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tv   American Artifacts First Half- Century of Aviation  CSPAN  August 4, 2021 11:50am-12:51pm EDT

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history on two feet. weekends on c-span 2 are an intellectual feast. every saturday american history tv documents america's story, charlter along with these television companies, support cspan 3 as a public service.
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each week american art facts takes viewers to historic sites around the country. up next we visit the smithsonian national air and space museum. just down the mall from the u.s. capitol. our guide is curator, who shows us some of the one-of-a-kind art facts. >> hi, i'm jeremy kinny. we're going through a tour of art facts that stand out in terms of the story of higher, faster, and farther in aviation. but first the air and space museum overall. it has over 8 million visitors a year between the national mall building and the steven huber center. so, looking at the history of flight, the area i work in, of the aircraft about 67 are on display in the national mall
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building. so, what supports the art facts is up to 60,000 individual small and medium art facts. what we're going to talk about today is the story of higher, faster and farther, which is seen as a cliche but has a real meaning to it. we look at the people who made the quest of flying in the third dimension a reality. the idea of flying the highest altitude, the fastest speed and longest distances tells us a lot about the technical development of the airplane and the reinvention of what the wright brothers do. and that's what i'd like to talk to you about in terms of the airplanes and people you can only see at the smithsonian, which tells that story. behind me you see the wright flyer, the world's first airplane. on 1703, at 10:35 a.m., wilbur wright takes flight for 120
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feet. er for it's the first time a man has entered into the air in a power flying machine. at the end of the fourth flight, with them alternating. 30 miles per hour at a altitude of 30 feet and they usher in this aerial age, age of aviation. and how they came to create that moment is very important. because not only do the wright brothers invent the airplane, but they invent aeronautical engineering, the processes used to create actual flying machines. so, beginning in 1908, wilbur and oroville wright, they are unmarried, own a printing business. they are yanky mechanics. they know tools and mechanical devices and take that interest and apply it to printing presses and bicycles and into building a
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flying machine. they write the smithsonian institution and ask for all the literature on flight. and they learn about all the predecessors. samuel langly, who's going to be the secretary of the smithsonian and a competitor. they learn of chanute who's the aeronautical knowledge in the united states. but what sets the wright brothers apart is they break the problem down. they look at the airplane as a system of systems. looking at propulsion, structures, control and aerodynamics, the science of flight. so, between 1899 and 1902 they start flying glider. they start with kites, gliders and by 1902 they have a controllable glider, in which they made a new fundamental contribution called wing warping.
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they have a mechanical system where they can twist the wings. how they come to the conclusion is the brothers always complimented each other as intellectuals. they argued how are we going to make it move in the air? and how do we keep it from flying in a straight line? and it's one day in the bicycle shop that wilbur is talking to a customer and has an intertube box for a bicycle tire and he's twisting it as he talks to the individual. he sees in his mind's eye -- they're all about nonverbal thinking. he says if we start twisting the wings of our glider, we control it. you lift one wing up, the other goes down, it will turn. that's how they come up with the new ideas of what the airplane is. they create the world's first working wind tunnel to actually do the math of previous
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experimenters and they find out he's wrong. with the coefficient of lift on the wings. they recalculate it and design wings capable of creating lift. by 1902, they have a working glider where they're flying almost 30 seconds from the dunes of kitty hawk, north carolina, in which they travelled there because it's the one spot in america that has consistent winds as well as isolation so they can work in peace without distraction. so, through 1902 and 1903 they add the last big part of the airplane. they've done the wings, the aerodynamics, the structure, which has been influenced in the trust, which you see in railroad bridges in the 19th century. and then you look at the control system or wing warping. the last ingredient is propulsion. they acknowledge it's going to be resip ruicating engine.
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so, their mechanic in the bike shop create a 12 horse power horse on their engine. they need to generate the 31st in the propellors. that's another specific choice is it's going to have propellors on the flying machine. they figure they can go to existing data on ship propellors and that doesn't give them any answers. so, the same sort of entelectual give and take and they realize it's a wing in a path. so, they take their wind tunnel data and apply it to the propellor and design two propellors capable of producing up to 67 to 77% thrust of the 12 horsepower engine. those are called pusher configureations. they wanted the propellor tease turn in opposite directions.
