A wide array of aircraft representing virtually every chapter of general aviation’s storied history will be on full display over the National Mall during a spectacular commemoration of the numerous contributions the GA industry continues to provide to our nation since 1939. The celebration will also coincide with AOPA’s eighty-fifth anniversary in May 2024.
In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established National Aviation Day when the “Golden Age of Aviation” was fading for the American general aviation industry. As the United States began its full mobilization for World War II, wood-and-fabric biplanes were replaced with faster, sleek, metal monoplanes. Roosevelt also signed the Civilian Pilot Training Act to boost GA. Through that program, 20,000 college students were provided with pilot training each year. At its peak, 1,132 educational institutions and 1,460 flight schools participated in the program.
This special event will take place over one of Washington, D.C.’s most restricted flight zones, P-56, something that’s never been done with GA aircraft. Spectators on the ground and online will watch the aircraft fly above the Lincoln Memorial, down Independence Avenue, and past the Washington Monument. The flyover is being closely coordinated with 15 interagency partners including the FAA, the Transportation Security Administration, the Secret Service, and the Capitol Police, and has the support of Congress.
The flyover will consist of over 20 different “chapters” telling the story of GA in America starting in the Golden Age with AOPA President Mark Baker’s Beechcraft 17 Staggerwing. Also included will be aircraft representing GA during and after World War II, the GA trainer era, vertical flight, backcountry flying, seaplanes, corporate and business aviation, technically advanced aircraft, experimental homebuilts, airshow performers, and other examples of GA aircraft that support public service missions.
“It’s going to be a special time for AOPA in May of 2024,” Baker said at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Wisconsin. “What a sight it will be to see the history of general aviation flying over the National Mall as GA has given this nation so much over the past many decades. AOPA is uniquely positioned to be able to plan this complex event and execute it safely and professionally.”
Planning for this celebratory flyover will continue throughout 2023, and pilots have already been identified.