By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Capacity, if not record crowds are expected for this year’s Memorial Day Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, Long Island, a combination of ideal weather and the US Air Force Thunderbirds headlining a crowd-pleasing lineup of aviation and aerobatic attractions.
The thrilling line-up also includes The United States Army Golden Knights Parachute Team will make their 17th appearance; the U.S. Navy F-35C Tac Demonstration Team; US Navy Growler (F-18 Super Hornet), the only electric attack aircraft; the U.S. Coast Guard, and the 106th Rescue Wing NY Air National Guard HC – 130 / HH 60 Demonstration Team.
We also get to witness the daring do of Jessy Panzer, a renowned female aerobatic pilot, flying for her second time at Jones Beach in a bi-plane; three of the American Air Power Museum’s flying fleet of Warbirds; the SUNY Farmingdale State College Flying Rams; Long Island’s own David Windmiller; and Mike Goulian, the most decorated aerobatic pilot in North America, and my personal favorite, the Skytypers who have been in every Jones Beach Air Show since 2004.
By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Your eyes open wide as you enter the new, permanent location of the Long Island Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame, housed in a former Ward Melville Historical Organization building in historic Stony Brook Village, and realize the prominent musicians who grew up, got their start, built their careers on Long Island. That is, the whole of Long Island, from Queens and Brooklyn through Nassau and Suffolk.
While the Hall of Fame has been inducting honorees since 2004, this is its first permanent home, so is the first opportunity to really see the breadth and depth of the talent nurtured on the island. And it is so much fun to see the original posters, costumes, musical instruments, memorabilia from inductees including Twisted Sister, Zebra, Blue Oyster, Public Enemy, Vanilla Fudge, even Billy Joel’s actual motorcycle and Joan Jett’s 1983 Jaguar.
Jay Jay French, founding member and bassist of the heavy metal band Twisted Sister, manager and record producer, went so far as to declare, “Without Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens, you got nothing. The circuit never existed before, and will never exist again.”
That might be hyperbole, but he can be forgiven when you go up to the second floor, where there is the “Hall of Fame” with plaques and exhibits that recognize over 120 inductees, displayed across the walls the inductees year by year. In fact, you can easily imagine they will soon run out of wall space entirely when beginning next year, they also induct people from television and film. There are also cases chock full of memorabilia such as Perry Como’s Emmy (you have to really search – it’s like an attic).
There are also areas for a library, classrooms for educational programs, and master classes, a surround sound theater, and a gift shop with music and entertainment-themed memorabilia.
Having an actual space means that the Hall of Fame also can present special exhibits.
Its first exhibit now on display re-creates those cherished clubs. Created by renowned designer Kevin o’Callaghan, “Long Island’s Legendary Club Scene – 1960s-1980s” is laid out to be like a club crawl, sparking those pangs of nostalgia for those places. The exhibit features replicas of clubs – My Father’s Place, The Mad Hatter in Stony Brook, Oak Beach Inn, Malibu in Lido Beach, Speaks in Island Park and Pips Comedy Club in Brooklyn -with videos of artists performing, ads, posters, instruments. There is also a replica of a typical 1960s stage, complete with vintage equipment and sound system (donated by Zebra).
At the opening, guitarist Randy Jackson, bassist Felix Hanemann and drummer Guy Gelso of Zebra performed on that stage with the very sound equipment they used at clubs in the 1970s and donated to the museum (in order to better re-create the sound), and below a poster which showed their 1970s selves. Surreal time warp.
Also performing, bassist Joe Bouchard and drummer Albert Bouchard of Blue Öyster Cult, Paula Janis and Carole Demas of “The Magic Garden,” singer/songwriter Elliott Murphy, and Jen Chapin, daughter of Harry Chapin.
The newest honoree in the Hall of Fame, Wayne Robins, had to wait two years (because of COVID) to officially be inducted. At the official opening, Robins, who for more than 50 years has been a leading music and pop culture journalist, waxed nostalgic as he recalled being at Shea stadium for the Beatles Concert, Diana Ross sitting in his lap at her concert at Westbury Music Fair, using fake ID to get into music venues before he was 18. He began his career in 1972 at CBS Records, then writing for Rolling Stone, the New Musical Express, Melody Maker, the Village Voice and Creem Magazine before joining Newsday in 1975 as its pop music writer, where he worked for the next 20 years.
