Aviation History Stories

An experimental aircraft launches off a beach with a man standing next to it
The famous photo showing the Wright brothers first controlled, powered, sustained flight at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903.

Library of Congress, Wright Collection

Modern aviation took off with the first controlled, powered & sustained flight on December 17th, 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Little did the Wright brothers know, when their dreams of heavier-than-air flight came to fruition over the beaches of North Carolina, they would become the beginning of a robust aviation history. Since then, aviation has gone from a twelve second flight in a wooden and cloth, open-air flying machine to aircraft fabricated from composite materials designed to safely ferry humans from earth to space and back.

Explore the history of aviation as it relates to the National Park Service as we present select stories in aviation history. Choose from one of the following categories below to begin your narrative journey through aviation history!
Four parallel runways surrounded by water
Historic Fields and Airports

Read about the legacies of historic airfields and airports and of their significance in aviation history.

A very large building with imposing double doors
Historic Aviation Buildings

Buildings that once housed state of the art technology and ideas, now contain the stories that make up our aviation history.

A large boat with a flat deck and aircraft on it
Naval Aviation

Not long after the first practical airplane took flight, naval aviation took off from the makeshift decks of warships.

Several planes in the sky, flying in formation
Military Aviation

A legacy that began with lumbering aircraft which skimmed the ground, now boasts of aircraft capable of supersonic flight.

A man and a woman pose in front of a plane cockpit with an early airplane in the background
Historic Figures in Aviation

They took flight to achieve their dreams, and as they accomplished their goals, they became part of something much bigger.

A trio of missiles stand upright and ready to fire from concrete pads
Rocket Propulsion

Read the stories of how rocket propulsion has taken aviation into and well beyond the upper levels of the atmosphere.

A two-story brick building with many glass windows on the first floor
Historic Aviation Locations

These important places contain the stories that have shaped aviation and are now part of the core of aviation history.

The space shuttle lifts off of the back of a large plane
Aviation in Space

From the moment man first flew, there was no stopping the ascent into the universe. Read the amazing stories that powered man into space.

A large blimp air ship docked to a tall tower
Aviation Firsts

Learn about the people, places, objects and events that defined aviation and are now known for being the first of their kinds.

A silver plane with a red tail and elevator
Military Aircraft

Learn about some of the different military aircraft that have served the United States Army Air Corps, Air Force, Navy and Marines.

Last updated: September 5, 2017