New Airport Exhibit

New Exhibit on Aviation Myths Opens at Airport

The Museum has completed the installation of a small exhibit on “Myths in Aviation” at Lindbergh Field, in Terminal Two beneath the Museum-built NYP “Spirit of St. Louis.” The exhibit explores some of the little known facts of aviation history, dealing  primarily with the San Diego area.


Where Impossible Dreams Took Flight

The expansion of new frontiers is firmly rooted in the mythologies and cultures of the West, particularly the Southwest. The Southwest boasts a long legacy of myths associated with the geography… some of which are based in reality. However, in San Diego, oftentimes truth was stranger than fiction and old myths became new realities. Humans crossed the unexplored boundaries of myths associated with the possibility of human flight. It was in San Diego that a man first soared with the birds over 125 years ago and recently, the region has been in the forefront of human’s quest to reach for the stars. In San Diego, dreams thought impossible for many centuries became a reality. This exhibit looks at some of the myths associated with flight, and describes some of the realities, with a local touch.


Parachute surprise

Most would suspect that the parachute is a modern invention that came about because of the need for military pilots to escape damaged aircraft. In fact, the first recorded parachute jump occurred in 1797 when Frenchman André-Jacques Garnerin jumped from a hot air balloon and safely parachuted 3000 feet to the ground.

Did you know the first premeditated free fall from an airplane was performed by a woman named Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick at North Island on March 18, 1915?

Artifacts: Montgolfier balloon; military parachute; hand-made model of crude chute.


Jet engine explained

Most would suspect that the very powerful jet engines found in today’s modern aircraft are immensely complicated. In fact, the typical turbo-jet or high bypass fan jet has only one moving part; a central axial shaft that supports a series of compressor blades in the forward section of the engine and turbine blades at the rear. Once the ambient air passes through the compressor section it is ignited and the resulting burned gasses exit through the turbine blades, which in turn power the compressor blades simultaneously providing an enormous amount of thrust.  Jet engines typically operate at about 8,000 to 11,000 revolutions per minute.


Did you know that the San Diego plays a key role in the manufacture of jet engines, and that some of the primary components of the most advanced jet liners are built in the region?

Artifacts: Jet engine graphics: model airliner.


Lindbergh Lore

Most would suspect that Charles Lindbergh was the first to cross the Atlantic non-stop in an airplane.  The fact is that Jack Alcock and Arthur “Teddie” Brown (two British subjects) did so in 1919, eight years before Lindbergh.  The pair launched from St. Johns, Newfoundland in a modified Vickers Vimy WWI bomber, and landed in County Galway, Ireland slightly less than sixteen hours later.  The two were hailed as heroes and knighted by King George at Windsor Castle one week later.  Lindbergh’s fame is due to the fact that he flew across the Atlantic solo, from New York to Paris, in a trip that lasted approximately twenty-seven hours.

Did you know that Lindbergh’s Airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis was built in an old, smelly fish cannery building located a few blocks from the present location of San Diego International Airport?

Artifacts:  Vickers Vimy model; Lindbergh bust; NYP model; photo Alcock and Brown

sound barrier

The Sound Barrier Explained

Many believe that an aircraft is flying faster than sound when the machine appears well ahead of the sound it is producing, as viewed from a distance.  What the observer actually witnesses is nothing more than the period of time it takes sound to travel from its source to the human ear (approximately 1000 feet per second).  When an aircraft exceeds the speed of sound it has broken the sound barrier and its passage is accompanied by a sonic boom.  Curiously, if an aircraft were to fly directly at you while travelling faster than the speed of sound, you would hear nothing as it approached until it passed directly overhead when a “boom” would announce its arrival.


Did you know that the San Diego Air and Space Museum is building a full scale reproduction of the first aircraft to break the sound barrier, the Bell X-1?

Artifacts: Graphics; Bell X-1 model; photos of Yeager and others


Bessie Coleman First?

Most observers suspect that Bessie Coleman was the country’s first aviatrix.  In fact Blanche Stuart-Scott holds the honor having been trained to fly in September of 1910 by Glenn Curtiss at Hammondsport, NY.  Curtiss would ultimately move his operations to North Island (San Diego) soon thereafter where he would train the Navy’s first pilot Lt. “Spuds” Ellyson.  Coleman however, was the nation’s first African American female pilot, licensed in 1921.

Did you know America’s first African American pilot, Emory Malick, was trained at North Island in 1912?

Artifacts:  Curtiss model; Bessie photo; Blanche photo.


Tuskegee Airmen First?

Most observers suspect that the first African American fighter pilot would have been part of the famed World War II Tuskegee Airmen Squadron. However, the accolade belongs to Eugene Jacques Bullard of the French “Aéronautique Militaire”, flying air combat with the largely American Lafayette Flying Corps, Squadron 93, from 27 August to 11 November 1917 until the Americans joined the war effort and Bullard was grounded.  It was the policy at the time to allow only Caucasians to fly for the United States Army Air Corps.

Did you know that during the Second World War, The Pacific Parachute Company, which made parachutes for the war effort, was an African American owned business during a time when racism was prevalent in America?

Artifacts:  Spad model; Bullard photo;


Wright Brothers First?

Most observers would credit the Wright brothers for the first un-powered human-carrying glider flights in the United States.  To be certain the brothers did build and successfully fly a series of gliders prior to their epic powered flight on December 17th, 1903. However, it was John Montgomery who first defied gravity in a heavier than air machine in the US when, on August 28, 1883, he launched his glider near Otay Mesa in San Diego and soared for 600 feet before landing safely.


Did you know that several other aviation “firsts” occurred in San Diego, such as the first take off from water in the United States, and the first aerial refueling?

Artifacts:  Montgomery glider model, photos; Wright glider model, photos.

RocketAtlas Rocket History

Most American’s first exposure to the Atlas rocket, built here in San Diego by Convair, was in its role as the booster for the Mercury space program. And while it was indeed the delivery system of choice for all the manned Mercury orbital missions, the “D” series booster was designed for and was used extensively as the launch vehicle for the nation’s Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile program.

Did you know that besides the Atlas, San Diego has been key in the exploration of space and that a major part of the Space Shuttle’s fuselage was built in the area?

Artifacts:  Atlas Mercury model and photos; ICBM photos; graphics

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