Category Archives: aviation

Willa Brown: Out from the Shadows of Aeronautical History


Willa Bernice Brown was an aviation pioneer and flight instructor, but she is unknown to almost all, even those knowledgeable about the history of flight. Born in Glasgow, Kentucky, in 1907, her parents gave her more opportunities than most other African Americans … Continue reading

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The Great NACA Fact-Finding Trip to Germany in 1936, and its Results


Last week I presented a discussion of the political process whereby two additional NACA laboratories were created. Here is the pre-history of that set of decisions. In the first part of 1936 John J. Ide, the NACA’s European representative since 1921, … Continue reading

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The NACA and New Research Laboratories in World War II


As the United States moved into the World War II era its military forces called upon the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) as never before to provide the aeronautical technology necessary to win the war. It was not easy … Continue reading

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Wednesday’s Book Review: “Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight”


Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight. By Jay Barbree. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2014. Introduction by John Glenn. Illustrations. 517 pages. ISBN: 978-1250040718. $19.68 USD. Hardcover with dustjacket. Whatever else Jay Barbree’s Neil Armstrong: A Life of … Continue reading

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Wednesday’s Book Review: “Blue Sky Metropolis: The Aerospace Century in Southern California”


Blue Sky Metropolis: The Aerospace Century in Southern California. Western Histories. Edited by Peter J. Westwick. Foreword by William Deverell. (Berkeley: University of California Press; San Marino: Huntington Library, 2012. xii + 308 pp. Illustrations, table, notes, bibliography, index. $44.95, … Continue reading

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The NACA and the National Unitary Wind Tunnel Plan


During World War II it became obvious that the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) required new tools to pursue a high-speed/high altitude research program. The National Unitary Wind Tunnel Act of 1949 addressed these needs, providing NACA funds to … Continue reading

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Bert Acosta and the “Golden Age of Flight”


You have to love Bert Acosta (1895-1954), an aviation pioneer who became famous for his talent and his misbehavior in pre-World War II aviation. His quest for speed, which was always a part of Acosta’s daredevil psyche, led him both to piloting advanced aircraft … Continue reading

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Guaranteeing Aeronautical Innovation: Is that Possible?


For the twentieth century no set of technological innovations are more intriguing than those associated with aviation. Perhaps no technological development in this century has more fundamentally transformed human life than the airplane, coupled with its ground support apparatus and … Continue reading

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The NACA Makes the Jet Engine both More Efficient and More Powerful


I have been working on a general history of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor to NASA, and I have been working on a section of jet research in the 1940s and 1950s. Comments on this draft … Continue reading

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The NACA and the Documenting of Progress in Aerodynamics


The aeronautical research that the NACA between 1915 and 1958 undertook found dissemination in a complex set of technical publications that the agency made available to all on an equal basis. Most NACA research was accomplished “in-house” by scientists or … Continue reading

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