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National Aviation Day is observed in the United States on August 19 each year to celebrate the history and development of aviation. It coincides with the birthday of Orville Wright who, together with his brother Wilbur, made significant contributions to powered flight.

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Biplanes, such as the example pictured above, played an important role in aviation history. The Wright brothers used a biplane design to build the Wright Flyer. ©iStockphoto.com/Andrea Gingerich

What do people do?

On this day, some schools organize for students to participate in classroom activities that focus on the topic of aviation. Activities include: discussing aviation history, including the efforts of the Wright brothers, Amelia Earhart and other aviation pioneers; and engaging in interactive tasks about airplanes and other means of flight transport, as well as careers associated with the aviation industry. Aviation enthusiasts and students may visit museums about aviation history and technology. Some people visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina at this time of the year.

Public life

National Aviation Day is a federal observance but it is not a public holiday in the United States.

Background

In 1939 President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed August 19 to be National Aviation Day. The day coincides with the birthday of Orville Wright, who piloted the Wright Flyer. He and his brother Wilbur are given credit for building the world’s first successful airplane with aircraft controls that enabled them to steer the plane. Orville Wright made the first flight for 12 seconds and 120 feet around the site of Wright Brothers National Memorial on December 17, 1903. They were not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft but they are the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed wing flight possible. The Wright brothers’ status as inventors of the airplane has been an issue of debate, particularly as there were competing claims regarding other early aviators. Another national observation in the United States is Wright Brothers Day on December 17 each year.

 

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