All aviation aficionados know that the history of aviation is almost as exciting as flying itself. We’ve compiled a list of some “must-see” historic aircraft you can find preserved and displayed in museums across the country. From innovative warplanes to record-shattering aircraft, aviation enthusiasts and history buffs alike will be fascinated with these five modern marvels:
Bell X-1 Glamorous Glennis
In 1947, Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager shattered aviation records when he flew the rocket-powered Bell X-1 at a speed of 700 miles per hour at an altitude of 43,000 feet. The event marked the first aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound. The historic airplane, nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis” in honor of Yeager’s wife, can be found at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
H-4 Hercules “Spruce Goose”
The H-4 Hercules, nicknamed the “Spruce Goose,” was the largest airplane to have ever flown. Billionaire Howard Hughes designed the enormous airplane for the US Air Force to be used for moving men and supplies across the Atlantic. The Spruce Goose was 219-feet long, had a wingspan of 320 feet, and was constructed of wood due to World War II restrictions on the use of metal. The H-4 cost $22 million to build but was not finished in time to be used in the war. An engineering feat and modern marvel, The Spruce Goose is preserved and displayed at the Evergreen Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.
One of the most famous World War II bomber aircraft was the Memphis Belle. As a member of the 324th Bomb Squadron, the Memphis Belle made history as one of the first B-17 bombers to safely complete 25 combat missions in World War II. After this successful landmark, the crew returned to America for a war bond publicity tour. Named for Captain Robert Morgan’s Tennessee Sweetheart, the Memphis Belle was the inspiration behind a 1944 documentary and a Hollywood feature film in 1990. The Memphis Belle is currently undergoing an extensive restoration but is expected to appear on display in 2018 at the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.
Spirit of St. Louis
Charles Lindbergh became an aviation legend after he successfully completed the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris in his single engine, single-seat monoplane, dubbed the Spirit of St. Louis. Lindbergh took off from New York on May 20, 1927, and landed in Paris after traveling more than 3,600 miles in 33 hours. After returning home, Lindbergh toured the country in the Spirit and received the Medal of Honor from President Coolidge. His record-breaking feat even inspired the launch of Popular Aviation magazine. You can find the Spirit of St. Louis on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
In 1986, the Rutan Model 76 Voyager became the first aircraft to fly around the world without stopping or refueling. Piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, the Voyager took off from Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert and landed 9 days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds later, setting a flight endurance record. The Voyager’s airframe was made of fiberglass, kevlar and carbon fiber, and had front and rear propellers powered by separate engines. After the loss of a propeller during a test flight, Rutan made the decision to switch to new, custom-made propellers provided by Hartzell Propeller and designed to endure the long flight. Today, the Voyager is proudly displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.