to actually do the math of previous experimenters like john smeithen, and they find out he's actually wrong with the co-lilsion of width on the wings and they calculate it to do the work, so they design wings that are capable of creating lift. so, by 1902, they have a working glider, where they're flying for up to, you know, almost 30 seconds from the dunes of kitty hawk, north carolina, the kill devil hills, in which they've
traveled there because it's the one spot in america that has consistent winds as well as isolation, so they can work in peace without distraction. so, through 1902 and 1903, they add the last big part of the airplane. so, they've done the wings, the aerodynamics. they've done the structure, which has been influenced by octave chanute in the pratt trust, what you see in railroad bridges of the 1th century. and then you look at the control system, the wing warping, so the last ingredient is the propulsion system. and they acknowledge it's going to be reciprocating piston engine. so, orville and charlie taylor, their mechanic in the bike shop, create a horizontal force on their 12-horsepower engine. and they know they need that much power to generate the thrust of the propellers. and it's another very specific choice the wright brothers make is that it's going to have propellers on their new flying machine. so, how do propellers work? they figure they can go to
existing data on ship propellers, and that doesn't give them any answers. so, the same sort of intellectual give-and-take -- the brothers are gnashing at each other. they're really going at it. and they realize that a propeller is a rotating wing in a halical path. so they take their wind tunnel data, they adapt it to the design of a propeller, and they design two propellers that are capable of producing up to 67 to 70% thrust for that 12-horsepower engine. you see the two propellers on the back of the wings, push-air configurati configuration's what it's called. they wanted the propellers to push in the opposite direction, counter rotating. so taking their knowledge of in a workshop, where you switch the belt going from the power system to the roof, you can see one of the chains twisted on the drive system of the flyer, what they called our flyer. and so, that last degree, the
propulsion system, enables the brothers to go to kitty hawk in the late fall, early winter of 1903, where they start readying their flying program. they have a crash. they're down for a couple of days. but it's december 17th, 1903, that they actually fly this airplane that you see behind me. and it's that moment, that reaching of that actual getting into the air under the power and looking at all of the technology here in terms of, you have your aluminum engine, you have spruce propellers and spruce structural members, you have metal fittings, and you have mussel fabric, called pride of the west, according to the brand. so, that all comes together in the system of the airplane that they create. and so, after those four flights, a big wind comes up at kitty hawk. and the flyer tumbles. it's demolished. so, but they claimed success. they pack it up and they go back to dayton, where they're from, and they send a telegram to
their father "success four flights," and they make the announcement. and that's really the quiet way of saying that the aerial age has emerged. by 1905, in an improved flyer, wilbur and orville are flying up to half an hour, for long distances and figure eight over huffman prairie, just outside of dayton, ohio. and so, the 03 flyer, as it's going to be called, is forgotten, and it sits in crates. it goes through a flood, where all the crates have been soaked with water and mud. and then orville is starting to reassemble the airplane and put it on different displays through the 1920s. and in 1926, it goes to england, where it's at the science museum. and during world war ii, it's actually stored west of london, during the blitz, during the attacks on england. but it comes to 1948, when orville with great fanfare donates the wright flyer to the
smithsonian institution, and it's been on public display, whether it's at the old arts and industries building, in the classic tin shed that existed for so many years. and with the opening of the national air and space museum in 1976, the wright flyer went on display. and in 2003, in the centennial of the wright brothers' first flight, this gallery was open to tell that story of the making of the first airplane, and with it, aeronautical engineering. what you see here is the original airplane, the wright flyer. but it has been restored and things have been changed over the years. so, the fabric that you see there is not the original fabric from 1903, but it's actually been applied in the same sewing methods and construction as the 1903 airplane. so, orville removed the fabric, and they made the airplane look better for when it went to england. but in the 1980s, this airplane underwent a restoration. so, the spruce structural
members, the engine, one of the propellers, that's all original. over in the corner of the gallery is one of the original propellers, you'll see, because when the airplane took its tumble, it cracked and split that and broke that propeller. we've just left the wright brothers invention of the aerial age gallery and now we're in legend, memory and the great war in the air, the great world war i gallery. and the engine behind me is a spad-13. and in many ways, this is what the configuration that the french and the rest of the aeronautical community takes what the wright brothers create in 1903, and they make it their own. so, this is a 1917 design, and it's the highest performance french fighter of world war i. and what that means is that it can go 130 miles per hour, so 100 miles an hour faster than a wright flyer, but it's also just a large strut-and-wire-braced
airplane, just like the wright flyer, but it's now in what would be called the tractor configuration, where the engine and propeller are in the front, there's a central fuselage. and take note of that french word, fuselage. with two biplane wings, and imnaj of the horizontal and vertical stabilizer and you have ailerons on top, more of the french influence. the wright brothers bring it to the world, there are french and other experimenters that are flying airplanes, but the french really run with it, and they take a lead, as well as other nations. utit's the epitome of the strut-and-wire brace conf configuration that the wright brothers create, but it's been improved and enhanced. now, a spad-13 is the product of a designer named louis bechereau
and develops the spad fighters. the spad-7 is important in combat over france and the western front in world war i, but it's the spad-13 that reflects the epitome of french performance fighter design. it has very thin air flows, like the wright flyer, and that allows it to go very fast. and it's fabric covered, but it's that engine, the hispano suiza 220 horsepower v-8 engine that's the core of it. you see the radiator shutters and it looks like a round engine, but there's actually a v-8 engine underneath the cowling. and by cowling, what i mean is that there's a tight-fitting metal covering over the engine and it makes it all streamline. it allows the air to flow over it more efficiently. so, mark burkett of the spanno-sweeza company -- which the translation, spanish-swiss -- has developed a series of automobile engines in the prewar era.
