Author Archives: The National Air and Space Museum

Remembering the Death of Lt. Joe Kennedy Jr. and America’s First Combat Drones

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Seventy years ago, on August 12, 1944, Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. perished in one of the first American fatalities associated with a pilotless aircraft, which we usually know today as a drone or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The older brother of future president, John F. Kennedy, was taking part in an extraordinary secret war   …Continue Reading


Recalling a First Flight and Flying “Firsts”

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When I was twelve, I had the opportunity to sit left seat on a Bell 206 JetRanger at Lunken Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. The pilot had me follow his movements on the cyclic while he hovered around the ramp. It was a transformative moment. I was hooked on helicopters and flying from that moment on.   …Continue Reading


And it wasn’t even Shark Week!

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While it might come as a bit of a shock, the topics of aviation and sharks rarely intersect here at the National Air and Space Museum. (Sure we have some nifty nose art, but admit it; connecting these two subjects in any way, shape, or form is really quite a stretch!) Luckily, just in time   …Continue Reading


Remembering Henry Warren “Hank” Hartsfield, Jr.
Discovery’s First Commander (1933-2014)

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Henry “Hank” Hartsfield served as commander of the first mission of Space Shuttle Discovery, now on display at the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The six-day STS-41D mission began on August 30, 1984. An earlier launch attempt ended with the first on-the-pad abort just four seconds before launch. The first Discovery crew successfully deployed three communications   …Continue Reading


Remembering Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, 1921-2014

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The navigator and last surviving crew member of the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, passed away on July 28, 2014. On August 6, 1945, he guided the bomber to Hiroshima, Japan, the target of the first atomic bomb to be used in combat. Van Kirk’s experience during World War II illustrated the   …Continue Reading