Over the course of a century, aviation grew up on, boomed on, and helped shape Long Island. Long Island has without doubt helped transform aviation from a dangerous sport into a viable means of commercial transportation. Long Islanders have also produced a large portion of the nation’s aerial arsenal in time of war. The contributions by Long Islanders and Long Island corporations to the development of aviation and spaceflight and their key roles in making aviation central to our world today, are the main focus of the Cradle of Aviation Museum. From the first flights on the Hempstead Plains in a frail biplane in 1909 to Man’s first steps on the Moon, Long Islanders have been at the forefront of America’s aviation and space adventure.
In all, a vast amount of historic aerospace activity has taken place on Long Island (more than 64,000 aircraft have been built here!) – remarkable in view of the fact that Long Island is really not such a large place. Today, Long Islanders see more air traffic going over their heads than any other people on earth, although today’s sleek airliners do not turn nearly as many heads as did Glenn Curtiss’ tiny biplane in 1909. Aviation is taken for granted now, but it has shaped our lives to a greater degree than we can imagine.
To preserve this heritage for future generations, Nassau County undertook the development of a major air and space museum. Located at historic Mitchel Field, the museum’s primary mission is to collect, preserve and interpret the aerospace heritage of Long Island and to inspire future generations through learning. Thus some 75 historic aircraft and spacecraft have been procured by the museum, most of them built on Long Island and each directly relevant to Long Island’s aerospace heritage. These craft have been obtained through private and corporate donations, government loan or purchase through a fundraising program. The vast majority have been painstakingly and meticulously restored by the museum’s skilled volunteer corps.
The aircraft, spacecraft, and other artifacts and exhibits in the Cradle of Aviation Museum attest that, from the earliest days of aviation, Long Islanders have been leaders as flyers, designers and builders of air and space craft. Thus it is appropriate that Long Island has one of the best air and space museums in the world. Aviation and spaceflight are very special to Long Island and they have touched all our lives. At long last Long Island has a place to preserve and enjoy this critical part of our history.
Cradle of Aviation Museum is a member of the Long Island Library Resources Council.