3, 2, 1, Takeoff!
by Megan Kafka
As part of the National Aviation Heritage Area, Greene County boasts a plethora of top-notch attractions and experiences for fans of flight. From exploring the Wright Brothers’ legendary flying fields to taking an unforgettable private flight in a historical biplane, your imagination will soar as you explore the region that gave flight its wings.
1 — Huffman Prairie
At this National Historic Park, you can explore the exact fields where Wilbur and Orville Wright perfected the world’s first practical airplane. The Wrights conducted hundreds of flights at Huffman Prairie Flying Fields, making it the world’s very first aerodrome. Stroll through the 84-acre former pasture, visit a hangar that is similar to the one that the Wrights used to house their airplanes, and check out a replica of the rail and catapult system that launched the brothers’ earliest planes. The flying fields have since returned to their natural, grassy state, making this area one of the last remaining prairies in Ohio. Guests can stroll on the fields’ paths and admire the wildflowers that fill the area every spring.
The park’s Interpretive Center hosts exhibits that offer an up-close look at the Wright Brothers’ cutting-edge experiments, such as their pioneering flight school. In the center’s auditorium, visitors can watch the park’s feature film about the amazing story of the Wright Brothers and their quest to fly.
A quick walk from the interpretive center, the Wright Memorial was built by the Dayton community to honor the inspiring brothers. View the nearby prehistoric Adena Native American mounds and stop for a break or leisurely snack at the benches and picnic tables dotted throughout the area.
2— National Museum of the United States Air Force
No trip to Greene County would be complete without visiting this centerpiece of aviation history. The National Museum of the United States Air Force’s enormous hangars boast more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles, which range from presidential aircraft to Apollo command modules to the iconic Memphis Belle bomber. The museum is laid out in chronological order, making it easy for visitors to explore. Don’t miss engaging new exhibits on women in the Air Force and about what it is really like to fly U.S. presidents around the world.
Utilizing state-of-the-art technology, the museum’s flight simulators are so realistic that you’ll feel like you’re actually commanding a World War II-era Sherman tank or piloting a space shuttle at the edge of the galaxy. And be sure to check out the daily showings at the digital 3D theater, where a rotating slate of films spotlight America’s rich aviation history. The museum is also home to a one-of-a-kind, full-sized replica of a space shuttle, complete with a training deck, that visitors can explore.
The adjacent National Aviation Hall of Fame honors the courage, bravery and ingenuity of heroes and pioneers who have contributed to America’s aviation achievements.
3— Goodfolk & O’Tymes Bi-Plane Rides
In the early 20th century, daredevil pilots performed incredible stunts and tricks in front of awestruck crowds, introducing flying to the masses. A direct legacy of these dramatic barnstorming days, Goodfolk & O’Tymes Bi-Plane Rides is the only commercial biplane ride company in the Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati area. Parties of two to four passengers can take to the skies in their choice of rare, gorgeously restored open-cockpit biplane. Feel the wind in your hair as you soar low and slow and travel back in time to the days of barnstorming and aerial daredevilry. Make sure you bring a camera to capture the picturesque Greene County countryside and attractions such as the National Museum of the United States Air Force and downtown Yellow Springs.
4 — Skydive Greene County
Stepping out of a plane two miles above the ground, free-falling for 40-50 seconds and reaching speeds of up to 120 mph before opening a parachute is the ultimate dream of countless thrill-seekers. Skydive Greene County is the region’s premier destination for those looking to cross this exhilarating item off their bucket list. First time? Sign up for a tandem jump, where you’ll be harnessed to a U.S. Parachuting Association-licensed instructor who will control your descent. If you already have a few jumps under your belt, you can enroll in a static line course and learn how to independently skydive from one of Skydive Greene County’s experts. This veteran-owned family business boasts an unparalleled safety record, experienced staff, and impeccable customer service that will guarantee the adrenaline rush of a lifetime.