Flight History: Since early times, people have been fascinated with the idea of flight. Learn how these dreams of flight came true.
Just the Idea of Flight!
Leonardo da Vinci’s Flying Machines
Smithsonian Leonardo da Vinci and flight
Which came first, paper airplanes or real ones?
Prior to the invention of the flying machine, did people fold paper into the traditional paper airplane shape and let ‘er fly? Or did the airplane inspire the invention of the paper airplane?
The Wright Brothers
Photography and the Wright Brothers
Learn more about the first flight with these photographs and documents from the Library of Congress.
Take flight with the Wright Brothers
It’s a chilly, breezy day in December 1903. Wilbur Wright stands on the beach in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, staring at the sky above him. Soaring overhead in an airplane is his brother Orville—he’s in the middle of the world’s first successful piloted engine-powered airplane flight.
Trying to Set Records
The Flight of Amelia Earhart
An interactive timeline combines important events from her life with major world events of the time to provide a historical context for young readers.
Lindbergh’s Transatlantic Flight: New York to Paris
On May 20, 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh left Long Island’s Roosevelt Field in a single-engine plane built by Ryan Airlines. The plane, named the Spirit of St. Louis, would not touch ground again until it reached Paris, France. Fly as if with Lindbergh using this interactive map.
Black Wings: African American Pioneer Aviators
This online exhibit is about the early black pioneers of aviation who learned to fly despite all the formidable obstacles. In 1922 Bessie Coleman became the first licensed black pilot in the United States.
Women in Aviation and Space History
Women’s participation and contributions are noted from our Early Flight gallery (107) to Space Race (114), from the earliest female pioneers to racing pilots to the first female commercial pilots to women in space.
Museums and Public Access Displays of North America
Where to visit historic aviation collections in the US and Canada.