Throughout, there are compelling visual elements and artifacts on display. Among the inducted artists who have donated memorabilia, are Billy Joel, Joan Jett, Debbie Gibson, Blue Oyster Cult, Twisted Sister, and the families and estates of Harry Chapin, Guy Lombardo, John Coltraine. Donations include various musical instruments, performance outfits, vintage automobiles and motorcycles, rare posters and photos, and handwritten lyrics.
Dee Snider, frontman of Twisted Sister, donated 12 costumes that hadn’t been seen in years, designed by Suzette Snyder. Suzette was 15 years old when she first met Dee, having borrowed her cousin’s ID to sneak into a show. She designed an outfit – pink with fringes – and created the ‘Twisted Sisters look’.”
The opening night event included performances by guitarist Randy Jackson, bassist Felix Hanemann and drummer Guy Gelso of Zebra, bassist Joe Bouchard and drummer Albert Bouchard of Blue Öyster Cult, singer/songwriter Jen Chapin, Paula Janis and Carole Demas of “The Magic Garden,” singer/songwriter Elliott Murphy, and Jen Chapin.
Rich L’Hommedieu, one of the co-founders, said, “The music industry started on Long Island – song sheet sellers came from Manhattan, Jazz musicians who couldn’t afford Manhattan had homes in Queens. Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong. Then there were the street corner doo wop groups, the hip hop. Garages in suburbia incubated rock bands.
In fact, every musical genre is represented among the122 honorees (so far) – there’s Aaron Copland, Brooklyn (2008), Barbra Streisand, Brooklyn (2008), Beverly Sills, Brooklyn (2008), Eddie Palmieri, Queens (2010, George Gershwin, Brooklyn (2006), George M. Cohan, Kings Point (2006), Carole King, Brooklyn (2008), Ervin Drake, Great Neck (2012), Cyndi Lauper, Brooklyn/Queens, (2006), Guy Lombardo, Freeport (2008), Marvin Hamlisch, Westhampton Beach (2008), Morton Gould, Queens/Great Neck (2010, Oscar Brand, Brooklyn/Great Neck (2010), Perry Como, Port Washington (2006), Simon & Garfunkel, Queens (2008), Steve Martin, Long island (2010), Tony Bennett, Queens (2006), Vince Giordano, Brooklyn/Hauppauge (2016), William “Count” Basie, Queens (2008), and Cousin Brucie Morrow, Brooklyn (2018), Arlo Guthrie, Coney Island (2008), LL Cool J, Bayshore (2008) (The full list is mind-blowing.)
Among the groups with roots on Long Island: Gary U.S. Bonds; the Lovin’ Spponful; Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge; Public Enemy; Salt-N-Pepa; The Ramones; The Shangri-las; The Tokens; Twisted Sister, Vanilla Fudge, Zebra, Blue Oyster Cult, little Anthony and the Imperials
Also among the honorees: My Father’s Place, Dream Theater, WALK 97-5 FM, Westbury Music Fair, Jones Beach theater, Stony Brook University, CSS Security Service.
The idea for the Hall of Fame originated with co-founders Jim Faith, Rich L’Hommedieu and Norm Prusslin, who met at Stony Brook University in the fall of 2003 and by January 2004, launched the nonprofit without any government assistance at all, but with lots of volunteer help.
It was created as a place of community that inspires and explores Long Island music in all its forms. In addition to the Hall of Fame, the organization also offers education programs and scholarships to Long Island students, sponsors the Long Island Sound Award, and features traveling educational exhibits, including a state-of-the-art mobile museum.
In 2014, when the Billy Joel Band was inducted into the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame, Billy Joel said this in a statement: “After The Stranger was released, people began to recognize that the ‘Long Island Sound’ wasn’t just a body of water.” Indeed, it isn’t. Over the years, Long Island has produced some of the most talented and accomplished musicians and has become a respected music scene.