he adapts this to the aeronautical application by taking two of his inline four engines, makes it into a v-8. and what he does that's unique is instead of having separate cylinders attached to the crank case, he casts a row of cylinders out of a solid piece of aluminum, and he has cooling passages in those aluminum blocks that allows improved cooling and more power. so, instead of a rotary engine, you know, doing 120, 110 horsepower, you're looking at 200, 220 horsepower with these engines by the time they're introduced in the spad 13. now, there's always a technological push-pull over the western front in world war i, in which the germans have an advantage with their thick airfoiled tubular steel fuselaged aircraft like the fokker d-ivv in this gallery, but the spad-13 is the french answer to that airplane. it's not as mufaneuverable, butt
has the speed and can dive away. so they'll take this airplane and develop new group fighter tactics in response to the german group fighter tactics. this generation of significant high-scoring french aces flying these airplanes and the french squaders. this becomes as the highest performance airplane, it has two 30-caliber machine guns flying through the propeller and the ability for these airplanes to fly fast and dive and climb away and come back and attack that gives the french fighter squadron an advantage. one of the major technological innovations for fighter aircraft in world war i is the creation of a gun synchronizer system. that means you can mount a machine gun right in front of the pilot with a sight, and you can fight -- and as you point the airplane, you can point your machine guns and hit your target. the problem with that is you have a spinning wood propeller in the way. and so, the creation of a mechanical linkage set up to a cam on the propeller shaft, as the propeller blade crosses in
front of the two machine guns, or one machine gun, it actually turns off the machine gun. and then as the propeller blade is passed, the machine gun turns back on. as this proceeds into 1918 and the entry of the united states into the war, you have american air service pilots coming into the western front, and they're being equipped with french aircraft. there's not a frontline-ready american fighter for the conflict. and this particular spad-13 that you see here, that is in american air service markings. it was built by one of the manufacturers contracted to make spads. there were 8,400 spads made total. and the 22nd aero squadron was assigned this airplane. and a young pilot named ray brooks painted the name of his fiancee's college on there, smith college. and he had three previous airplanes, so it's smith iv. and he goes into combat with this airplane. he scores one aerial kill in
this particular spad-13. some other pilots in the same squadron shoot down at least five more. and so, this spad-13 flew with the first generation of american combat pilots. now, ray brooks flies this -- you know, he names this airplane after his fiancee's school. and most people when they name their airplane after their girlfriends themselves, but he actually made a conscious decision. he didn't want to have this airplane damaged sitting at the end of the field and have the mechanic saying, well, ruthie's damaged, we've got to fix her. he wanted to actually keep her out of that situation. and so, he names it after her college. smith iv is in its 1918 camouflage, but you also see along the fuselage and wings of smith iv are these small, black squares that have german crosses on them, and those represent bullet holes that are shot through the fabric from combat. so, those are small, little indications of this being a combat airplane and surviving.
