Festivities for this year’s National Aviation Day are being held at locations across the country, including the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton, Ohio.
The observance originally was proclaimed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 and events are held on or around Aug. 19, the birthday of Orville Wright. This year is the 75th anniversary of the first National Aviation Day and also is the 100th anniversary of the first commercial flight in the United States.
The memorial at Kill Devil Hills, just south of the town of Kitty Hawk, marks the area where Orville and Wilbur Wright made their pioneering flights. The brothers experimented for four years before taking the first powered and sustained flight on Dec. 17, 1903.
A decade later, pilot Tony Jannus carried one paying passenger from St. Petersburg to Tampa, Florida. The 23-minute journey was the first scheduled commercial service, according to the International Air Transport Association.
The accomplishments of the Wrights, Jannus and other aviators ushered in a booming era of commercial flight. In 2013, roughly 826 million passengers flew on U.S. airlines or on foreign airlines serving the United States, the federal Department of Transportation reported. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has estimated that passenger traffic in the United States will exceed 1 billion by 2034. As of January 2014, more than 380,000 people were employed by U.S. airlines in a wide variety of capacities.
“Aviation is multifaceted,” said Ismael Cremer, an assistant professor in Florida Institute of Technology’s College of Aeronautics, which this month launched a Bachelor of Arts in Aviation Management degree, offered 100% online. “It’s not just about flying … there are so many different aspects to it. There’s airport management, there’s designing airports, there’s forecasting and planning for airports. You’ve got safety, security.”
Cremer’s own fascination with aviation began when he was growing up in his native Kuwait. He attained his Bachelor’s in Aeronautical Science from Florida Tech and is pursuing his PhD in Aviation Science from the Melbourne, Florida-based university.
“It’s always been a childhood dream,” Cremer said. “I always wanted to fly.”
This year’s events at Kill Devil Hills on Aug. 19, hosted by the First Flight Society, include a model aircraft airshow, a flight simulator and talks by former astronaut Don Thomas. Pilots and flying enthusiasts will also be on hand to answer questions about the aircraft and aviation displays, according to the society’s website.
The Air Force museum, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near the Wright brothers’ hometown of Dayton, scheduled its festivities for Aug. 16, with an F-16 flight simulator and presentations about aviation technologies among the offerings.