But, according to the museum’s history, it didn’t start off that way.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Long Island music landscape was rather barren and more of a stepchild to that of New York City, which had become a focal point of the music industry, with recording sudios and iconic music venues such as Max’s Kansas City, Fillmore East, and Electric Circus. Beside some local bars, schools and Westbury Music Fair (which had sporadic star performances, such as Judy Barland in 1967, The Who in 1968 and Bruce Springsteen in 1975), there were few live venues on Long Island.
According to Norm Prusslin, music historian and a founding member of the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame, in the late 1960s Stony Brook University, emerged as an important venue to bring music to Long Island.
FM radio stations began popping up on Long Island, giving national recording artists Long Island airplay, and college radio stations began to showcase Long Island’s burgeoning musicians.
“Long Island college radio stations were important in bringing to the airwaves local musicians of all genres, and that certainly contributed to Long Island artists getting heard and getting spoken about,” Prusslin stated.
At the same time, Long Island-based publications, such as Good Times magazine, began pioneering local music coverage and talking up Long Island artists. And venues, such as My Father’s Place in Roslyn, brought in a lot of local bands who didn’t have the opportunity for commercial exposure before.
By the early 1980s, some of the commercial radio stations, particularly WLIR and WBAB, began to follow Long Island college radio’s lead, focusing on Long Island artists.
By the early 2000s, Long Island had become a hotbed for upcoming musicians as well as a sophisticated music scene. It now had its own music festivals, such as the Great South Bay Music Festival (established in 2006) and the Long Island Bluegrass Festival (which premiered in 2002), as well as the establishment of music-specific societies and organizations such as the Long Island Blues Society and the Long Island Traditional Music Society.
In August 2003, Prusslin had been reading an editorial in a local music magazine written by Richard L’Hommedieu—who would go on to become the founding chairman of the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame—about the new Georgia Music Hall of Fame, which had opened in 1996. L’Hommedieu wrote that it would be great if Long Island had its own music hall of fame.
In January 2004, this enterprising group of founding members including Prusslin, L’Hommedieu, and other music educators, held an event at the Patchogue Theater announcing the creation of “a nonprofit organization that would recognize, honor, and preserve Long Island’s longstanding and diverse music heritage—a heritage that fought its way out of the shadow of New York City and would go on to inspire generations of music lovers.”
The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame was born.
“This is your home, your place, personal space, when can come and remember where great music came from on Long Island,” Jay Jay French said. “It’s your legacy.”
LIMEHoF is open Wednesday-Sunday, 12-5 pm. Tickets are $19.50/adult, $17/seniors (65+)/Veterans; $15/students with id, 12 and under free.
On a grand night at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Uniondale, Long Island, five of the Apollo astronauts, including three of only 12 men who have ever walked on the moon, and two flight directors who controlled the Apollo missions, reflected on their experiences. It was an epic event in a year of events at the museum marking the 50th Anniversary of the first man to walk on the moon, inspiring interest in space science, which will climax on July 20 at the exact moment when Neil Armstrong made his “giant leap for mankind.”
Cradle of Aviation Museum has special meaning to the astronauts, many of whom
have come to the museum over the years to give talks and participate in events.
Not only is it home to one of the world’s most extensive collections of Lunar
Modules,(LM-13, LTA-1), Lunar Module parts and Lunar Module photos and
documentation, but it also is home to the engineers of Grumman Aerospace
Corporation that designed, built and tested the Lunar Modules between 1961-1972
which successfully landed 12 men on the moon between 1969-1972.
Rusty Schweickartwas the first to pilot the Lunar Module, testing the craft on the Apollo 9 mission in 1969 before it was used on the moon in Apollo 11. He was one of the first astronauts to space-walk without a tether, and one of the first to transmit live TV pictures from space. He is also credited with development of the hardware and procedures which prolonged the life of the Skylab space station.
Schweickart reflected on a moment when he was essentially stranded in space. “I turned around and looked at earth, brilliant blue horizon. There was no sound – I was floating inside my suit which was floating. Just hanging out looking at earth, completely silent. My responsibility at that moment was to absorb: I’m a human being. Questions floated in: how did I get here, why was I here. I realized the answer was not simple. What does ‘I’ mean? ‘Me’ or ‘us’. Humanity – our partnership with machines allowed humankind to move out to this environment. 10,000 years from now, it will still be the moment when humanity stepped out to space. While we celebrate something we were part of, it’s one of the events in human history, , that if we don’t wipe ourselves out, we will still have this unique moment in time when life moved out to outer space.”
