Smithsonian staff conducts research into the history and current practice of navigation. Museum staff will post newly researched materials and developments here. Share your thoughts or ask questions of our researchers.
September 24, 2013
On September 25, the National Air and Space Museum, in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration, is celebrating ten years of service by the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). Other than being a mouthful, what is WAAS? Simply put, it is an enhancement to GPS signals that allows satellite navigation to be used in ways not previously possible. Read More »
August 23, 2013
From May 22 to May 30, 1932, a remarkable gathering occurred in Rome. The Italian Aero Club held a conference for transoceanic aviators to discuss the implementation of commercial air links between the Americas and Europe. Mussolini’s air minister, Marshal Italo Balbo, led the congress of aviators. The conference hinged on the appropriate routes for transoceanic flights, the infrastructure to support them, and most contentiously, the rights of international access to key air terminals. The most notable feature of the event was the remarkable assemblage of many of the most distinguished aviators of the time. Read More »
August 1, 2013
The archives of the National Air and Space Museum holds a very unusual map in its collection. Created by the U.S. Navy's Hydrographic Office in 1927, this chart is a potent reminder of the perilous nature of early long distance flight attempts. Aviation forecasters in the office created the chart during the day of October 13 when the "Flying Flapper" (as Ruth Elder had been christened by the newspapers) and her instructor/copilot/ navigator George Haldeman had disappeared without a trace over the central Atlantic. The chart depicts Elder's planned route, weather conditions, and where the plane might have travelled if they had not corrected for drift. As one of the oldest surviving artifacts of aeronautical search and rescue this historic map sheds light on a remarkable story of survival. Read More »