Six Ways to Celebrate The Miracle of Flight on Aviation Day


On August 19, we celebrate Aviation Day. Granted, most people don’t actually celebrate. Most people probably don’t even know about this American holiday created 77 years ago. It was a birthday gift of sorts, to Orville Wright, who was still alive in 1939 when President Roosevelt set aside this date to promote flying.

These days, with nearly two and a half billion people taking to the sky every year, aviation needs less promotion and more affection. That’s because mentioning air travel to anyone other than aviation geeks is most likely to prompt grumbling.

Oh how quickly we take for granted the shiny new thing we were so excited about yesterday, to paraphrase comedian Louis CK’s hysterical take on the phenomenon. (Note foul language on this clip.)

There’s an antidote to all that blasé, in fact there are several. So this post is Little Miss Enthusiasm’s list of six multi-sensory ways to celebrate the miracle of flight and let soar your pure unadulterated joy.


Read: Skyfaring -  by Mark Vanhoenacker, a first officer with British Airways whose writing about life in the sky is poetic and thought-provoking. Vanhoenacker, a frequent flyer who converted to become a professional pilot after being invited into the cockpit following a flight, has the most unusual career path change I’ve ever heard of. The book includes the story of what happens when he runs into that hospitable captain many years later when both are working for the same airline.

Watch: Living in the Age of Airplanes,  - a National Geographic IMAX film produced by aviation aficionado Brian Terwilliger. His love of flying infuses the film and if that wasn’t enough, it is narrated by Harrison Ford with a musical score by the late James Horner. The film promises “you’ll never look at flying the same way again,” which is a bit of high-flying hyperbole. Nevertheless, you’ll thrill to just about every scene - all of which will stay with you long after you’ve left the theater.

Scenes from Living in the Age of Airplanes

Attend: An airshow -The season is still in full swing. In October, I recommend the San Francisco Fleet Week Air Show for the amazing performance of a United Airlines Boeing 747 about which I wrote for Air & Space magazine. Down there in the southern USA, acrobatic pilots like the gorgeous and talented Patty Wagstaff are performing right into December. Check her schedule here  or find an air show closer to you, here. Remember the antics of flyers like Patty and man up, the next time inflight turbulence has you clutching the armrests of your seat.

Listen: Sinatra’s Come Fly With Me - Orville Wright may get the holiday, but for bringing sheer sex appeal-cool to the sky, you have to look to Frank Sinatra, a private pilot who in his lifetime owned a Lear jet 24A with registration N175FS as well as a Martin 404 and a Morane-Saulnier 760 jet, according to an article on the Sun Lakes Aero Club’s website. He played a pilot in Von Ryan’s Express and Cast A Giant Shadow, but I’ll always swoon for his rendition of the Sammy Cahn tune, Come Fly with Me.

Do: Go flying - Many flight schools offer non pilots a chance to go up in a single engine plane with an instructor pilot for a basic introduction to the miracle of flight. Google “discovery flight” to find a school near you. Close to Miami International Airport? August 19 from 8:30 to 4:30 travelers can fly one of two flight simulators located in Concourse D checkpoint 4 on the second level. Your next vacation may be the best time to take to the air as many destinations popular with tourists often have helicopter or hot air balloon rides. 

Recently, I flew with pilot Kiff Saunders of Global Ballooning above Melbourne, Australia the only major metropolitan city in the world where balloons sail right over the city center. WOW much?

Check out:’s historical view of air travel - Owing the success of its business to people’s desire to fly if not their affection for it, cheapflights is doing a little evangelism on the holiday. Its look back provides some perspective-altering statistics about flying then and now.

Sing Along: So I’ll leave you to it, but hum along as you go, to the unforgettable words of lyricist Sammy Cahn and the inimitable delivery of Frank Sinatra, a gift from me to you on Aviation Day.

Come fly with me,

let’s fly, let’s fly. 

Pack up let’s fly away!

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