Fred Haise,the Lunar Module Pilot on the Apollo 13 mission, would have been the 6th man to walk on the moon. After the Apollo program ended in 1977, he worked on the Shuttle program, and after retiring from NASA, worked for 16 years as an executive for Northrop Grumman Corporation.
Haise reflected that when JFK made his challenge to go to the moon before the end of the decade, he thought this was mission impossible based on where the technology was. “I saw nothing at hand that would have accomplished that. By then, there was just Alan Shepherd who went up and down, the rockets were invented by Germans in World War II.”
When the disaster struck the Apollo 13 – an oxygen tank exploded, crippling the Service Module which supplied power and life support to the Command Module, he reflected, “We weren’t afraid. All of us in the program did the best we could. We were aware of the problems. Everyone was willing to pay the price to make the mission successful.”
situation was not immediately life-threatening . ”Clearly we had lost one tank. I was sick to
my stomach with disappointment that we had lost the moon. It took us almost an
hour to stop the leak in the second tank. “
The Lunar Module was pressed into service as a literally lifeboat and tugboat – a role never anticipated for it.
“The LM bought time. I was never worried. Not sure how it would operate past the two days. Nothing had been damaged in the LM, so I knew we had a homestead we could operate from, and people on the ground were losing a lot of sleep working through the challenges. We never really got to the cliff we were about the fall off.”
Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of cooling water and the critical need to make repairs to the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth. It was hailed as the most successful failure.
Charlie Duke (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 16, the 10th person to walk on the moon and the youngest, at 36 years old), reflected “Driving over the surface of the moon, we didn’t have TV. I was the travel guide for mission control, 250,000 miles away. So I narrated, ‘Now we’re passing on the right…’ – giving a travelogue – as we drove from point A to point B, and I was taking pictures. My job was to get us A to B and describe for mission control what seeing while John was driving…
“The rover did tremendously well, it revolutionized lunar exploration. Prior, we had to walk everywhere, not the easiest thing. Thankfully the rover was a revolution to see so much. Say to all the Grumman folks here who worked on that, you guys built a great machine. We shared the moon speed record because the odometer only went to 17 mph. Three rovers are up there – if you want an $8 million car with a dead battery.”
Harrison Schmitt(Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 17) was also a former geologist, professor, US Senator from New Mexico. He was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 17, the final manned lunar landing mission. He was the first scientist and one of the last astronauts to walk on the moon – the 12th man and second youngest person to set foot on the moon.
“The thing about our valley [where the
mission explored], Apollo worked in a brilliant sun, as brilliant as any New
Mexico sun, but the sky was absolute black. That was hard to get used to. We
grow up with blue skies. I never felt comfortable with black sky. But in that
black sky was of course that seemingly small planet Earth, always hanging over
the same part of the valley. Whenever I was homesick, I would just look up –
home was only 250,000 miles away.”
Milt Windler was one of the four flight directors of Apollo 13 Mission Operations Team, all of whom were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard M. Nixon for their work in guiding the crippled spacecraft safely back to Earth. Formerly a jet fight pilot, he joined NASA in 1959 during Project Mercury. Windler also served as a flight director for Apollo 8, 10, 11, 14, 15 and all three Skylab missions. After Apollo, he worked in the Space shuttle project office on Remote Manipulator Systems Operations until 1978. He is the recipient of the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.
Reflecting on the Apollo 13 mission, he said, “It is a common misconception that flight control was one person all 15 days of a mission. But missions were divided into distinct phases – launch, lunar descent, EVA, rendezvous – and there were teams for each. Each team simulated, practiced problems. One of the things that worked well on Apollo was anticipating what would happen. After a flight, we would discuss lessons learned, to come up with improvements. By the time of Apollo 13 developed a real serious problem, we were a finely honed machine.”
