Aviation began in a bicycle shop. I discovered this while hiking the Wright Brothers Trail in Dayton, Ohio, last week.
Experiments in their bike shop led to the world's first airplane flight on December 18, 1903. That took place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Further development in Dayton allowed Lindbergh to cross the Atlantic and for bombs to rain down on Tokyo. More on that later.
I imagined Orville and Wilber's testing their fragile crafts as I stood on Huffman Prairie, the now famous, former cow field. Inside the nearby museum I flew one of the brothers' creations myself. Fortunately, crashing a simulator only hurts your pride. The Wright Brothers, I learned, had a lot of accidents themselves before they got it right.
Their work let to those long metal tubes that zip us all over today. Unfortunately, many of these airplanes are used to wage war. After leaving The Trail I saw a collection of our country's military aircraft. It is just two miles from where the brothers started it all.
The U.S. Air Force Museum has five huge hangers large enough to contain, well, an air force. One must hike a couple of miles to see them all. Here are a few of the aircraft on display,
This B-29 dropped a "Fat Boy" atom bomb on Nagasaki.
The B-2 bomber is a study in awesomeness. You expect the cockpit to open to reveal Darth Vader.
While it is extremely cool to create these things (bad guy must be dealt with) there is little use for B-2's in the wars we fight today.
The Link Trainer is more my speed. I would suffer the enemy by tossing water balloons.
This is the space scooter developed for NASA. It was never produced because scientist thought it would be too much fun (and, people like me might try to become astronauts for the thrill of riding one).
Before there were space scooters the air force had trouble recruiting pilots because the uniforms were ugly.
That all changed when they began issuing leather bomber jackets. Everybody wanted one. They looked great and you could have your name painted on the back.
The Air Force is always acquiring new aircraft and getting rid of the old stuff. I went on a Saturday and they were having their annual "hanger" sale.
I considered buying a F-80 Shooting Star or P-58 Hustler then I saw my perfect ride.
I am now the proud owner of a B-2 Bomber.
It's four engines put out 120,000 h.p. and it'll do 1,490 m.p.h. straight out. At that speed it would get me from Coconut Grove to downtown Miami in less than a second.
But where would I park?