5 Notes on Dayton Aviation National Historic Park

Dayton Aviation National Historic Park

On my trip to Dayton, Ohio for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse, I was able to spend some time at the Dayton Aviation National Historic Park, which honors the Wright Brothers and the early development of aviation. Here are a few notes.

Dayton Is Where It All Happened (not North Carolina)

North Carolina claims on their car tags that they are “first in flight” since the first controlled, powered, human flight happened at Kitty Hawk. That is, of course, true…but that first flight only happened at Kitty Hawk…because they had not truly figured out flight.

After Kitty Hawk, the Wright Brothers had proof of concept and were able to go back to Dayton and use Huffman Prairie to actually figure out how to take off from a standing start, achieve extended, controlled, predictable flights, and land safely with no issues.

The Wright Brothers Were Geniuses…at Failing

With so many inventors, there’s the instinct to think they just had a single, genius idea. That is seldom true. The Wright Brothers were geniuses…at figuring out how to accelerate trial and error. What they were trying to do had no roadmap or playbook. And it turns out that the data everyone was working with…was wrong. Instead, they invented devices like the wind tunnel and launch catapult to accelerate their failures and data-gathering. Where competitors could test 20 new designs, they could test 200. That’s the key reason they won.

The National Park Service Is So Good

The US National Park service operates the National Historic Park – and you can tell. The facilities are well-designed, clean, nice, and thoughtful. There is plenty for every age. I love that even though “the National Parks” will always equal the big, original Parks out West (Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Sequoia), the National Park Service operates many smaller sites and museums nationwide.

The Historic Park Is Many Properties Across Dayton

The main property is the Wright Brothers’ original shop and home. However, the Historic Park preserves several sites around Dayton, including spots like Huffman Prairie (where they tested designs) and their air school.

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