Gerry Griffinjoined NASA in 1964 as flight controller in Mission Control during Project Gemini. In 1968, he was named a Mission Control flight director, for all the Apollo manned mission. Gerry’s “Gold” team conducted half of the lunar landings made during Apollo 14, 16, and 17, and would have conducted the landing of Apollo 13 but played a key role in the safe return of the astronauts. Later Griffin played several Hollywood roles in movies including “Apollo 13, “ “Contact”, Deep Space” and “From the Earth to the Moon,”, as a consultant and even an actor.
The astronauts reflected on the “perfect storm”
of forces and factors that resulted in the incomparable space program that put
a man on the moon within a decade – Griffin, quoting Neil Armstrong, said you
needed four things: threat, bold leadership, public support and resources. “He
said that most of the time, those are out of sequence with each other – you may
have the threat but not the resources. It was a perfect storm when Apollo
happened”: the threat from the Soviet Union taking mastery of space frontier; a
balanced budget not yet weighted down by national debt; bold political
leadership and public support. “You had the resources and human resources,
primarily from World War II from the aviation industry, with Grumman part of
it hadn’t been Apollo, it would have been something else. When the Soviets
launched Sputnik and then Gagarin [became the first man in space], the threat
was clear, and everything else fell into line. I think he’s right. Nowadays, we
have a threat now – China – those guys are good. There is a technological
threat now, and could be more later. Leadership? Draw your own conclusion. Resources?
We haven’t had them. Public support? … But I’m an optimistic. If we are going
to make 2024 – that’s awful tight, but I was like Fred, I didn’t think we could
land on moon in the 1960s, but we did. Maybe if things line up better, we could
do it by 2024, if not 2028.”
Asked why we haven’t been back to the moon, Schweickart said, “You need to be young, innovative, not an aging bureaucracy….
need technological, political courage. The moon was in exactly the right place.
The next steps are not quite that easy . There is a debate between going back
to the moon or on to Mars that has raged for years and still does. There’s not
the same opportunity that we had at that time. In many ways, the most important
thing in terms of a sense of challenge, moving out, moving forward is one of
age. Bureaucracy – corporation or government – where the average age increases
every year, you’re cooked.”
are much more encouraged by private enterprise taking over space exploration.
“You don’t see much about Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos, but we will. When you see
[Elon Musks’s] SpaceX launch Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and bring back two stages
that land in formation, and the cameras show all these kids, 20 years old,
hooping and hollering, they did it! That’s what it takes. NASA used to be that
way. Part of the real juice in space exploration is encouraging private
activities in space. That today is where most of the juice is, getting young
people involved is the key, giving them the opportunity. Jeff Bezos says it
well. His fundamental motivating, commitment to space is to reduce the cost so
more and more can take part and therefore dramatically increase the quality and
opportunity for innovation. As the cost of getting to space drops, the
creativity will dramatically increase. That’s where it’s at in the future.”
Walt Cunningham a fighter pilot before he became an astronaut, in 1968, he was a Lunar Module Pilot on the Apollo 7 mission. He’s also been a physicist, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and author of “The All American Boys.”
“Our society is changing,”
he reflected the next evening when he gave a lecture at the museum. “Back when
Apollo was a story of exploration and adventure – my generation – we had te opportunity
and courage to reach around the moon and to the stars. We were willing to take
risks, didn’t shy from unknown. In those days, it seemed normal to do what we
were doing – exploring the next frontier. Today, the entire world takes pride
in this greatest adventure.”
Sixty years ago, “the
main drive was beating Russians to the moon. They beat us around earth. When
that started a technological fight to finish, not a single American had been in
orbit, but Kennedy was willing to take the risk – not just technological, but
human, economic, political. He took the initiative, the leadership. Today, that
goal is history. Fifty years ago, we never thought of failing –we had fighter
pilot attitude – common dream to test limits of imagination, daring.
“That attitude enabled
us to overcome obstacles. Any project as complex as Apollo required resources,
technology, but most importantly, the will. Driven by the Cold War, all three came
together in the 1960s and we went to moon. Think of it: only three generations separated
man’s first flight off the earth and man’s first orbit around the earth. Only
ironically, on the same day as the astronauts were assembled at Cradle of
Aviation, President Donald Trump was contradicting Vice President Mike Pence
and his own policy, which said that the US would be back on the moon by 2024.
