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Cradle of Aviation Museum
Cradle of Aviation Museum crop.jpg
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Location Garden City, New York
Type Aviation museum
Founder George C. Dade
Public transit access LIRR stations: Garden City, Mineola, Westbury

The Cradle of Aviation Museum is an aerospace museum located in Garden City, New York on Long Island to commemorate Long Island's part in the history of aviation. It is located on land once part of Mitchel Air Force Base which, together with nearby Roosevelt Field and other airfields on the Hempstead Plains, was the site of many historic flights. So many seminal flights had occurred in the area that, by the mid-1920s, the cluster of airfields was already dubbed the "Cradle of Aviation", the origin of the museum's name.

Long Island – The Cradle of Aviation

Aviation firsts that contributed to Long Island's nickname - the "Cradle of Aviation":

  • 1873 - First recorded flight over the island, a balloon piloted by W. H. Donaldson from Brooklyn to Queens Village.
  • 1874 - More balloon flights, New York City to Lynbrook and Lynbrook to Hempstead.
  • 1909 - Glenn Curtiss flies a plane 25 miles from Mineola and wins the Scientific American Prize.
  • 1910 - The International Aerial Tournament is held at Belmont Park.
  • 1911 - Cal Rodgers makes the first transcontinental airplane flight from Sheepshead Bay to California in the Vin Fiz.
  • 1916 - First night flight.
  • 1917 - First flight of pilotless aircraft, the Sperry Aerial torpedo.
  • 1919 - First transatlantic crossing by an airship (R34 (airship)) which arrives at Roosevelt Field from England.
  • 1923 - First non-stop transcontinental airplane flight from Mitchel Field to San Diego, CA by John A. Macready and Oakley G. Kelly.
  • 1924 - First round-the-world flight arrives at Mitchel Field.
  • 1927 - First solo transatlantic flight by Charles Lindbergh from Roosevelt Field to Paris, France.
  • 1927 - First transatlantic passenger flight by Clarence D. Chamberlin from Roosevelt Field to Eisleben, Germany.
  • 1929 - First "blind" instrument flight by Jimmy Doolittle at Mitchel Field. Instruments developed by the Sperry and Kollsman companies of Long Island.

The Cradle of Aviation Museum's first curator, William K. Kaiser, participated in an "aviation first" as one of the pilots on the first transatlantic crossing of non-rigid airships in 1944 as a young ensign in the United States Navy. For his educational contributions and curatorial work at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Kaiser was named a Jimmy Doolittle Fellow and an Ira Eaker Fellow by the Air Force Association Aerospace Education Foundation in 1986.

Museum origins

The first Cradle of Aviation Museum Newsletters were published periodically by the Friends of Nassau County Museum when the air museum itself was still just a dream of Kaiser and George C. Dade, the museum's first director. Along with Henry Anholzer of Pan American Airlines and a team of volunteers, they acquired and restored numerous aircraft. These aircraft reflected some of Long Island's aviation firsts and its local aerospace industry. The first acquisition was a World War I Curtiss JN-4D discovered in an Iowa pig barn by Dade in 1973. Apparently, Lindbergh later confirmed that this was his very first airplane. According to their Spring 1979 newsletter, the museum also had a Ryan Brougham (sister ship of the Spirit of St. Louis), Republic P-47N Thunderbolt, Republic Seabee, Grumman F-11A Tiger, and a Grumman Lunar Module spacecraft. These aircraft were destined to occupy hangars 3 & 4 of Mitchel Air Force Base which was acquired by Nassau County when the base closed in 1961. The museum originally opened with just a handful of aircraft in the un-restored hangars in 1980. A major renovation and expansion program in the late 1990s allowed the museum to re-open in a state-of-the-art facility in 2002.


Today the museum contains over 60 aircraft and scale models of airplanes from various time periods, including Charles Lindbergh's Curtiss Jenny in which he barnstormed, the A-10 Thunderbolt II and Grumman F-14 Tomcat, and an actual unused Apollo Lunar Module, LM-13. LM-13 was scheduled to land on the Moon with the Apollo 18 mission, but the mission was cancelled and it remained on Earth, close to its birthplace in the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation facility in nearby Bethpage, New York.

F-11F Blue Angel and Fleet 2
Lobby of the Museum with Grumman F-11F and Fleet Model 2 biplane

Many of the tour guides and restoration workers formerly worked at Grumman, which contributed much to the museum.

The museum is one of the more popular Air and Space museums in the United States and is well known for its innovative installations, including unique audio-visual, hands-on and interactive exhibits. The museum's longtime curator (1985–present), Joshua Stoff, is a well-respected author in aviation circles.

In addition to the museum itself, the complex houses the JET BLUE DOME theater featuring IMAX 70 millimeter format films as well as a state-of-the-art digital planetarium, and the Red Planet Cafe, decorated to look like a space station on Mars. The museum continues to install new exhibitry related to various Long Island topics to this day.

Firefighter Museum

Within the same building, the Cradle of Aviation Museum houses the Nassau County Firefighter's Museum and Education Center. It is a nearly 10,000 square foot interactive facility where individuals, families and groups can experience first-hand the proud tradition of firefighting in the surrounding communities. Visitors can also trace the history of firefighting in Nassau County with hands-on exhibits that feature antique and contemporary fire apparatus and gear.


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