Article: Aviation History Month

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What child doesn't dream of flying? To soar like a bird… To become an adventuring pilot crossing mountain ranges and oceans… Share—or spark—your child's interest in flying. It's an excellent way of encouraging and making relevant the sciences in their life.


In September 1783 the Montgolfier Brothers launched a hot-air balloon carrying a sheep, a duck, and a cockerel to demonstrate that it was possible to survive in the sky. On November 21st, a science teacher, a nobleman, and an army officer became the first human air travelers when they flew five and a half miles over Paris in a Montgolfier hot-air balloon.

The success of the Frenchmen and the ingenuity of the Montgolfier Brothers changed the course of transportation. Flying was suddenly no longer an impractical daydream. Scientists, adventurers, and yes, some rascals joined in the pursuit of sustained flight.

Featured Activities

  • Create the Spirit of St. Louis as a Paper Plane

    Build your own version of Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis airplane out of paper! Fly right into the activity here.

Surf the Web and Fly!

You'll want to check out these sites with your child:

  • American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics Follow the history of flight on this site's timeline. You'll also find biographies and vintage photographs, drawings, and plans.
  • The Aviation History Online Museum A Mosquito? Peashooter? Duck? Find out about these and other historic planes. The online museum is filled with information about the early years of flight, historic aircraft, engines, construction and technology, and the theory of flight.
  • National Air and Space Museum The Smithsonian's aeronautic and astronautic museum offers online exhibits as well as information about visiting the museum and other attractions in Washington, D.C.
  • NASA History NASA's historical subject guide to aeronautics, astronautics, personnel (including current, retired, and deceased astronauts), mission patches, pocket statistics, a timeline, and more!

More Activities

Commemorate the Montgolfiers' invention and the progress of aviation with some "extracurricular" activities:

  • Go on an outing to your nearest small-plane airport. Call ahead to find out if there are any special programs or tours available.
  • After reading up on historic planes (see the sites above), head out for your local toy or hobby shop and pick up a model plane kit that you can build and decorate together.

LeapFrog recommends:

Around the World in Eighty Days
By Jules Verne
Scholastic (Age 8 and up)

Flight: The Journey of Charles Lindbergh
By Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Mike Wimmer
Paperstar (Age 4–8)

Mouton's Impossible Dream
By Anik McGory
Gulliver Books (Age 4–8)

The Paper Airplane Book
By Simon Seymour
Viking (Age 9–12)