Trump called another moon mission a
waste of money which should be spent, instead to go to Mars.
Trump also has called for the creation of a
Space Force, a new branch of the armed forces, effectively undoing the spirit
of international cooperation in space exploration to advance human knowledge,
with a shift toward militarizing space.
The countdown clock in the lobby of the Cradle of Aviation Museum showed 43 days to July 20, the 50th anniversary of the first man to walk on the moon, on the night of the museum’s grand gala at which seven former astronauts and flight directors were feted – Walt Cunningham (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 7), Rusty Schweickart(Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 9), Fred Haise(Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 13). Charlie Duke (Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 16), Harrison Schmitt(Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 17) and Apollo Flight Directors, Gerry Griffin and Milt Windler – along with Grumman employees who built the lunar module and the equipment which put them there.
Throughout this year, the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Uniondale, Long Island, not far from where the lunar module was designed and built by Grumman engineers in Bethpage and a stone’s throw from Roosevelt Field where Charles Lindbergh took off for his historic transatlantic flight to Paris, has been hosting special events to mark the anniversary, use it for STEM education and inspire a new generation eager to reach for the stars.
The events climax on July 20, when at the exact same moment as Neil Armstrong made his “giant leap for mankind”, a replica lunar module will descend from the ceiling. Museum goers also can see an actual lunar module, one of the six that Grumman built (three are still on the moon, and the other three are in the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum in Washington DC, the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and here at the Cradle of Aviation Museum).
One of the extraordinary exhibits on view at the museum now is“Space: A Journey to Our Future,” which is on view through August 18, 2019, an absolutely thrilling, immersive exhibit which takes you from the dawn of man’s earliest visions of space exploration to the heroic achievements of the past, the unfolding discoveries of today, and the frontiers of the universe that lie ahead. You get to touch actual rocks from the lunar surface and the red planet, explore a futuristic Lunar Base Camp while walking through a full-size space habitat and work pod, get an up-close look at a wide range of artifacts from the space program and experience the past, present and future of space through these and dozens of other displays, interactive (try your hand at landing the space shuttle!) and experiences.
Also, as part of this special celebration, the museumis showing Todd Douglas Miller’s new documentary film, “Apollo 11: First Steps Edition,” a special giant-screen edition created exclusively for science centers and museum theaters, like Cradle’s Dome Theater. With a newly-discovered trove of never-before-seen 70mm footage and audio recordings, APOLLO 11: First Steps Edition joins Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the Mission Control team and millions of spectators around the world, during those momentous days and hours in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future.
at 50: Moon Fest,” on July 20 will be a family festival (9:30-5 pm, with
activities 12-4pm) with visits from Long Island Space Shuttle Astronauts
including Bill Shepherd (Babylon) and Charlie Carmada (Ozone Park). All day
activities include virtual reality experiences, model rocket launches, and a countdown
at 4:18 pm to collectively watch, re-experience, and honor as a community, the
historic “The Eagle has Landed” Lunar Module landing on the moon. As a special
bonus, all museum attendees will get a free showing of the new highly-acclaimed
documentary, Apollo 11 First Steps Edition in the immersive
Dome Theater. (Tickets: $20)
Then, in the evening, there will be a Countdown Celebration, a lively dinner and champagne toast with 1960s music and dancing, as the community watches and re-experiences the unforgettable first steps on the moon at 10:56 pm with a special moon landing viewing and countdown. There will also be photo opportunities in a re-created 1969 living room. (The dinner event ticket includes admission to Apollo Moon Fest events during the day; tickets: $125).
Island: The Nation’s Cradle of Aviation
Cradle of Aviation Museum and Education Center is home to over 75 planes and
spacecraft representing over 100 years
of aviation history, from hot air balloons to the lunar module, in eight
galleries, a planetarium and Long Island’s only Giant Screen Dome Theater.
The Cradle of Aviation Museum commemorates and
celebrates Long Island’s part in the history of aviation and space
exploration. It is set 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.
In fact, so many seminal flights 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. The Museum was recently recognized and listed on New
York State’s National Register of Historic Places as a significant part of
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. The museum is undergoing a major fund-raising campaign for a future
It is remarkable to
contemplate that within a century, aviation went from the Wright Brothers to
the moon, from a dangerous sport to mass transportation and commercial
enterprise, and Long Island played a significant part.