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so, counterrotating. taking their knowledge of working in a workshop. you twist the belt going from the roof. you can see one of the chains twisted on the drive sigsm of the flyer, what they call our flyer. the propulsion system enables the brothers to go to kitty hawk thichb late fall, early winter of 1903, where they start readying their flying program. they have a crash, down for a couple of days. but december 17th, 1903, that they actually fly this airport you see behind me. it's getting in the air under the power and looking at all the technology in terms of your aluminum engine, spruce propellors and spruce structural members. you have metal fittings and muslim fabric, the pride of the west.
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so, that all comes together in the system of the airplane they create. and the flyer tumblees. it's demolished. they claim success and pack it up and go to dayton where they're from. and they send a telegram to their father. and they make the announcement. that's the very quiet way of saying the aerial age has emerged. by 1905 in an improved flyer, wilbur and orvill are flying up to half an hour for long distances. just outside of dayton, ohio. so, the 03 flyer, as it's going to be called, is forgotten. it sits in crates. it goes through a flood and all the crates have been soaked with water and mud. then orville is starting to put
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it on different displayed. in 1926, it goes to england, where it's on the science museum. during world war ii, it's stored west of london during the blitz. but it comes to 1948 where orville with great fan fair, donates the flyer to the smithsonian institution, where it's been on display in the classic old arts building and the opening of the national air and space museum, the wright flyer went on display. and 2003 in the centennial of the wright brothers' first flight, this gallery is open to tell the story of the making of the first airplane. and with it aeronautical engineering. what you see here is the original airplane, the wright flyer. but it has been restored and things changed over the years. the fabric is not the original
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fabric from 1903 but it's been applied in the same construction as the 1903 airport. so, they made the airplane look better for when it went to england. but in the 1980s, this airplane underwent a restoration. the spruce structural members, the engine, one of the propellors, that's all original. in the corner is within of the original propellors you see. because when it took the tumble t cracked and split that tumble. we just left the wright brothers. and now we're in legend, memory and the great area. and the airplane behind me is a 14. in many ways this is the configuration of the french and rest of the aeronautical community take what the wright brothers create in 1903 and make
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it their own. this is a 1917 design and it's the highest performance french fighter of world war i. what that means is that it can go 130 miles per hour. so, 100 miles per hour faster than a wroilgt flyer and it's a strut and wire-based airplane, like the wright flyer. it's in a tractor configuration, where the engine and propellor are on the front. take note of the french word, fuselage. and empnaugs of the horizontal and vertical. so, more french influence. and so, after the creation of the airplane, the wright brothers bring it to the world. there's other experimenters flying airplanes but the french really run with it and take a lead, as well as other nations.
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but looking at this airplane, it's the epitome of the strut and wire configuration the wright brothers create but it's been improved and enhanced. it's the product of a designer named louis. the spad vii is very important in terms of western front in world war i. but it's the spad that is the epitome of french fighter design. it has thin -- it's fabric covered. but it's the engine, 220 horse power, v8 engine that's the core of that. you see the raidiator shutters and it looks like a round engine. but there's actually v8 engine under the cowelling.
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what i mean by that is there's a tight fitting cover over the engine and allows the air to flow more efficiently. so, the translation, spanish swiss has designed a very important series of automobile engines. he takes two of the engines, makes into a v8 and what he does that's unique is instead of having separate cylinders attached to the crank case, he attached a row of cylinders out of aluminum and has cooling passages in the aluminum blocks that allows for more cooling and more power. instead of a rotary engine doing 110/120 horse power, you're looking at 220 horbs horsepower in the engine.
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there's always a push and pull in world war i, where the germans have the advantage in the fuselage they have. but the spad roam roam 13 is the frenchancer to the airplane. it's not as maneuverable. they're going to create new fighter talktices. so, this in the french squadn are. and so, this becomes the, as the highest performance airplane that has 2.30 caliber machine guns flying from the propellor. it gives the french fighter squad an advantage. one of the major technological innovations in world war i is the innovation of a gun
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synchronizer system. that means you can mount a machine gun in front of the pilot with the sight and you can point your machine guns and hit the target. the problem is you have a spinning wood propellor in the way. so, set up to a can on the propellor shaft. as it cross said in front of the two machine guns, it turns off the machine gun. and as they pass, they're turned back on. as the entry of the united states into the war, you have american air service pilots coming in to the western service front and they're equipped with a french aircraft. there's not a ready fighter for the conflict. and this spad fighter that is in american air service markings. it was built by one of the manufacturers. there were 84 spads made total.
