Virginia is not just for lovers, aviators too


Rachael Strong

A US Navy F-18 plane stationed at the Oceana Naval Air Station on Nov. 30.

November celebrates Aviation History Month, a time to appreciate America’s contributions to aviation, especially in Virginia. While many people today know the Wright brothers, most do not know of Virginia’s rich history in aviation.

Samuel Langley is an example of a pioneer in aviation who accomplished feats in Virginia. 

“He actually was paid by the U.S. Army and the Smithsonian to build an airplane. He almost was successful…This was about five or six years before the Wright Brothers,” said Felix Usis, the historian at the Military Aviation Museum. 

Langley successfully launched a small airplane from the Potomac River, and traveled 10 times farther than any other plane of its kind had gone. Now an Air Force base in Hampton, Virginia is named after him.

Another piece of local aviation history was accomplished by Mario de Bernardi. In 1926 he broke his own world record for speed, winning the Schneider Trophy races in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

According to Usis, Aviation History Month is important because many people’s everyday lives are unknowingly impacted by aviation.

“We dedicate a month to it because we can’t dedicate the whole year, but every single day of our lives today is impacted by what we move by air,” said Usis. “You need something, and you need it now…How are you going to get it there in a day? Airlines. Air travel.”

There are many local places to explore aviation, such as the Oceana Air Station, the Military Aviation Museum, and the Air and Space Museum. 

“You never know, you may learn to love aviation like we do,” said Sue Baker of the Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society.