the squares would have been applied by ground mechanics in the field because there's no need to completely recover the airplane. and one of the interesting advantages of a strut-and-wire-braced, fabric-covered airplane, is that if the bullet just goes through the fabric, it just passes through the other side, so all it needs to be is patched, and that's what the job of the mechanic would be, is just to patch that, to restore the integrity, and they'd keep fighting. now, at the end of world war i, you know, in november of 1918, this airplane is set aside by the army air service and brought back to the united states. as to display what type of aircraft americans flew, which is a high-performance french fighter. but it's also given to the smithsonian institution, where it stays in the collection for decades. and it's not until the 1980s that the airplane is fully restored and put on display in the world war i gallery. and so, if you look at this panel right here, you can see fabric from that original airplane right here on display. so, the fabric you see here is
not original. it's restored fabric. but nonetheless, this is one of four remaining spads in the world, and it tells that story of how the wright brothers' original airplane was maximized and changed, but still essentially the same in terms of the materials and the propulsion system and the systems that make it up. but it was a formidable combat fighter of world war i. so, from the spad-13 of 1918 and world war i, we're going to now look at an air racer of the 1920s that even pushed further the envelope especially faster in the story of higher, faster, and farther. behind me now is the curtis r-3c-2 racer in the barron hilton pioneers of flight gallery. this is an air racer. but what's unique about it is that it is built by a national government, the united states, to compete in international air racing against the air forces of other countries, great britain
and italy, primarily, who are there to win a prize, the schneider cup. and so, this technology is built in the name of performance, making pursuit or fighter airplanes better. but what results is this grand spectacle of aviation, but it's a military spectacle in which military officers are getting in these airplanes. and take notice of that u.s. army on the tail of this air racer, and you'll see that they are in bloodless campaigns against each other. they're promoting their own branch of service to see if they can become independent, to see if they can really push the technology. so, it's a two-fold, you know, public relations and technical campaign they're waging. but what results is an improvement of the airplane in terms of this high-speed technology. the united states gets into air racing in 1922, where they show up at the schneider trophy competition. now, this is an international event that's created by a french
aviation industrialist, jacques schneider, to influence and develop and encourage the development of seaplane technology, because he saw the world was covered by water, and he thought sea planes needed to be developed. but what the competition becomes -- and even as early as the pre-world war i period when it starts -- is it just becomes a high-stakes, high-speed competition between first the international aviation clubs of each country and then the military governments take over in the early 1920s. and so, this curtis r3c-2 is the world's fastest airplane in the fall of 1925. this racer, with a young air service pilot named jimmy doolittle is flying this airplane and wins the schneider competition at bayshore park east of baltimore, maryland, at an average of 232 miles per hour. the next day, he breaks a world
seaplane record of around 240 miles per hour. and so, this gets into the public eye. this really shows the importance of the military and military aviation overall. the r3c-1 configuration wins the pulitzer trophy race, which, it's not international like the schneider competition. it's a national race that's pitting the army and navy and marine pilots against each other. so it's an aerial army-navy football game. and at mitchell field on long island, new york, sirius fatis flies the same airplane with wheels and a skid installed, and the number 43, instead of 3, like you see here, to win that race at 248 miles per hour. so, jimmy doolittle and sirius bettis are the world's fastest m men. and bettis says "i was not faster than the wind" when he flew this race. he was faster than any wind in history. so, this real belief in speed and the pushing of the
technology and the justification of national governments to really encourage this development results in what we see here, the curtis r3c. and it's a racing system. look at the gold wings. you see those lines that are running in between the fuselage and the wing tips? that's actually a brass radiator in each of the wings. so instead of having a big, model t flat radiator at the front of the airplane that creates drag, you have the air traveling over the profile of the wing. it's a curtis c-80 airfoil, and it's cooling the engine through those radiators. you see minimal struts and wires on the construction of it. you see a tightly fitted cowling over the 600-horsepower curtis v-12 engine. you see a metal propeller, which is one of the latest innovations in the mid-1920s. it's built and designed by a fella named cervanis albert reed, and it's a true innovation in terms of transitioning from wood to metal in airplane construction materials.
but probably the most important innovation of this airplane is that it's a plywood fuselage, that it's actually built like a wooden boat, and it's built in plies of spruce that are shaped to form the fuselage, so there are no longer any struts and wires and braces inside the fuselage. it's a hollow shell. that incorporates an overall streamline shape and it allows this airplane to go faster because of the ability to have less things causing drag along the surface of the fuselage itself. now, what you have to realize about the curtis r3c racer and aircraft like it is that it is built for a very high-speed, high-turning environment. and so, you know, 20-mile course marked out by three pylons. it's a virtual racetrack in the sky. and so, that short wingspan, the compact nature of the airplane allows it to make these very tight turns as they go around the pylons. jimmy doolittle actually had a technique where he would start at one pylon, dive toward the base of it, then pull up and
turn and go around the other pylon, to get that speed. and that short wingspan facilitated that. and so, if you're a spectator at bayshore park watching one of the legs of this race, you would see doolittle climbing, turning, and diving to the pylons and doing that around the bend, but you'd also hear the airplane. so, this curtis v-1400 engine, the short stacks of the v-12 engine are barking and making this really loud popping noise. then the reid propeller itself is going supersonic at its tips. these propellers are the first aeronautical devices that go supersonic. and so, you hear a banging and clanging noise. so, the banging-clang of the propeller, the throaty, barking noise of the exhaust, and then this airplane zooming by at eyesight level is a pretty amazing thing to see. so, after cyrus bettis wins the pulitzer, after jimmy doolittle wins the schneider, the next year at the schneider trophy race at norfolk, hampton roads,
virginia, frank shildt, a marine pilot, comes in second in this competition in the same airplane. and so, after that race, the r3c is given to the smithsonian institution where it's on display for a number of years. then it goes to the national museum of the u.s. air force, and it's restored by personnel there. and then it returns for installation in the barron hilton pioneers of flight gallery, where you see it here today. now, the jimmy doolittle i just mentioned who won the schneider cup race in this racer, goes on to fame in aviation. he's a famous test pilot. he's a certified aeronautical engineer. he's an air racer again in the 1930s, where he's winning racing across the united states and the bend yix trophy. but it's at the opening of world war ii for the united states that jimmy doolittle becomes a national hero, as he leads that famous raid that's named after him, the doolittle raid, against japan in april of 1942. he wins the medal of honor.
