America by Air

Flying was new and daring in the early years of the 20th century. Traveling by airplane was rare. Airlines, airliners, airports, air routes—none of these existed. But by century's end, you could travel to almost anywhere in America by air in a matter of hours. How did this revolutionary change happen?

America by Air explores the history of air transportation in the United States and shows how the federal government has shaped the airline industry, how improvements in technology have revolutionized air travel, and how the flying experience has changed. Highlights include a Ford 5-AT Tri-Motor, Boeing 247 and DC-3 airliners; a cockpit simulation of an Airbus A320; and a nose from a Boeing 747 jumbo jet that you can enter.

Photo: Boeing 747 Forward Fuselage. Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

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Exhibitions and events

Fifty Years of Human Spaceflight

Permanent exhibition

The Soviet Union and the United States transfixed the world by launching the first human beings into space in 1961. Engineers and rocketry enthusiasts had planned such missions for decades, but Cold...

The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age

Permanent exhibition

Removed temporarily from its place of honor in Milestones of Flight, the 1903 Wright Flyer, the world's first successful airplane, serves as the centerpiece of this exhibition, which celebrates the...

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