- Lauren Rinehart Contributing Writer
The Aviation Trail National Park is comprised of 16 historical sites that, when added together, help tell the story of flight.
Logically, the trail starts in Dayton, Ohio – the birthplace of aviation. It begins at the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and Aviation Trail Visitor Center in Dayton, where visitors learn about the Wright Brothers from their early years in the print industry, working with Paul Laurence Dunbar, to the design and planning phases of their work with powered flight.
The Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center is situated right where the Wright Brothers lived and worked in West Dayton back in the late 1800s. The surrounding area has been preserved, so it's just like stepping back in time to see their neighborhood as it was then.
Inside the Center is the Aviation Trail Parachute Museum, which gives visitors an education on the rich history of the free-fall parachute. Along with photographs of original parachute designs, they have original parachutes on display and interactive exhibits that show the forces at work in free-fall.
The parachutes on display were once the property of David Gold, an avid parachute collector and developer. The Parachute Museum helps visitors understand antiquated attitudes regarding parachutes – for instance, it was once believed that free-fall itself was deadly (as in, the person would die before landing simply because falling from great heights is "unnatural" for humans). The exhibits lead the visitor from the past to the present with a glimpse at the possible future of parachute technology.
Another stop on the Aviation Trail leads visitors to Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum, where the Wright Brothers, as well as Paul Laurence Dunbar, are buried. Travelers on the trail may also visit Carillon Historical Park, where the original 1905 Wright Flyer III is on display in Wright Hall. The famous Huffman Prairie Flying Field and Interpretive Center are also on the trail, and the flying field includes a reproduction of the hangar the Wright Brothers used to store their airplanes back in 1905.
Whether you are just interested in learning more about the Wright Brothers or you happen to be a full-on aviation enthusiast, you’ll absolutely find something to inspire you on The Aviation Trail.
Want to go?
WHAT: The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
WHERE: Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center, 16 S. Williams St., Dayton
HOURS: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
COST: Free; donations are accepted
INFO: (937) 225-7705 or www.nps.gov/daav