National Aviation Day: Here’s What to Know About the Day Honoring Orville Wright’s Birthday

by Jennifer Shea
Donald Kravitz/Getty Images

National Aviation Day takes place every year on Aug. 19. And it’s an opportunity to celebrate the wonders of flight.

Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched National Aviation Day in 1939, according to the First Flight Society. The group was founded in 1927 to memorialize the Wright brothers.

The society hosts an annual National Aviation Day celebration at Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo, North Carolina. This year, participants include NASA’s Langley Research Center, Wright Brothers USA, Outer Banks History Center, the Military Aviation Museum and Dare County Radio Control Flyers.

National Aviation Day Falls on Orville Wright’s Birthday

Moreover, Aug. 19 also happens to be the birthday of Orville Wright. Orville, along with his brother Wilbur, invented the first flying machine. And Orville piloted the first successful controlled human flight on Dec. 17, 1903.

The brothers had founded airplane companies in America and Europe by 1908, per the National Park Service. Then, in 1910, they shared their discovery with the world.  

Orville died of a heart attack in the town of his birth, Dayton, Ohio, on Jan. 30, 1948. He was 76. He lived to see the use of aircraft in two world wars, the evolution of the jet engine and a manned flight surpassing the speed of sound. Just 21 years after his death, humans would fly into space and walk on the moon.

NASA Has Tips on Celebrating the Holiday

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has even named their official mascot, Orville the Squirrel, after the longer-lived Wright brother. And the agency suggests people try downloading the mascot’s picture, printing it out and then taking a selfie with Orville on their travels.

“You can help us show how Orville gets around,” NASA said on its website.

Other suggestions include watching an aviation-themed movie, such as Jimmy Stewart’s “The Spirit of St. Louis” or Disney’s “Planes,” visiting a local science museum, building a model airplane or taking an introductory flight lesson.

If all that sounds too ambitious in the midst of a pandemic, you can always download a NASA e-book, such as Chuck Yeager’s autobiography “Yeager.” NASA has helpfully compiled a list of aeronautics e-books here.

And remember: NASA-developed technology is integral to every airplane and air traffic control tower operating today. It was NASA research that produced the jet engines on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. NASA also pioneered the glass cockpit, the electronic displays that supplanted dials and gauges to steer the plane.

So whether you’re in the air or on the ground this National Aviation Day, take a moment to appreciate the enormous strides that the Wright brothers’ invention made possible.