and then he goes on to be one of the leading bomber generals of world war ii with the 8th air force. so, the curtis r3c racer is a fast airplane, and it boosts the career of a pilot we're all going to know, jimmy doolittle. and now we're going to look at an era-defining airplane connected to an era-defining individual, charles lindbergh, the ryan nyp spirit of st. louis. this airplane in may of 1927 flew the 3,600 miles in 33 1/2 hours from new york to paris, flown by charles lindbergh, who was an unknown male pilot. his goal was to win the orteg prize of $25,000 for the first nonstop flight from new york to paris. orteg was a hotel entrepreneur and wanted to join his former country, france, with the united states. and so, that was the impetus for this flight. but what it represents in the history of aviation is part of this telling of the airplane and
this transformation of the airplane from what the wright brothers created and how it transitions over the '20s and '30s to what we call the modern airplane. and so, lindbergh was an unknown air mail pilot in 1926 who is flying from the st. louis-to-chicago air route, flying the mail, was thinking about, is this possible? and building upon that idea, he gets financiers from st. louis, people, he trained them to fly, he interacted with them in the aviation circles, and he gets the backing to either purchase a long-distance airplane or to build one. and what happens is he ends up in san diego with ryan airplanes, and he meets donald hall, their chief engineer, and they design a purpose-built transatlantic airplane, the new york-to-paris. lindbergh calls it the "spirit of st. louis" in honor of his backers in st. louis, but this is a product of his vision of what a long-distance airplane
would be. so, it's not necessarily the most advanced airplane. it represents many of the known ideas about technologies that are reliable and durable with some gambles that he includes in the airplane as well. so, working with don hall through the spring of 1927, lindbergh creates this airplane. and so, we see this. it's a high-wing mono plane. it's a wood wing that's externally braced to the fuselage, and it has underneath its fabric in the fuselage tubular steel framework, and that's an innovation that emerges in world war i, especially from the fokker company, and that is a diversion from this wood bracing that we've seen since the wright brothers. but it still uses wires and it's still a framework like you would see with the internal strut-and-wire brace construction, but you know it works. and so, then it's also the basic design of this ryan airplane called the m-2 they base this airplane on. and so, this aircraft is
designed for one thing, flying across the atlantic ocean with one pilot, which is a gamble. all the other airplanes had multiple crew members as well as multiple engines. but lindbergh makes that gamble because he says, well, the lighter the airplane, the more simpler i can control it. and so, this is an airplane built for endurance, you know. 450 gallons of gasoline, which doubles the weight to almost 4,000, 5,000 pounds. and so, he has to learn how to handle this airplane. and so, when it's finished in april 1927, the first thing he does is he breaks a san diego-to-st. louis tra transcontinental speed record. he visits his backers. he flies on to new york, which is the jumping off point for this flight to paris. and so, this is where lindbergh's choices really come into play, in which you don't see a canopy on this airplane. you see a door in the side. he actually used the periscope that he would actually, you know, deploy so he could see forward when he's taxiing the
airplane, or he would swivel the tail so he can look out the window of the side, because what's in front of him are the oil and main fuel tanks, and then the engine. and so, that's to get all of that in front of him, in case he crashes, he's got that all in front of him, rather than have a big gasoline tank coming behind him and crushing to death or catching on fire and burning him alive. and so, he's making these choices. but look forward of the fuel tank area where it says "spirit of st. louis," and you see the radial engine. that's a wright j-5 whirlwind, which is a cornerstone technology of what's going to become the aeronautical revolution, the creation of the modern airplanes, is that it is a radial engine that's cooled by the air traveling over the cylinders. and so, you see them sticking out there so that they can be cooled as the air flow goes over them. and so, but it's a reliable engine. it stays, you know, it stays running for 33 hours. he knows that. he makes a conscious choice. so that's an advanced technology
that he's embracing. so, tubular steel fuselage, wood wing, externally braced, those are known technologies that work. but the state of the art is that engine. and right in front of that engine is an aluminum alloy fixed-pitch propeller. and so, it's just like a wright brothers propeller, where it's just fixed pitch, it creates thrust for one operating regime, but it has a little innovation included that the standard steel propeller company novartis and is ready by the time lindbergh, who in his memoir says i want a metal propeller for the "spirit of st. louis." and what he means is the stainless steel ground-adjustable pitch propeller. what that means is you can't change the angle of the blades in the air, but if you need to change the pitch on the ground, you can loosen two rings, change the pitch for whatever setting you want it to be. so, they can get you off the ground with that heavyweight of the fuel, but give you enough cruise efficiency to get across the atlantic.