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and the 22nd aeroo squadron. he had three previous airplanes, so it's smith the fourth. he scores one aerial kill and this particular spad 13. some other pilots in the same squad ron has more. this flew with the first generation of american combat pilots. brooks names this airplane after his fiance's school. most people would name the airplane after their girlfriends themselves. he didn't want to have this airplane damaged at the owned of the field and the mechanic saying ruthie is damaged. we want to fix her. he wanted to keep her out of the situation. so, he names her after the
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college. smith iv is in the 1918 camouflage. and you see along the fuselage are the small black squares that have german crosses on them. and those represent bullet hole said from combat. there's small indications of this being a comp bat airplane and surviving. the squares would have been applied by squad mechanics in the field. one of the best advantages of a fabric-covered airplane is if the bullet goes through the fabric, it just needs to be patched. that's the job of the mechanic is to patch the fabric and keep fighting. in november, of 1918 this airplane is set aside by the army air service and brought back to the united states 367. as to what type of aircraft
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americans flew and it's also given to the smithsonian institution. and it's not until the 1980s that the airplane is fully restored and put on display in the world war i gallery. you can see fabric from the original airplane on display. the fabric here is restored fabric, not original. but nonetheless, this is one of four remaining spads in the world. and it tells the story of how the wright brothers ape was maximized and changed but essentially the same in terms of the systems that make it up. but is it was a formidable combat fighter of world war i. we're going to now look at an air racer that pushed forward in the story of higher, faster,
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farlger. farlgter. behind me now is the curtis racer in the pioneers of flight gallery. this is an air racer. what's unique is it's built by the united states to cull peat against the air forces of others who were there to win a prize the snider cup. so, this technology is built in the name of performance, making pursuit or fighter airplanes better. what results is a grand spectacle of aviation. military officers are getting in the airplanes. you will see ne'er in bloodless campaigns against each other. they're promoting their own branch of service to see if they can push the technology. so, it's a two-fold public
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relgdss and technical campaign they're waging. what results is an improvement in airplane technology. united states show up at the snider trophy competition. this is an international event created by french aviation industrialest to influence and develop c plane technology. but what the competition becomes and, even as early as the preworld war i era when it started, is it becomes a high stakes, high-speed competition between, first the national aviation clubs and the governments take over in the 1920s. so, this is the world's fastest airplane in the falloff 1925.
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this racer, with a young air service pilot, dolittle wins at bay shore park, northeast of baltimore maryland, at an average of 230 miles per hour. the next day, he breaks a world sea plane record of around 240 mech. this gets in the public eye. it shows the importance of the military and aviation overall. just two weeks before, the same airplane with wheels and a tail spin installed, wins the pulitzer trophy winner. it's pitting the army, navy and marine pilots against each other. on mitchell field, cyrus flies the same airplane with wheels
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and a skid installed. to win the race at 248 miles per hour. so, jimmy do little and cyrus is the fastest than the wind. so, this real belief in speed and the pushing of technology and justification of national governments to really encourage this development results in what we see here, the curtis rpc 3 and it's a racing system. look at the gold wings. you see the lines running in between the fuselage and wing tips? that's a brass raidiator in each of the wings. instead of a model t flat raidiator that creates drag, you have it flying over the profile of the wing and it's cooling the engine through those radiators. you see minimal struts and wires orn the construction.
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a tightly fitting cowell over the v 12 engine. you see a metal propellor. it's built and designed by a fella by the name of albert reed. but probably most important innovation is it's a ply wood fuselage. it's built like a wooden boat and its built implies of spruce, used to build in the fuselage. so, they're no longer struts and wires and braces. that creatsz an overall streamline shape. it causes it to go faster because of less things causing drag on the fuselage itself. what you have to realize about it and aircraft like it is it's built for a high-speed,
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high-turning environment. so, it's virtual racetrack in the sky. it allows it to make these tight turns as they go along the pile ons. jimmy would start one pile on, dive towards the base and pull up and turn to go around the other pile on. and if you're a spectator at bay shore park, watching one of the legs of the race, you would see doolittle, climbing, turning and diving and doing that around the bend but you'd hear the airplane. so, this curtis b 24 engine are barking and making a really loud popping noise and the propellor itself is going supersonic at its tips. they're the first aeronautical devices to go supersonic. the banging, clanging of the
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propellor. the throaty, barking noise of the exhaust and the airplane zooming by at eye sight level is an amazing thing to see. so, after siilous wins the pulitzer, a marine pilot comes in second in this competition in the same airplane. so, after that race, the r 3 c is given to the smithsonian, where it's on display for a flb of years. then goes to the national museum of the u.s. air force and restored and returns for installation in the pioneers of flight gallery, where you see it here today. now, the jimmy dolittle goes on to fame in aviation. he's a famous test pilot, a certified aeronautical engineer.
