Description: On December 17, 2002, the Huffman Prairie Flying Field,
designated as part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park in Dayton, Ohio, reopened with a dedicated
new entrance and improvements including upgraded facilities for access, parking and interpretation. The reopening was
held in conjunction with the grand opening of the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center. Both events were
the result of a partnership between the National Park Service and the U.S. Air Force.
The Huffman Prairie Flying Field was the site where the Wright Brothers perfected their airplane design. Their work
culminated in the development and testing of the Wright Flyer III, considered the world's first practical aircraft and
whose flight at Huffman Prairie Flying Field on October 5, 1905 - a flight of 24 miles in 39.5 minutes - was longer
than all previous flights of 1903 and 1904 combined.
The park's General Management Plan, approved in October 1997, outlined how the partnership between the park and the
U.S. Air Force functions. The NPS, in conjunction with its legislated partner, serves as the initial catalyst for park
development. The NPS efforts focus on the core unit of the park as well as coordinating the three additional park
sites. Under the plan, the U.S. Air Force owns, manages and operates Huffman Prairie Flying Field within a secure area
at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. The NPS provides technical assistance and staffing as available. Currently, no
NPS staff has been assigned to the Flying Field itself.
The Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center is owned by the U.S. Air Force and operated by the National
Park Service with two staff positions. The building includes interpretive exhibits, a bookstore, theater, and office
space. The exhibits focus on the achievements of the Wright brothers at Huffman Prairie Flying Field and the story of
their continuing legacy as embodied by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The Air Force hired a contractor to construct
the interpretive center, which was seen as serving two purposes - interpreting one of the park units, and communicating
to the public the rich aviation heritage of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Construction for the interpretive center
was funded through state capital funds from the state of Ohio. The project took two years to complete and required
extensive coordination between the NPS, the Air Force, the contractor, and the exhibit design team.
Both projects are jointly funded by the National Park Service and the U.S. Air Force.
Congress authorized the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park on October 16, 1992, to commemorate the
legacies of three of the region's most notable residents: Wilbur and Orville Wright and Paul Laurence Dunbar. This
nontraditional park contains four noncontiguous sites, each under different ownership and management.
Geographic area covered: Huffman Prairie Flying Field and Huffman Prairie Flying Interpretive Center are
designated as part of the Dayton Aviation National Historical Park and are located within the boundaries of the Wright-Patterson
Air Force Base in Green County, Ohio. The flying field is 84 acres.
List of Partners and Relationships: U.S. Air Force and the National Park Service.
Accomplishments to date:
- Reopening of the Huffman Prairie Flying Field to public access especially in light of post-9/11 U.S. Air Force
requirements. The flying field now includes a new dedicated entrance, upgraded facilities for access, parking and
- Old Yellow Springs Road that historically ran along the eastern edge of the flying field was re-created as a
hardened-surface walking, handicap accessible trail.
- Marking the flying field's boundaries with flags.
- Removal of non-historical U.S. Air Force buildings from the viewshed.
- The design and installation of 17 interpretive signs exploring the story of the brothers' accomplishments at
- Since the opening of the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center in December, 2002, over 30,000
visitors have explored the new facility.
Key success factors:
- The high value that the Air Force leadership and employees have placed on the importance of preserving the
- The excellent working relationship that has been developed between park staff and U.S. Air Force
Most important lessons learned to date: Good partnerships depend as much on informal relationships
and mutual respect as they do on formal written agreements.
What would you do differently next time: N/A
Suggested resource materials(related to the case study): Information about the park can be found at
For more information:
Name: Lawrence Blake
Affiliation: Superintendent, Dayton Aviation NHP
Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)
Fundraising __; Capital Improvements_X_; Facility Management _X_; Trails _X_; Design __; Program Delivery _X_;
Visitor Services _X_; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration __;
Cultural Resources _X_; Education/Interpretation __; Arts __; Information Services _X_; Transportation __;
Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning _X_; Tourism __; Community Relations _X_;
Prepared by: Tim Good Date posted: 6/9/04
Phone: 937-225-7705 ext. 280