so, it's a compromise. and so, in many ways, the airplane overall is a compromise to get lindbergh across the atlantic ocean. so, the flight itself. lindbergh didn't have advanced navigational tools like a gps. he didn't have a compass. and he had this method called dead reckoning, in which he would use the stars and maps to plot his path. he's going to fly the circumpolar routes across, instead of flying over the shipping lanes. he's flying a much shorter distance over the curvature of the earth. and he just gambles that he's going to fly this route, and as soon as he gets to europe, he's going to figure out where he's at, and he's going to make his way to paris. he does that over the course of a day and a half. and he lands at le bourget, north of paris, and is met by 100,000 adoring fans, people cheering him on. and at that moment, the unknown lindbergh, the flight technologi
technologist, the person who worked with don hall to create this airplane, enters into this legendary status as probably the supreme aviator of the world, especially the united states, in which he becomes a household name, and which the growth in the aviation industry is seen as a result of what he's done in this flight, even though it's an indication of things that are moving along, but he really exacerbates and improves and expands the idea of an aviation industry. people want to learn to fly as a result of him. by christmas, you could get a copy of the book called "we." and "we" means lindbergh and the spirit together and their flight. and so, this pop culture phenomena that lindbergh becomes is a result of this flight, and it's this era-defining moment in which america really turns the page in terms of understanding the power of the airplane, the excitement for that. in the wake of this flight to paris, lindbergh returns with the "spirit," and he is going to
do a national tour through 1927, in which hundreds of thousands of americans are going to see him flying, see the "spirit." they've read about the flight. now they get to see him come to their hometown. by the end of the year, lindbergh goes on a tour of latin america, in which he's, you know, extending friendly relations with latin america and doing his long-distance flying there as well. and when you look at the front of the "spirit," you see the flags of the nations that lindbergh visited during his latin american tour, but you also see some military insignia there, which are from the army and marine units that he interacted with over the course of that tour. upon return of that flight in february and then in the spring of 1928, lindbergh gives "the spirit of st. louis" to the smithsonian institution. and that artifact stays on
display, arts and industries building, the old tin shed, throughout the history of the old national air museum and then is on display in 1976 for the opening of the national mall building of the national air and space museum, where it's been on display ever since. and so, the artifact that you see behind me is the original "spirit of st. louis." it's had some conservation work, but that's the original fabric, that's the original metal. so, it is once again one of those one-of-a-kind, original artifacts that makes the smithsonian aviation collection so important and why you need to see it. lindbergh's flight from new york to paris is a very important moment in the history of aviation, but there are aviators and aircraft that follow that show how the airplane evolves and this idea of reinventing the airplane, but especially pushing the farther in this higher, faster, and farther equation, that really builds to crescendo in the 1930s.
just a few months after lindbergh's flight across the atlantic in the "spirit of st. louis," on july 4th, 1927, the first lockheed vega takes to the air, an airplane just like the one you see behind me. so, this airplane is the result of the pairing of the new lockheed aircraft company with a self-taught, intuitive designer named jack northrup. and not being educated at an engineering school, northrup just has a feel for what an airplane should look like. and what you see behind me is his idea of what a clean airplane or streamline is the larger term, would look like. there's no supporting braces or wires. you have a cantilever or an internally supported wing you see on this airplane. you also see a plywood fuselage, taking the heritage of the curtis r3c racer that goes back to all the way before world war i. you have a plywood fuselage that doesn't need an internal bracing
system as well as external bracing. and so, his idea of the clean airplane is manifested in this. it also has a radial engine, a pratt & whitney wasp installed at the front of the airplane and a metal fixed-pitch propeller. now, the problem with the radial engine, which becomes a cornerstone technology, you know, we see on the "spirit of st. louis" with the wright j-5 whirlwind, and seeing it here with this pratt & whitney wasp, the problem with the radial engine is that it's situated like a flower petal on the front of this fuselage, and it's the equivalent of like a model t radiator on a car -- it creates a lot of drag. but the cylinders on the air-cooled engine need the air to travel over them to cool the cylinders. and so, designers were making the choice, do you just have an exposed radial engine like the "spirit of st. louis," or do you cover the engine to get some sort of aerodynamic efficiency, to clean up, you know, the disturbed air, the drag, to make the airplane more efficient? and so, this is actually a
fundamental question that's been investigated by the national advisory committee for aeronautics, the naca, in langley, virginia. and a young engineer named fred weick, who has a 20-foot wind tunnel who starts toying with the cowling for a radial engine. and it's design number ten that results in flowing air through the cowling to cool the engine, whilst controlling the streamlining of the air on the outside of the cowling. and so, that technology is what makes the vega such an important aircraft in terms of its efficiency, and it maximizes its ability to fly, you know, 165 miles per hour, cruise, and the ability to fly passengers, what the original design of the airplane was for. so, the naca cowling, who wins the hicollier trophy, the highe achievement in aviation today, he takes it and puts it on the airplane. he also thinks about, this is a
high-wing airplane. you know, it's a counterintuitive liefer wing, but where would you put the landing gear on this? you have fixed landing gear you have sticking out from the bottom of the aircraft, and you have these big rubber tires and wheels that create drag. and so, his idea's, well, i'll put pants on the tires and the wheels. and so, there's teardropped, streamline wheel pants are an idea of, well, you have to have fixed landing gear, but why don't we make them as streamlined as possible? so, the cowling over the radial engine, the pants over the wheels increases the performance and efficiency of the vega. and so, this becomes known as a high-performance airplane. and it's taken several individuals like amelia earhart, who in the spring of 1932 flies this airplane across the atlantic ocean, the first woman to fly across the atlantic nonstop.