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and a racer where he's racing across the united states. but it's at the opening of world war ii for the united states that he becomes a national hero as he leads the famous raid that's named after him, a dootal raid. twhinz medal of hawn rb and goes on to be one of the leading bomber generals of world war ii. so, it boosts the airplane and a pilot we all know, do doolittle. and the spirit of st. louis, in 1927, may, flew from new york to paris by lindbergh, an unknown
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pilot. his goal was to win for the first nonstop flight. he was a hotel entrepreneur and he wanted to join his former country, france, with the united states. so, that was the impetus for this flight. what it represents in the history of aviation is part of the telling of the airplane from what the wright brothers created and how it transitions to what we call the modern airplane. and so lindbergh was an unknown air mail pilot in 1926, who is flying from st. louis to chicago air route is thinking is this possible? and building upon that idea, he gets financers from st. louis. he trained them to fly, interacted with them in the aviation circles and gets the backing to purchase a
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long-distance airplane or build one. he ends up with ryan airlines and meets their chief engineer and they design a purpose built, transatlantic airplane. he calls the spirit of st. louis in honor of his backers in st. louis. but this is his vision of what a long-distance airplane would be. it's not necessarily a most advanced airplane. it represents technologies that are reliable and doable with gamblees in the airplane as well. so, working with don hall through the spring of 1927, lindbergh creates the airplane. it's a wood wing externally braced to the fuselage. and it has tubular steel framework. it emerges in world war i and that is a diversion from this
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wood bracing that we've seen since the wright brothers. but it still uses wires and still a framework you would see. but you know it works. and so it's also the basic design of the ryan airplane. they base this airplane on. this is designed for one thing, flying across the atlantic ocean with one pilot, which is a gamble. all the others had multiple crew members. he said the lighter the airplane, the simpler. i control it. this is built for endurance. 450 gallons of gasoline, which doubles the weight to almost 5,000 pounds. he has to learn how to handle this airplane. and so, when it's finished in april 1927, the first thing he does is break a san diego to st. louis continental speed record.
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he flies to new york, which is the jumping off point of this flight to paris. and so this is where lindbergh's choices come into play. you see a door in the side. he actually used the periscope he would deploy so he can see forward when he's taxing the airplane or he would swivel the tail to look out the side. because what's in front of him are the oil and main fuel tanks and the engine. so, that's to get all of that in front of him in case he crashes. rather than have a gasoline tank catching him and burning him alive. but look forward of the fuel tank area where it says spirit of st. louis and you see the radial engine. that's a right j 5 whirlwind, which is a corner stone technology, which will become
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the future of airplanes. it's cooled by the air traveling over the cylinders. you see them sticking out so they can be cooled as the air flow goes over them. it's a reliable engine. it stays running for 33 hours . he knows that. that's an advanced technology he's embracing tubular steel fuselage, well braced. those are known technologies that work. but the state of the art is the engine and right in front of the engine is an aluminum alloy fixed stitch propellor. just like a wroilgt brothers propellor but has a little innovation included in it, that they innovate and it's ready by the time lindbergh, who says, i want a metal propellor and what he means is the standard steel ground adjustable pitch propellor.
