Dayton’s aviation heritage on display at national event this week

Champaign Aviation Museum s B-25J Champaign Gal at the 2017 Vectren Dayton Air Show. Photo by Timothy R. Gaffney
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Champaign Aviation Museum s B-25J Champaign Gal at the 2017 Vectren Dayton Air Show. Photo by Timothy R. Gaffney

Elements of the National Aviation Heritage Area will be on display this week at AirVenture, the world’s biggest fly-in at Oshkosh, Wis.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and the Champaign Aviation Museum will celebrate the heritage area’s rich aviation history in the air and on the ground at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture 2017 at Wittman Regional Airport.

All are partners of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance, the Dayton-based nonprofit that is chartered by Congress to manage the heritage area.

Wright-Patterson will call attention to its 100th anniversary—and the Air Force’s 70th—with a special display, sharing space with Dayton’s national park in the AirVenture Federal Pavilion. Every year, rangers and volunteers from the national park and Wright-Patterson coordinate the exhibits of federal agencies in the pavilion.

Besides Dayton’s federal entities, the Champaign Aviation Museum at historic Grimes Field Airport in Urbana will fly its restored, World War II-era B-25 “Champaign Gal” to Oshkosh to take part in EAA’s 75th anniversary commemoration of the Doolittle Tokyo Raid. It will be the airplane’s debut appearance at AirVenture. Dave Shiffer, the museum’s executive director, said EAA invited the museum to take part in the Doolittle commemoration.

Aviation enthusiasts consider AirVenture the premiere general aviation event of the year. Combining EAA’s annual convention with daily air shows and trade expos, the week-long event typically draws 500,000 or more visits, many by people flying their own aircraft. EAA is an international organization of amateur aircraft builders and aviation enthusiasts.

Paul Woodruff, Wright-Patterson’s historic preservation officer, said the AirVenture exhibit is intended to educate a national audience about America’s largest and oldest air base. “We go back to 1905,” when the Wright brothers began using Huffman Prairie for flying experiments, said Woodruff, who will present a speaker’s program at AirVenture. Huffman Prairie is now a part of Wright-Patterson.

Under an agreement between the Air Force and the National Park Service, Wright-Patterson makes the prairie accessible to the public as a unit of the national park. The national park also also operates the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center at the Wright Brothers Memorial, which overlooks the flying field.

Wright-Patterson is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year because its roots are in three installations the U.S. Army created in 1917 as the United States entered World War I—McCook Field, Wilbur Wright Field and the Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot.

The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park was established in 1992 to preserve and share the world-changing history of the invention, development and commercialization of the airplane by Wilbur and Orville Wright in Dayton.

The Champaign Aviation Museum honors World War II veterans by flying and displaying World War II-era airplanes, and volunteers are building a Boeing B-17 bomber from parts of several other airplanes, but with many parts built from scratch based on original Boeing drawings.