This is the third post of a relatively new feature here at Big Sky Buckeye. Every couple of months or so different snapshots about the Buckeye State of Ohio will be featured.
Ohio uses a number of nicknames. Many people have heard of the “Buckeye” state, but fewer know some of its other nicknames.
Declared by the U.S. Congress in 2003, Ohio is also known as the “Birthplace of Aviation.” Four noteworthy Ohioans have stood out for their individual contributions to American aviation.
Many people know of the inventive brothers, Wilbur and Orville Wright (1867-1912 and 1871-1948). Growing up in Dayton, this tandem worked hard to earn a living from their bicycle business, but they were dreaming of more. Their ambitions credited them with inventing and flying the first aircraft in 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. In winning a coin toss, Orville took the controls of the plane on this historic flight.
Few people may know of the top fighter ace from World War I, Eddie Rickenbacker (1890-1973). Born in Columbus, this daring aviator earned 26 aerial victories during the Great War. Being nicknamed “Fast Eddie,” this man seemed destined for greatness. For his war exploits, he was awarded the American military’s Medal of Honor. Later in life, he experienced more success as a race car driver, automotive designer, and airline executive.
On the left: the Wright brothers. On the right: Captain Eddie Rickenbacker. (Photos courtesy of Pinterest)
One of the most recognized of the early American astronauts was John Glenn (1921-2016). Hailing from New Concord, he flew as a U.S. Marines fighter pilot in World War II (57 combat missions) and the Korean War (63 combat missions). Following his military service in Korea, Glenn served as a fighter test pilot. Little did he know that this step in his aviation career would open a door to outer space. Selected as one of NASA’s original seven astronauts, he orbited the earth three times in 1962 aboard the Friendship 7 space flight in a Mercury capsule.
Any discussion about Ohio’s aviation pioneers would not be complete without including Neil Armstrong (1930-2012). From his hometown of Wapakoneta, Armstrong would bring a well-rounded resume to his training in NASA’s second group of astronauts. The Korean War veteran served as a naval aviator and test pilot. Following Armstrong’s successful Gemini 8 mission, he was groomed to make the historic moon landing on July 20, 1969 with Buzz Aldrin. As he stepped onto the moon’s surface, his words still resonate even today: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
On the left: John Glenn. On the right: Neil Armstrong. (Photos courtesy of Pinterest)
Each of these Americans played an important role in the development of aviation in the United States, taking us from the first flight to landing man on the moon. Outside of Dayton stands the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which is also home to the world’s oldest and largest military aviation museum—National Museum of the United States Air Force.
The sheer number of exhibits is overwhelming, but here is a very brief sample. Follow this link to the museum website.
- Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (the infamous Memphis Belle)
- Boeing B-29 Superfortress (this bomber dropped the second and final atomic bomb over Japan to end World War II)
- Boeing 707 (recognized by call sign “Air Force One” for Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon)
- Apollo 15 Command Module Endeavour (later the name “Endeavour” is used for one of NASA’s space shuttles)