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and what i mean by that is you can't change the angle of the blades in the air. but if you need to change the pitch on the ground, you can loosen two rings, change the pitch for whatever sitting you want it to be. so, they can get you auf the ground but enough sufficiency to get across the atlantic. so, in many ways the airplane is a compromise to get lindbergh across the atlantic ocean. lindbergh didn't have advanced navigational tools, like a gps. he had a compress and had what he called dead reckoning, where he would use the sun and stars to chart his path. take the polar routes. he's flying a much shorter distance over the curvature of the ergt and he earth and he
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gamblees he's going to make his way to paris. he does that in the course of a day and a half. and he lands just north of paris and is met by over 100,000 adoring fans, people cheering him on. at that moment, the person who creates the airplane, enters into the legendary status as probably the supreme aviator of the world, especially the united states. where he becomes a household name. in which the growth and aviation industry is seen as result of what he's done in this flight, even though it's an indication of thing said moving along but he exacerbates and improves and expands the idea of an aviation industry. people want to learn to fly as a result of him. by christmas, you could get a copy of the book called "we" and that means lindbergh and the
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spirit together and their flight. this pop culture phenomenon he becomes is a result of this flight. america really turns the page in understanding the power of the airplane and excitement for that. in the wake of the flight to paris, lindbergh returns with the spirit and he is going to do a national tour through 1927, in which hundreds of thousands of americans are going to see him flying. see the spirit. they read about the flight and now they're going to see him come to their home town. lindbergh goes on a tour of latin america. when you look at the front of the spirit, you see the flags of the nations lindbergh visited and you see military insignia,
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which are from the army and marine units he interacted with over the course of that tour. upon return of that flight in february and then spring of 1928, lindbergh gives the spirit of st. louis to the smithsonian institution. that artifact stays on display through the history of the old national air museum and is on dish play in 1976 for the opening of the national mall building of the national air and space museum, where it's been on display ever since. the art fact behind me is the spirit of st. louis. it's the original fabric and metal. one of those one of a kind original artifacts, that makes it so important and why you need to see it.
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lindbergh's flight from new york to pairess is a very important moment in history of aviation. this idea of reinventing the airplane and especially pushing farther, faster equation that builds to crescendo in the 1930s. just a few months after lindbergh's flight, on july 4th, 1927, the first lockheed vega takes to the air. an airplane like the one you see behind me. this airplane is the result of the pairing of new lockheed aircraft company, with a self-taught intuitive designer, named jack northup. he has a feel for what an airplane should look like. what you see behind me is the ideaf a streamline would look
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like. no supporting braces or wires. you have an internally supported wing you see on the airplane. you also see a ply wood fuselage. taking the heritage of the curtis rc 3 racer that goes to before world war i. it doesn't need an internal bracing system, as well as external bracing. his idea of a clean airplane is manifested in this. and it has a radial engine at the front of the airplane and a metal propellor. the problem with the radial engine, which becomes a corner stone technology. we see on the spirit of st. louis and here with the wasp, the problem with the radial engine is it's situated like a flower pedal and it's the equivalent of a model tee on the car.
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but they need to be exposed to cool. do you have an exposed engine or cover it to get air dynamic efficiency. to clean up the disturbed air, the drag too, make it more efficient? this is being investigated by the naca in langly, virginia. and a young engineer, named fred wiek, has a 20-foot wind tunnel and he starts playing with the idea of a cow wing for a radial engine. it's design number 10 that results inflowing air through the cowelling while controlling the streamline of the air on the outside, the cowelling. that technology is what makes the vega such an important aircraft in terms of efficiency and maximizes the ability to fly
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165 miles per hour cruise and the ability to fly passengers and what the original design of the airplane was for. so, it wins the collier trophy, still given today. jack northup takes it and puts it on the airplane. he thinks this is a high wing airplane. a cant lever wing. you have fixed landing gear and you have these big rubber tires and wheels that create drag. so, his idea is i'll put pants on the tires and the wheels. so, there's tear drop streamline wheel pants are an idea of you have to have fixed landing gear but why don't we make them as fixed as possible. the pants over the wheels. the increases the performance and efficiency of the vega. this becomes known as a
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high-performance airplane. and is taken by amelia earhardt, who flies this airplane across the atlantic ocean. the first woman to fly across the atlantic nonstop. and august of 1932, she flies nonstop across from the united states. s she's rapidly becoming this leading aviation in the united states flying a vega. after earhardt flies nonstop across the united states, she sold her airplane to the franklin institute. and in 1966, the airplane became available to the smithsonian institution. so, the vega becomes the airplane of choice for record breakers. in 1931, the oklahoma wild cater
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who loses an eye in an oil rig accident, he started flying and chooses the vega. his characteristic white and blue winny may. he flies around the world with a navigator in 1931 in eight days. in 1933, he flies around the world all by himself in 7.5 days. and he starts learning these new phenomena that aviators are going to come to know after world war ii, the jet stream. he gets an additional 120 miles per hour as he's flying from the jet stream. he's experimenting. he's also the first individual to experiment with the pressure suit. the vega is the choice of aviator whose want to push the limits of not only speed and distance but altitude in terms of what the airplane can do. this is amelia earhardt's
