Six Surprising Facts About Dayton’s Aviation History

Orville and Wilbur Wright, better known as the Wright brothers, were two prominent pioneers of aviation. Though they made their first flight just south of Kitty Hawk, NC, their work began years before that and hundreds of miles to the northwest, right here in Dayton, OH.

Anyone who’s taken flying lessons or has a surface knowledge of aviation probably knows that the Wright brothers were largely credited with the creation of the first controllable, powered aircraft and were the first to achieve sustained flight. But you may not know that the Wright brothers hailed from our city in western Ohio. Here’s some more things you probably didn’t know about the aviation history of the Gem City.

The Wright brothers were Dayton natives

Although they moved around a lot as children due to their father’s job as a bishop, the Wright brothers and their family eventually settled in Dayton for good in 1884. Over the next two-plus decades, they ran multiple businesses in the city, including a bicycle shop, a printing company and eventually an aircraft factory.

The local university’s nickname is the Flyers

As an homage to the Wright brothers, the University of Dayton’s sports teams are known as the Flyers. The school’s mascot is Rudy Flyer, a cartoonish, muscle-bound man who dons old-timey flight goggles and a leather flight cap. The Dayton men’s basketball team made the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament in 2014.

The first aircraft factory ever built is in Dayton

The Wright brothers, combining their knowledge of flight dynamics and business, oversaw the construction of a factory specifically designed for crafting airplanes. The factory was finished in 1911, and its two buildings mark it as the oldest aircraft factory that’s still standing in the United States.

A lot of testing was done at Huffman Prairie Flying Field

After their historic flight in Kitty Hawk, the Wright brothers wanted to find somewhere they could test their aircraft that was closer to home. A Dayton banker named Torrence Huffman offered the brothers the free use of his pasture, which was eight miles northeast of Dayton.

Over the course of 1904 and 1905, the brothers conducted over 100 flights at Huffman Prairie Flying Field, including Wilbur flying for a then-world record 24 miles in 39 minutes. It is now part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and was designated a historical landmark in 1990.

The first cargo flight travelled from Dayton to Columbus

Philip Parmelee was hired by the Wright brothers to fly from Huffman Prairie Flying Field to Rickenbacker Field just outside of Columbus in 1910. He flew alone, delivering 200 pounds of silk to a department store in Columbus while wearing numerous layers of clothing to protect himself against the cold during the flight.

There’s only one Wright Flyer displayed in Dayton

The 1905 Wright Flyer III is on display in Dayton in the Carillon Historic Park, and it was the aircraft used to complete Wilbur Wright’s aforementioned world-record flight of 24 miles in 39 minutes as he circled Huffman Prairie Flying Field.

Call for flying lessons today

While the Wright brothers may have been pioneers in aviation, the design and safety of airplanes have come a long way since then. If you’re interested in flying lessons, call First Flight Aviation, right here in the city and state both known as the Birthplace of Aviation!

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