It starts with Long Island’s geography: a natural airfield,
on the eastern edge of the United States, the western edge of the Atlantic
Ocean, adjacent to a major population center, and Hempstead Plains, the only
natural prairie east of the Allegheny Mountains, writes Joshua Stoff, Curator,
Cradle of Aviation Museum.
We trace flying back to the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, NC
in 1903, lasting 59 seconds over a distance of 852 feet but Stoff notes that the
first recorded aircraft flight took place on Long Island, in 1896 when a
Lilienthal-type glider was flown from the bluffs along Nassau County’s north
shore. By 1902 gasoline-powered airships were flown over Brooklyn (why doesn’t
Long Island get more credit?). By 1910, there were three airfields operating on
the Hempstead Plains, Long Islanders were building their own planes, and there
were several flying schools and aircraft factories that made Long Island “the
center of the aviation world.” Exhibits show artifacts of these early pursuits.
Belmont Park hosted the 1910 International Aviation Meet of
the greatest aviators from America and Europe.
“The period between 1918
and 1939 is considered the ‘Golden Age of Aviation’ when flying went from being
a dangerous sport to a major commercial industry,” Stoff writes. Most famous of
all was Charles Lindbergh’s historic solo transatlantic flight, from Roosevelt
Field to Paris, in 1927. “This single event revolutionized aviation as nothing
else before or since…
“By the early 1930s Roosevelt Field was the largest and
busiest civilian airfield in America with over 150 aviation businesses and 450
planes based there. In 1937 the first regular commercial transatlantic airline
service in America was begun at Port Washington as huge Pan American Martin and
Boeing flying boats departed and arrived regularly at Manhasset Bay.”
World War II sparked aviation and demand for aircraft. The two
biggest aircraft companies, Grumman, was founded in Long island in 1930;
Republic in 1931. They produced most of the military aircraft; other companies,
Sperry, Brewster, Ranger, and Columbia, also contributed to the war effort. By
1945, 100,000 Long Islanders were employed in the aircraft industry.
Though aircraft are no longer manufactured on Long Island
(the Grumman plant in Bethpage is now a movie and television studio), it is
surprising to realize that there are still 240 Long Island producing parts for
virtually every American aircraft that flies.
Long Island’s important
contribution to aviation is brilliant displayed in exhibits throughout the
Long Island in Space
Thomas J. Kelly, of
Cutchogue, retired president of the Grumman Space Station Integration Division
and formerly lunar module engineering director, writes that there is still some
Long Island left on the moon – six spacecraft built on Long Island remain on
Designing and building those craft, as part of the greater
challenge of beating the Russians to the moon by 1969, was a monumental
endeavor. Writing on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the
moon landing, Kelly reflected, “For some 7,000 Grumman employees, however, it
was far more intimate than an issue of national prestige. We felt personally
empowered to put Americans at the edge of a frontier that even today seems
incomprehensible. Yet not only did we succeed in meeting the mission; the
efforts of our nation’s commitment to lunar exploration also inspired people
around the world and showed the finest possibilities of human achievement and
of creating technology that now helps to power our society…
“Nobody at Grumman who worked on the LM will ever forget it.
Even the 12-and 14-hour weekdays, the frustrating paperwork and the sheer
complexity of designing, building and testing the module could not dim our
dedication. From the sweeper to the chief engineer, we all knew that we were
part of a majestic endeavor, that we were making history happen.”
At the gala, I meet Richard A. Hoffman sitting in front of the museum’s own actual lunar module, built by Grumman in Bethpage. He was a metallurgist who determined what the different parts should be made of aluminum for the struts, titanium for the propellant tanks, stainless steel propellant lines, high output silver and silver oxide batteries. He had to figure the pyrotechnics that would cause the four bolts that secured the module on the descent, to burst at just the right time with guillotine cutters for lift off from the moon. Hoffman told me he came to Grumman in the summer of 1963, and got a job there right after graduating Brooklyn Polytech in 1964. He was in just the right place at the right time, when Grumman started working on the Apollo program and he was transferred to engineering.