Aviation history

Museum Monday: Amelia Earhart’s Goggles

Courtesy Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Here’s proof that you never know when you’ll come across something cool in an unexpected place.

Case in point: the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The sprawling museum is not just the largest children’s museum in the world. It is also home to more than 130,000 artifacts, many of them true treasures.

One example: these aviator goggles that belonged to Amelia Earhart. According to museum notes, Earhart “supposedly didn’t enjoy wearing goggles, and would only put them on at the end of the runway and would take them off as soon as she landed.” The museum says these goggles were given to Earhart by a friend who also gave her a leather jacket and a flight cap.

No word on what happened to the leather jacket and the flight cap. But the goggles are on display at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis right now as part of an exhibit called Barbie You Can Be Anything: The Experience. In addition to telling the story of the iconic doll, the exhibit highlights more than 200 careers Barbie has had over the years. Airline pilot is one of them.

Mattel’s Amelia Earhart Barbie doll and the museum’s Amelia Earhart goggles are part of the exhibit.

Barbie as Amelia Earhart

Travel Tidbits: an Astrochimp, airplane models, and more

It has been difficult – to say the least – to read anything but political news this week. But we did take a break and found these fun aviation-related treasures in our Twitter stream about anniversaries marking the death of Ham the Astrochimp and a record-breaking flight by Howard Hughes. The SFO Museum gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how it cares for airplane models and a fun early ad for a sleeperette compartment.

More airports embrace the “How it started” meme

Our first post sharing examples of how airports are embracing the “How it Started Twitter meme got so long that we’ve started a new post.

Please let us know if you find new responses that should be added. We’ll add them as we find them.

Travel Tidbits to blast off into a new week

Courtesy Roswell Museum and Art Center

October 5 marks the birthday of Robert Hutchings Goddard, known as the “Father of Modern Rocketry.”

It started in a cherry tree

In October 1899, a 17-year-old Goddard climbed a cherry tree in Central Massachusetts armed with a saw and a hatchet so he could cut off some dead tree limbs.

“It was one of the quiet, colorful afternoons of sheer beauty which we have in October in New England,” Goddard later wrote, “And as I looked towards the fields at the east, I imagined how wonderful it would be to make some device which had even the possibility of ascending to Mars.”

People thought he was crazy, but he pressed on with his ideas and received his first two rocket-related patents in 1914.

That was just the beginning.

Here’s NASA’s list of just some of Goddard’s later contributions to missilery and space flight 

  • Explored the practicality of using rocket propulsion to reach high altitudes, even the moon (1912)
  • Proved that a rocket will work in a vacuum, that it needs no air to push against
  • Developed and fired a liquid fuel rocket (March 16, 1926, Auburn, Mass.)
  • Shot a scientific payload in a rocket flight (1929, Auburn, Mass.)
  • Used vanes in the rocket motor blast for guidance (1932, New Mexico)
  • Developed gyro control apparatus for rocket flight (1932, New Mexico)
  • Received U.S. patent for of multi-stage rocket (1914)
  • Developed pumps suitable for rocket fuels
  • Launched a rocket with a motor pivoted on gimbals under the influence of a gyro mechanism (1937)

Long after he died, Goddard did get to the moon. Sort of.

When Buzz Aldrin went to the Moon on Apollo 11 in 1969, he took along two tiny, credit card sized copies of Goddard’s autobiography.

These were the first books flown to the moon and one copy now resides in a vault at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Goddard was born in Worcester; was both a student and an instructor at Clark University; and is buried in Worcester.

Courtesy Clark University

In 1966, a time capsule with a great deal of Goddard memorabilia, including eight of Goddard’s patents and letters between Goddard and science-fiction writer H.G. Wells, was placed in the concrete floor of the Goddard Library at Clark University to be opened in 2466.

The time capsule also contains a long list of “Space Age” material, including packets of space food from NASA (tuna fish, bacon strips, banana pudding, coconut squares, beef sandwiches, cereal cubes and chicken bites) and “Items Representing Contemporary Life” from 1966, including tranquilizer pills, a miniskirt, a Beatles Record, a package of filter-tip cigarettes and copy of Playboy.

STL Airport’s Black Americans in Flight mural turns 30

Make sure to see this historic mural at STL Airport

August 13, 2020 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the dedication ceremony unveiling the Black Americans In Flight mural that now hangs in Terminal One (T1) at St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL).

The five-panel mural is eight feet tall and 51 feet long. It pays tribute to African-American Achievements in Aviation from 1917 onward.

Included in the historic mural are 75 portraits, 18 aircraft, five unit patches, and one spacecraft.

In 1986 the Committee for the Aviation Mural Project Success (CAMPS) commissioned St. Louis artist Spencer Taylor to create the mural.

The initial assignment was to honor St. Louis African-American pilots that flew in World War II, also known as Tuskegee Airmen. But Taylor worked with another local artist, Solomon Thurman, and expanded the mural to include the much broader story of African-Americans in aviation and the history they made.

Notable people featured in the mural

A few of the notable people you can spot in the mural include:

Capt. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. On September 2, 1941, David became the first African-American to solo an aircraft as an officer of the U.S. Army Air Corp.

Capt. Wendell O. Pruitt. A St. Louis native, Pruitt was one-half of the famed “Gruesome Twosome.” Capt. Pruitt along and Capt. Lee Archer are considered the most successful pair of Tuskegee pilots in terms of air victories. Both men were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Capt. Marcella A. Hayes. Hayes is the first African-American woman to complete U.S. Army pilot training in 1979. Following her training, she became an Army helicopter pilot.

Capt. Edward J. Dwight, Jr.  He is the first African-American candidate for NASA’s space program.

Ronald E. McNair, Ph.D. McNair was a specialist aboard the fatal launch of the Challenger space shuttle in January of 1986.

Mae C. Jemison, M.D. She is the first African-American female astronaut.

In 2017, STL held an event to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the mural’s installation. COVID-19 means no formal ceremony or event can take place now, for the 30th anniversary.

If you can’t visit STL right now and see this mural in person, you can find more information about it on the STL website. There’s also a report on the time Lt. Colonel Marcella Ng (formerly Capt. Marcella Hayes) visited St. Louis and got her first chance to see her portrait in the mural and meet with one of the artists.