Before they were Presidents -
During World War II, George Bush became a decorated naval pilot who flew torpedo bombers. In 1944, he was shot down over the island of Chi Chi Jima and rescued.
Pictured here is Navy Pilot George Bush in a VT-51 “Avenger,” 1944; and World War II aircraft and ships.
Charles Lindbergh captured the world’s imagination when he flew non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean by himself. Others had flown the distance as teams, but “Lucky Lindy” was the first pilot to do it alone. It took him 33 1/2 hours, between May 20-21, 1927.
Lindbergh was greeted with a hero’s return when he traveled back to the United States. In Washington D.C., President Coolidge welcomed his ship through the Chesapeake and the Potomac rivers with a grand entourage of warships and aircraft.
At the time, Herbert Hoover was the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. This photo shows Hoover meeting Lindbergh in Washington D.C. after the trans-Atlantic flight.
-from the Hoover Library
U-2 cover story
Dated May 2, 1960, this cover story was drafted to conceal the actual mission of the U-2 spy plane which was shot down over Soviet air space on May 1, 1960. Much of the U-2’s wreckage was recovered by the Soviets, and its pilot, Captain Francis Gary Powers, captured alive, even though President Eisenhower was told that the U-2 spy plane had a self-destruct mechanism that would prevent them from discovering its true purpose.
The U-2 Mission and the Cold War
The U-2 spy plane was designed as a high altitude, single-pilot, single-engine aircraft. It was lightweight, but able to carry a variety of equipment such as multi-sensor cameras, and electro-optic, infrared and radar imagery machines.
Although the plane’s design broke ground in many ways, its main drawback was sluggish flight control due to its landing gear requirements. In case of an emergency ejection, the pilot seat was equipped with a hunting knife, a .22 caliber pistol, a parachute, and a survival pack. An explosive mechanism was installed that would blow up the plane after the pilot ejected.
On May 1, 1960, Captain Francis Gary Powers’ CIA mission was to perform secret aerial reconnaissance by flying over the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact territory. While in flight, a missile hit his plane and Powers was unable to follow the self-destruct protocols. The Soviet Union quickly recovered the wreckage and captured the pilot.
President Eisenhower learned of the missing U-2 plane on May 2. Believing that there was no possibility that Powers could survive a high-altitude missile strike, President Eisenhower gave the order to proceed with releasing a cover story.
-from the Eisenhower Library
Interested in Air Force One, Marine One, or presidential pilots? Tell us what POTUS-related aviation history you would like to see.
November is National Aviation History Month!
Are you a big fan of female fliers? Giddy over gyrocopters? Or do you get excited about experimental aircraft?
What aviation history themes would you like us to explore this month? Naval aviators? Dogfights? Lighter-than-air aircraft? Test Pilots?