National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
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Huffman Prairie Flying Field and Interpretive Center

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:

  1. 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 interpretation.
  2. 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.
  3. Marking the flying field's boundaries with flags.
  4. Removal of non-historical U.S. Air Force buildings from the viewshed.
  5. The design and installation of 17 interpretive signs exploring the story of the brothers' accomplishments at the site.
  6. 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:

  1. The high value that the Air Force leadership and employees have placed on the importance of preserving the nation's history.
  2. The excellent working relationship that has been developed between park staff and U.S. Air Force personnel.

Frustrations: N/A

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
Phone/Fax: 937-225-7705

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_;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: Tim Good Date posted: 6/9/04
Phone: 937-225-7705 ext. 280

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