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characteristic red vega. ter tells her story of flying across the atlantic. and it's in another airplane, the lockheed electra that disappears in 1937. lockheed becomes synonymous with long-distance aircraft. but still it's a wood airplane. it's interesting to see the performance being pushed, which seem said court intuitive in terms of what the airplane is. it's looking towards the future in terms of its shape. if we look at the very dynamic period of inovation, we've seen a lot of airplanes merge, the vega is the first to represent the future and how it's going to become modern in the course of
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the 1930s. so, the vega, through pilots like amelia earhardt, they've ramped up the spectacle of flight. enthusiasm for the wonderful flights, in terms of flying across oceans, continents, the world. the next airplane, the boeing airplane is an example of a commercial airplane that embodies the new innovations and in this case, carrying passengers in the 1930s. it's one of the first modern airliners and one of the first modern airplanes overall when it's introduced in 1933. and so, it reflects this heritage of reinventing the airplane after world war i. it laz metal construction. and there's been construction of the vega. the tubular steel fuselage of
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the spirit of st. louis. and you make these aircraft bigger. you sweep the wings back. and you have jet airliners of the 1950s. but we're looking at the beginning of that with this airplane. the boeing company, president johnson and chief engineer want to build upon this new aircraft design called the b 9 bomber. and they want to develop it into a commercial airliner. and the 247 is the result of that. it embodies all metal construction but the idea of the streamline design the vega represents. you have incorporated into an airplane to make money these innovations to make it go faster. with the unveiling of the 247, you have 170-mile-per-hour
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airplane capable of carrying ten passengers. that's quite a jump over this plane, it's flrm flying at 117 mech. and shortening the flight time to 19.5 hours. this is another element is the vast distances of the united states really push the development of commercial aircraft. you have an airplane capable of flying faster than the most advanced army pursuit airplanes. and that kind of shapes the knowledge oaf what thooez afrps can do. it's the parnlt company of fwloeg aircraft. hamilton standard propellors and
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they own several airlines, including united airlines. boeing builds these airplaneses and they can only go to united aircraft and transport family companies. that means others, like twa and american, don't have these airplanes. twa, under jack fry, asks other aircraft manufacturer said, can you help us out. we want a replacement for the trimotor. and what results is a winning bid for the dc airliner, which becomes the dc 3 you see back here above the 247. as the 247 starts, it has innovations built in. it has fixed pitch propellors. it has a forward slooeping wind
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screen. and you have what results from the d 4 model here full cowelling, and variable pitch propellors. what i mean by that is hydraulic mechanisms that actually change the blade pitch as the propellor is rotating. it's an advanced airplane that increases to 128 miles per hour. but the 247 can't compete. and so, the dc series becomes the premier airplane of the 1930s. there's a story in which the dc 2 and 3 get into a race in the falloff 1934. this australian millionaire connecting great britain to australia, melbourne.
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a boeing 247 you see here come in second and third. the first airplane is a purpose-built air racer. but the dc 2 and 247, they show how american aeronautical technology has surpassed and jumped ahead of european aircraft technology. and it's the ability of the airplanes and dc 2 flies and makes stops along the way. but it's the 247 d you see here, flown and they come in third. it's a 92-hour flight and they make stops, get lost for three hours, have engine trouble but they make it. and it's the airplane you see here that made that flight. it's part of the story in which
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the international press says the united states has jumped ahead in aeronautical technology. how do we catch up? such a shock in terms of the performance of the airplanes. after the mcrobertson race, this aircraft goes back to the inventory as just an airliner and goes out of service eventually and has several owners. in the early 1970s, it's given to the smithsonian from united airlines and restored. the view you see here on the right side is saying united airlines markings. on the other side are the markings the airplane had on it during the mcrobertson race. so, you can see both histories of that airplane before 1934 and afterwards. with the aerospace museum and the opening, this was put on display in the airborne
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transport gallery to show the story of the first very crucial moment of the modern airplane, in this case, an airliner appearing in the mid1930s. the boeing 247 d we were discussing epitmized the technology that going to become the modern airplane. something that, in its various iterations gets bigger but it's the aircraft we all know in terms of the structure, the shape, especially in terms of jet airliners today. the one behind me, the north america is different airmen. it's a research plane, beginning with the bell x 1 in 1947, the airplane first designed to investigate supersonic flight, mach 1. there's a new generation of
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aircraft, building airplanes just for investigating aerodynamic phenomenon or some sort of aeronautical challenge that can be overcome fundamentally. and you have a succession of aircraft that are going to look into mach 1, mach 2, mach three, look into construction techniques. but it's the x 15 program that investigates the hypersonic regime, to speeds beyond mach 4. so, looking at the partnership between industry, north american in this case, the military, u.s. air force, the primary ben factor of high-speed aircraft and the national advisory for aeronautics, which transitions to nasa. this program investigates the hypersonic regime and it has to do that in testing the aircraft
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as an aerospace plane. no long we talking about airplanes in the atmosphere. this is designed to transition to the edges of space. so, over the course of 199 flights, there are three x 15s built by north americans. so, taking the formula and pushing the idea of especially higher and faster, you're looking at a vehicle that, in it's present form, you see for the hypersonic regime. it has traditional controls and needs a new system. and if you look at the nose of the aircraft, you see the two holes. those reaction control jets. as the aerodynamic ability to control the aircraft goes away, it uses propulsion jets.
