Right off interstate I-75, in the unassuming Ohio town of Wapakoneta, a beacon of aviation sits. It draws people from across the globe and impresses the most seasoned of travelers and yet, many who live nearest to it forget the magnitude of its purpose and draw. It celebrates an American hero and aviation icon, and it serves as a reminder of the challenges overcome and still faced in humankind’s efforts to know and explore the unknown. This place of inspiration and wonder is none other than the Armstrong Air & Space Museum.
The Undeniable Connection Between Ohio & Aviation
Former Ohio governor James Rhodes unveiled his plans for the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in 1969, the same year Wapakoneta native Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. Exactly three years after Armstrong’s “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” (click here to understand the inclusion of ‘(a)’) the museum opened and Armstrong was there to add to the celebration. The museum doesn’t disappoint. The employees are unmatched in their knowledge of the museum and all it includes, and their kindness and ability to spark excitement and love for aviation is nothing short of inspiring.
Travel roughly 60 minutes south to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, and you’ll arrive at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Admission and parking are free, and guests have more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space to explore the more than 350 aerospace vehicles and missiles, as well as thousands of artifacts.
The simple truth is that Ohio is no stranger to aviation. In fact, a Dayton Daily News article points out that:
- “In 2003, Congress officially declared Ohio as the birthplace of aviation over North Carolina, because Dayton was the home of Wilbur and Orville Wright, who were credited in inventing and flying the first aircraft.”
- “Ohio native John Glenn set a transcontinental speed record in 1957 (traveling from Los Angeles to New York in 3 hours and 23 minutes), was chosen to take part in the famous Mercury 7 flight, and became the first astronaut to orbit the Earth in 1962.”
- “Wright-Patterson Air Force base, which spans across Greene and Montgomery counties, is one of the largest air force bases in the country.”
It’s also noteworthy to mention that “according to NASA, 25 astronauts are Ohio natives, having made nearly 80 space flights, with three of those flights being trips to the Moon. Ohio astronauts have logged more than 22,000 hours in space.” This is incredible, especially since one of those 25 astronauts is Neil Armstrong.
From People to Business, Aviation Feels Our Presence
Ohio has an enormous amount to be proud of when it comes to its footprint on aviation. From Rita Rapp, American physiologist who was born in Piqua, Ohio and led the Apollo Food System team and is considered a space food pioneer because she worked tirelessly to figure out how space food should be packaged and prepared, to Auto-Valve, Inc., a Dayton, Ohio company that’s served the aviation fluid systems industry since 1947 by providing components for aerospace manufacturers across the U.S. as well as internationally, Ohio has a solid footing in aviation past, present, and future.
If you need a reminder of why Ohio holds its head high, look no further than aviation. Aviation history proves that dreamers with strong work ethics and an ability to believe in untapped potential find their footing in the buckeye state, and I can’t wait to see what Ohioans do next in aviation… and beyond.
Author: Evelyn Lindell