in august of 1932, she flies nonstop across the united states. so, she's rapidly becoming this leading aviator in the united states, flying a vega. after earhart flies nonstop across the united states, she sold her airplane to the franklin institute. and then in 1966, the airplane became available to the smithsonian institution and entered its collection. so, the vega becomes the airplane of choice for record-breakers. in 1931, wylie post, you know, the oklahoma wildcater who loses an eye in an oil rig accident, you know, he has started flying. he chooses the vega. and so, his characteristic white and blue, "winnie mae," he flies around the world with a navigator, harold gaddy in 1931, in eight days. in 1933, he flies around the world all by himself in 7 1/2
days. and he starts learning these new phenomena that aviators are going to come to know after world war ii -- the jet stream. so, he gets an additional 120 miles per hour tailwind on his airplane as he's flying from the jet stream. he learns it because he's flying so high. he's experimenting. he's also the first individual to experiment with the pressure suit. so, the vega is the choice of aviators who want to push the limits of not only speed and distance, but altitude in regards to what this airplane can do. so, this is amelia earhart's characteristic red vega, and it shows her story of being the leading pilot flying across the u.s., flying across the atlantic. and it's in another airplane, a lockheed electra, that she disappears trying to fly around the world in 1937. and so, lockheed becomes synonymous with high-performance, long-distance aircraft, that important
aviators choose to make these flights. but still, this is a wood airplane, and it's very interesting to see the performance being pushed, which seems counterintuitive in regards to what this airplane is. it's not -- it doesn't have a tubular steel fuselage like the "spirit of st. louis," but it's looking towards the future in terms of its shape. and if we look at this very dynamic 1926 to 1934 period of innovation that we're seeing a lot of these airplanes i've been talking about emerge, the vega is one of the first to represent the future of what the airplane, how it's going to become modern over the course of the 1930s. so, the vega, you know, through pilots like amelia earhart and wiley post, they've really ramped up the spectacle of flight, the enthusiasm for these wonderful flights in terms of flying across oceans, across continents, around the world. the next airplane we're going to look at, the boeing 247d, is an
example of the commercial airliner that embodies these new innovations that enable airplanes to fly higher, faster, and farther, in this case carrying passengers for airlines in the 1930s. so, the 247d is called one of the first modern airliners, and it's one of the first modern airplanes overall when it's introduced in 1933. and so, it reflects this heritage of reinventing the airplane after world war i. it has all metal construction, so there's been a significant transition from strut-and-wire-braced construction of the wright brothers to the plywood monacaku construction of the vega, the steel fuselage of the "spirit of st. louis," and now you're looking at an all-metal airplane. and you make these aircraft bigger, you sweep the wings back, put engine pods on them with gas turbine engines and you have jet airliners of the 1950s . but we're looking at the beginning of that with this airplane, in which the late 1920s, early 1930s, the boeing
company, president philip johnson, vice president clair ig igdvit and chief engine monty, want to build upon this new aircraft design called the b-9 bomber. it's an all-metal monoplane, and they want to develop that into a commercial airliner, and the 247 is the result of that, which embodies all metal construction, as i said, but also the idea of the streamline design that the vega represents. and so, you have incorporated into an airplane made to make money, these innovations to make it go faster. so, with the unveiling of the 247, you have 170-mile-per-hour airplane capable of carrying ten passengers. that's a pretty stunning jump over a ford tri-motor seen here. so it's carrying people longer distances. and it compresses that 27 hours of transcontinental flight time across the united states into
19 1/2 hours. so, here's another element that plays into this equation, is that the vast distances the united states really pushed the development of commercial aircraft. and so, by 1933, you have an airliner with two engines capable of flying faster than the most advanced army pursuit airplanes. and that kind of shapes the knowledge and the perception of what these airplanes can do. so, the united aircraft and transport corporation is the parent company of boeing aircraft, and it also owns pratt & whitney engines, two wasp engines, the propellers and it also owns several airlines, including united airlines. and so, boeing builds these airplanes. and under the corporate umbrella, they only can go to united aircraft and transport corporation family companies. that means other airlines like twa, american airlines, don't have this airplane available. and so, what results is that twa
