Aviation Firsts

First Western aerial forest fire patrols

Pilots flew the first western aerial forest fire patrols from Crissy Field, now part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Dream of flight brought Wilbur and Orville Wright to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina where, after four years of experimentation, they became the first people to fly a heavier than air, power controlled machine, known as the Wright Flyer. What they achieved changed our world forever. National Aviation Day was created in 1939 by presidential proclamation to commemorate this event and the men that made it happen.

Learn about Fairchild: The first owned and operated NPS Airplane.

Did you Know?
Neil Armstrong, the first man to step foot on the moon, carried with him a piece of the cloth and wood from the original 1903 Wright Flyer.

Wright Flyer

Since the advent of flight, there were people who considered aviation for all of its possibilities. On the blank canvas of aviation, pilots aggressively pursued the “firsts” and breaking records. The use of aviation by the military accelerated flying skills and the creation of new technology.

In 1903 the Wright brothers take the world's first powered flight, 1924 sees the first flight around the world and the first helicopter flight, 1937 the Hindenburg zeppelin burns, 1940 the first smokejumpers jump, 1946 the first helicopter is used to fight wildfire, 1947 Colonel Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier, in 1955 the first operational air tanker dropped water on the Mendenhall Fire, 1959 when NASA chooses its first 7 astronauts and 1969 when 2 of them became the first to walk on the moon, Redmond, OR. smokejumpers were actually the first rappellers in wildland firefighting in 1972, 1986 the loss of the Challenger Space shuttle, then the Columbia Shuttle in 2003 the same year as aviation celebrated her first century.

Each landmark built on the successes and failures of each flight before, all of which were lessons learned the hard way, made by people that would push themselves and their aircraft to and past their capabilities.

Aviation Firsts Commemorated in National Parks


Aviation First

Big Bend National Park


First United States combat use of a powered aircraft

Cape Hatteras National Seashore


First aircraft owned and operated by US Department of Interior

Chaco Cultural National Historical Park


First aerial archaeology survey in United States

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park


First figure 8


First airborne engine restart


First flight school


First (and only) time the Wright Brothers flew together


First cargo flight (Dayton to Columbus, Ohio)

Eisenhower National Historic Site


First U.S. President to obtain a pilot's license


First U.S. President to fly in a jet powered aircraft


First U.S. President to fly in a helicopter

Everglades National Park


First aircraft at Everglades National Park

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site


First “over the Pole” flight by a Russian

Gateway National Recreation Area


Site of New York City's first municipal airport (Floyd Bennett Field)

Golden Gate National Recreation Area


First aerial wildland fire detection patrols


Launch site of the first transcontinental air race


Landing site of first "dawn to dusk" transcontinental flight


Launch site of the first non-stop North America to Hawaii flight


Pilots flew the first western aerial forest fire patrols from Crissy Field, now part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Grand Canyon National Park


First flight over the Grand Canyon


First airplane lands in Grand Canyon


First use of an airplane in search & rescue

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park


First airplane to land in a volcano

Independence National Historic Park


First airmail sent by a U.S. President (George Washington via hot air balloon)

National Capital Parks


First large scale aerial photo mosaic series (70 sq miles)

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site


First (only) fighter group to never lose a bomber under its protection

Wright Brothers National Memorial


World's very first dedicated airport for airplanes was built at Kitty Hawk and now part of Wright Brothers National Memorial


First successful sustained flight of a powered aircraft