By Rachel Milani
Established in 1939 by FDR, National Aviation Day is celebrated on August 19, the birthday of Orville Wright. Aviation history hasn’t always been smooth sailing; hot air balloons began man’s journey into the clouds in 1783, and these were later followed by “airships,” primarily manufactured by Zeppelin. Airships enjoyed a lengthy “Golden Age,” but in 1937, the Hindenburg caught fire, killing 36 people, and the time for airships was over.
In 1799, Sir George Cayley proposed the concept of the modern airplane, but his vision would not be realized for nearly a century. Other aircrafts were conceived and reportedly flown, but the most widely accepted record of the first powered flight occurred on December 17, 1903 by the Wright brothers.
A few decades later, a young Wisconsin boy, John Sullivan (pictured above in his Taylorcraft NC 20381), visited an airfield in Kenosha Wisconsin, and fell in love with airplanes. He began flight instruction in 1937, and flew on anti-submarine patrol for the Navy during World War II. He worked at both the Kenosha and Racine Airports over the years, and started a “Breakfast Club” for pilots and aviation fans in 1983. His personal collection of photographs, newspaper clippings, and aviator biographies can be found in the Aviation History of Racine and Kenosha collection.