under jack frey asks other aircraft manufacturers, can you help us out? we want a replacement for the ford tri--motor, we can't get 247s, what can you do? and what results is a winning bid from the douglas company for the dc-2 airliner, which becomes the dc-3 that you see right back here above the 247. and so, as the 247 starts, it has some innovations that are built into there that are actually quite traditional. it has fixed pitch propellers. it has just a cowling ring. it has a forward sloping wind screen. and the result of the need to compete with the dc series of airlines from douglas, you have what results in the 247-d model that you see here. the rear with slanting wind screen, full cowlings just like a lockheed vega from the naca and variable pitch propellers. hydraulic mechanisms that change
the blade pitch as the propeller's rotating. and so, it's an advanced airplane that increased the cruise to 188 miles per hour. but the 247 can't compete. and so, the dc series, especially the dc-3 after 1935, becomes the preeminent modern airplane of the 1930s and how that's celebrated. but there's a very interesting story in which the dc-2 and the 247 get into a race in the fall of 1934. this australian millionaire, sir mcpherson robertson, sponsored a long-distance race connecting great britain, milleden hall, england, to australia, melbourne. and it's 11,300 miles, and it's an international race. and they want to see who can win. at the end, a douglas dc-2 and a boeing 247 that you see here come in second and third. the first airplane is a purpose-built air racer. but the dc-2 and the 247, they
showed how american aeronautical technology has surpassed and jumped ahead of european aircraft technology. and it's the ability of those airplanes and the dc-2 flies and makes stops along the way. you're delivering passengers mail. but it's the 247-d that you see here flown by the famous, flamboyant, pilot that comes in third. it's a 92-hour flight. and roscoe turner and clyde pagngborn get lost, have engine trouble, but they make it. and it's the airplane that you see here that made that flight. and it's part of that story in which the international press says the united states has jumped ahead in aeronautical technology, how do we catch up? it's such a shock in terms of the performance of these airplanes. now, after the mcrobertson race, this aircraft goes back into the united states inventory and it just an airliner, and it goes out of service eventually and it
has several owners. but in the early 1970s, it's given to the smithsonian from united airlines. and it's restored. and the view that you see here on the right side is it's in its united airlines markings it had after the mac robertson race. on the other side are the markings the airplane had on it during the mac robertson race. so you can see both histories of that airplane in 1934 and afterwards. and so, with the creation of the air and space museum in 1976 and the opening, this was put on display in the air transport gallery, now america by air, to show that story, that first very crucial moment of the modern airplane, in this case an airliner appearing in the mid-1930s. the boeing 247-d that we were just discussing was the state of the art for 1933, and it really
epitomized the technology that was going to become the modern airplane. and something that, you know, in its various iterations, gets bigger, different power plants, but it is the aircraft that we all know in terms of the structure, the shape, especially in terms of jet airliners today. now, the airplane behind me, the north american x-15, is a very different type of airplane that emerged in the late 1950s. it's a research plane, beginning with the bell x-1 in 1947, the airplane first designed to investigate supersonic flight, you know, the mach 1. there's this new generation of aircraft created through the national advisory committee for aeronautics, the naca, building airplanes just for investigating aerodynamic phenomena, or some sort of aeronautical challenge that could be overcome fundamentally. and so, x-1 was the supersonic regime, and you have a succession of aircraft that are going to look into mach 1, mach 2, mach 3, look at construction
techniques of different types of wings. but it's the x-15 program that begins in 1959 that investigates the hypersonic regime, to speeds beyond mach 4. and so, looking at the partnership between industry, north american in this case, the military, the u.s. air force, the primary benefactor of high-speed aircraft, and the national advisory committee for aeronautics, which quickly transitions into the national aeronautics and space administration, nasa, from 1959 to 1968, this program investigates the hypersonic regime. and it has to do that in testing this aircraft, the x-15, as an aerospace plane. no longer are we talking about airplanes just in the atmosphere. here is a vehicle designed to transition from the earth atmosphere into the ages of space. and so, over the course of 199 flights, there are three x-15s built by north american. and so, taking that formula and really pushing the idea of
especially higher and faster, you're looking at a vehicle that in its present form you see designed for the hypersonic regime. so, what that means is it has to be a vehicle that can fly in the atmosphere. it actually has traditional controls that allow it to maneuver in the atmosphere, but it also needs a new system. and if you look at the nose of the aircraft, you see those little two holes in front of that white rectangle. those are reaction control jets. and so, as the aerodynamic ability to control the aircraft goes away, it actually uses reaction-controlled jets to control the aircraft. and so, this is a true aerospace plane that's designed as a research airplane to investigate this hypersonic regime. and the idea's how do you do this and make the aircraft survive? well, the distinctive shape is there for the hypersonic regime, so it's more of the shape of the fuselage. it's not -- you don't see a big, fat wing or a big delta wing or swept wings. it's a very compact structure