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it's designed as a research airplane to investigate the hypersonic regime. the idea is how do you do this and make the aircraft survive? the distinctive shape is there for the hypersonic regime. it's -- you don't see a big-fat wing or delta wing. it's a very compact structure and stubby wings to get through the regime. and this is to create control in the hypersonic regime. the air traveling over the surface is estimated to be up to 12 degrees fahrenheit. that warranted the creation of a new material that would influence other high-speed aircraft. so, these are space-aged materials being put into an aerospace plane. the pilots wear pressureized suits, like astronauts.
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and this is a concurrent program with the mercury and jimmy pilot program. this is not an airplane designed to take off and land from the ground. it's designed to be carried by a b 52 bombering converted to a mother ship for nasa. carried, dropped and the pilot would engage the rocket engine and do whatever flight profile he needed to do. so, in 1959, scott cross field, the north american research engineering test pilot makes the first flights with the x 15, this particular one, which is number one x 15. seeing where it can ply, how it can fly. and then by the mid1960s, you have a flight program that has really influenced and encouraged
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how the space program developed its flight. there's the high range edwards air force base that they're operated and thrown over. and they're tracked. you're tracking this aircraft. and so, by the mid to late 1960s, x 15 flights are pushing that regime in terms of flying 67 miles high or 345,000 feet. flying at the high speed of mach 6. so, the pilot of these vehicles are primarily nasa pilots or air force pilots. and so, these are missions that are pushing people to believe is this the way into space? is this what's going to be developed to make this transition?
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you have to think when the airplane first flies in 1959, is it's -- i mean, charles lindbergh is alive. and these generations of flyers and the memory. so, the idea of faster, farger and higher is being symbolized by the flight of the x 15 through the late 1960s. so, this is x 15 number one and flown by a number of nasa test pilots, but including neil armstrong, who was employed as a nasa test pilot, something he was very proud of in terms of flying. this was an alternate path that another type of vehicle was chosen for the atmosphere to space access in the form of the space shuttle and the capsules of the mercury, jimmy and apollo
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programs. in a lot of ways, this was an alternate path that never happened. but the idea of designing a hypersonic vehicle in which the x 15 holds the recrd as the fastest man-carrying vehicle even to this day. but the x 15 is still a symbol of what might be the next plateau in terms of flying, hypersonic flight. there are many individuals, especially nasa today, the aeronautics, the first a in nasa, who believe hypersonic travel is possible. there's research on unmanned hypersonic engines and they see these as a direct result of this work and research airplanes like the x 15. i hope you've enjoyed this look at some of the one-of-a-kind path breaking aircraft to illustrate the theme of higher, faster, farther in the collection of the smithsonian national air and space museum.
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you could choose other examples. but i felt these showed the spectacle of flight, how people get excited about seeing these. and it touches on the ways of experiencing flight. we have pilots, passengers on airliners and we have people watching and reading and learning about these stories, these varjs and important stories in aviation that shaped our world. so, in looking at these artifacts, that's one of the primary roles is to preserve them and share them with the american public, in terms of the rest of the world and that's resonated in terms of success and in telling the stories and trying to present that in new ways to share it and show different levels of experience as well as the importance of the technology. in many ways the museum has
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grown to show how society has been effected and how it's effected the technology itself. that's what's been exciting about the tour for me is to talk about my take on that and share it with visitors. >> this or other american artifacts programs at any time by visiting our website,


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