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    208: Pioneers of Flight

Barron Hilton’s Pioneers of Flight (Gallery 208)

A huge display of aircraft in the middle of the second floor, Pioneers of Flight’s theme and timeline overlaps considerably with the Golden Age of Flight downstairs, in that it showcases aircraft and pilots that flew farther, faster, and higher than those before them. However, this gallery also notes the achievements of women and African-American pilots, pioneers in their own right, in the early days of flight.

Aircraft on display in this gallery include:

Fokker T-2: This was the first airplane to fly nonstop across the United States, going from Long Island to San Diego in just over 25 hours, in 1923.

Douglas World Cruiser Chicago: The U.S. Army sent four of these Douglas World Cruisers on an around-the-world flight attempt in 1924: the Boston, the Chicago, the New Orleans, and the Seattle. The Seattle crashed soon into the trip, in Alaska, and the New Orleans went down in the North Atlantic (all of the pilots survived). The Boston and Chicago, however, made it all the way back, becoming the first airplanes to fly around the world.

Surrounding the Chicago are photographs and artifacts from the journey, showing what the pilots endured and enjoyed on their flight. (The New Orleans is on display at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, California.)

Curtiss R3C-2 Racer: James Doolittle flew this seaplane to a new world speed record of 245.7 m.p.h. in 1927. Doolittle was an accomplished pilot who set several air speed records. He was also a top-notch engineer, earning a Ph.D from M.I.T. in aeronautical engineering along the way. Doolittle’s most famous achievement is surely “Doolittle’s Raid” – the high-risk 1942 bombing mission over Tokyo that was the first Allied attack on the Japanese mainland.

Lockheed 8 Sirius Tingmissartoq: Charles Lindbergh flew this plane extensively, including to Asia in 1931. Later, Lindbergh flew it across the North Atlantic while researching new air routes to Europe for Pan Am.

Explorer II Gondola: This gondola and its helium-filled balloon set a new altitude record of 72,395 feet in 1935.

Lockheed 5B Vega: One of Amelia Earhart’s own airplanes, this was also the first aircraft design produced by Lockheed. Earhart used this plane, which she called the “Little Red Wagon” on two record-setting flights, across the Atlantic and the United States, in the early 1930’s.

Besides there, on display is the Wright EX Vin Fiz, flown across the country (with 70 stops!) in 1911; the Bud Light Spirit of Freedom gondola, in which Steve Fossett made the first solo circumnavigation of the world in 2002; the original Piper J-2, first in a line of highly successful civilian, recreational aircraft that continues to this day; and a replica of the third liquid-fuel rocket, built and flown by rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard in 1928.

Displays on air races, flying, and rocketry in popular culture (including Plane Crazy, a Mickey Mouse cartoon, because you can’t escape Disney) line two of the walls of this enormous room.

Other Lands at Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

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