with very stubby wings to get through that speed regime. that crusiform tail is to facilitate control in the hypersonic regime. now, the air traveling over the surface of this vehicle was estimated to be up to 1,200 degrees fahrenheit. so, that warranted the creation of a new material to make the aircraft out of that would influence other high-speed aircraft. it's a nickel alloy called incanel x. so, these are space-age materials being put into an aerospace plane. the pilots wear pressurized suits, like astronauts. and this is a concurrent program with the mercury gemeny and early apollo program. so, the last element is the reaction motors xlr-99, 57,000-pound thrust rocket engine. so, this is not an airplane designed to take off and land from the ground. it's designed to be carried by a b-52 bomber that's been
converted to a mother ship for nasa. and it will be carried up to 40,000 feet. it will be dropped, and then the pilot would engage the rocket engine, and then he would do whatever flight profile he needed to do. so, beginning in 1959, scott crossfield, the north american research engining test pilot, makes the first flights with the x-15, this particular one, which is number one x-15. and so, it's getting it out, seeing how it can fly. and by the mid-1960s, you have a flight program that is really influenced and encouraged how the space program develops its flight. so, there's the high range that edwards air force base that these aircraft are operated and flown over. and they're tracked. so, just like tracking a satellite or tracking a capsule, you're tracking this aircraft. and so, by the mid to late
1960s, x-15 flights are pushing that regime in terms of flying 67 miles high or 345,000 feet, and then flying at the high speed of mach 6 or 4,500 miles per hour. so, the pilots of these vehicles are primarily nasa pilots or air force pilots. and so, these are missions that are pushing people to believe and encouraging them to say, well, is this the way into space? is this what's going to be developed to make this transition? and so, you have to think that when this airplane first flies in 1959, that's only -- i mean, charles lindbergh was alive, you know. and these generations of fliers and the memory, they're seeing it. so this idea of higher, faster, and farther, is really being symbolized by the flight of the
x-15 through the late 1960s. so, this is x-15 number one, as first flown by scott crossfield, but also flown by a number of nasa test pilots as well as air force pilots, but including neil armstrong, who was employed as a nasa research test pilot. it's something he was very proud of in terms of flying. and so, this was an alternate path that another type of vehicle was chosen for the atmosphere to space access in the form of the space shuttle primarily, but also in terms of the capsules of the mercury, giminy and polo programs. so in a lot of ways this was an alternate pathway that never happened, but the knowledge of the technology of designing a hypersonic vehicle in which, you know, the x-15 holds the record as the fastest man-carrying vehicle even to this day. but the x-15 is still a symbol of what might be the next
plateau in terms of flying, of hypersonic flight. and there are many individuals, especially nasa today in their aeronautics, the first "a" in nasa, who believe that hypersonic travel is possible, and there's research and unmanned hypersonic flying engines, and they see these as a direct result of this work in aircraft like this research airplane, the x-15. well, i hope you've enjoyed this look at some of the one-of-a-kind, path-breaking aircraft to illustrate this theme of higher, faster, and farther in the collection of the smithsonian national air and space museum. you can choose other examples, but these are ones that i felt really illustrated these ideas of pushing the envelope, reinvention, as well as looking at the spectacle of flight, how people get excited about seeing these. and that really touches upon these ways of experiencing flight. we have our pilots, we have our engineers that create the aircraft, we have passengers on airplaners, but we also have
just people watching and reading and learning about these stories, these very important stories in aviation that really have shaped and transformed our world. and so, in looking at these artifacts, that's one of the primary roles of the smithsonia preserve these artifacts and share them with the american public as well as the rest of the world. in many ways, that's resonating with our visitors in terms of our success but also in terms of us telling these stories and trying to present them in new ways to share that, to really show these different levels of experience as well as the importance of that technology. so in many ways, the museum has grown from a celebration of technology and these important milestones and moments to show how society and culture has been affected as well as how that, in reverse, affected the technology itself. this is what has been exciting about this. for me it's to talk about that, my take on that, and share that with visitors.
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