The NATIONAL SOARING MUSEUM (NSM)

Founded in 1970 at the Warren E. Eaton Flight Center atop Elmira, New York's historic Harris Hill, its purpose was to preserve the history of the soaring movement in the United States. It is an Affiliate of the Soaring Society of America (SSA).



A view of Harris Hill. The NSM is the buildings at the middle of the picture.

WHAT IT IS

Featuring the largest collection of sailplanes in the world, the NSM is a place where you can walk through soaring history as you see how the first sailplanes were launched by hand and read how soaring personalities defied the odds to set soaring records.

The NSM is the home of the only known full-scale replica of the Wright Glider #5, which was the one which Orville Wright started the world soaring movement with his 1911 record-setting flight of 9 minutes and 45 seconds. Here also, you can examine a swatch of the original fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer, one of only 3 such displays in the USA.

The NSM's major attraction in the center of the exhibit hall is the breathtaking "Evolution of Gliders and Sailplanes Exhibit" (EOGASE). This is a display of 122 scale models of significant gliders which flew in the USA from 1883 until today. Craftsmen from all around the world spent hours detailing each ship to imitate its full-size parent. Compare the early colorful designs with the sleek modern craft.

The 1996 and '97 exhibit will also feature the glider designs of Irv Culver and Jim Maupin. Culver began his career as a self-taught aircraft engineer by co-designing (with Wally Nugent) the Crown City Glider Club (Pasadena, California) gliders known as the Screamin' Wiener and Rigid Midget in the 1930s. Culver went on from there to head the Lockeed "Skunk Works" and was the designer of the U-2 spy plane--all without a formal engineering degree! Jim Maupin built his first glider as a high school student in Texas at about the same time Culver designed the Crown City gliders. Together in Southern California, Maupin and Culver designed several gliders which include the Woodstock, the Windrose motorglider, and the Carbon Dragon ultralight sailplane.

If the fever really catches you, just outside of the NSM you can experience your own soaring adventure at the Harris Hill Gliderport, one of the oldest soaring clubs in the world. Then relax at Harris Hill's scenic overlook with its exhilarating view of the Chemung Vally, 800 feet below. Chemung County's Harris Hill Park offers picnicking, swimming, golfing, go carts, kiddie rides, and the magnificient sight of sailplanes floating in the sky above.


WHAT IT DOES

The purpose of the NSM is to educate the public on the existance and history of soaring in the USA. As such, school groups and other groups interested in learning about the history of soaring, and flight in general, are most welcome.


NATIONAL LANDMARKS OF SOARING

The NSM also sponsors the establishment of National Landmarks of Soaring to help preserve the locations where the history of soaring was created.

In the 1970s, the Smithsonian Institution established their "National Landmarks of Flight" program. The National Soaring Museum established its corresponding National Landmarks of Soaring program in 1980 to identify and memorialize sites, individuals, or historic events related to the national history of motorless flight. In the process of doing so, the NSM also collects, preserves and interprets documents and materials related to each approved Landmark.

Contact the NSM about upcoming Soaring Landmark Dedications (see #9).

No. 1 Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Honors Ralph S. Barnaby's 15-minute, 6-second flight in 1929, exceeding Orville Wright's October 24, 1911 record soaring flight of 9 minutes, 45 seconds. Landmark established 13 June 1981.

No. 2 Rhodes Farm (Harris Hill), Elmira, New York: Commemorates the support of soaring by the Elmira community over the years since the 1st US National Soaring Championship in 1930 (sponsored by the National Glider Association) and the Rhodes Farm which was the site of the 2nd thru 12th (Soaring Society of America-sponsored) National Contest in 1931-41 & '46. Landmark established 10 July 1982.

No. 3 Akron, Ohio: Honors the citizens of Akron and the first towed glider flight from Akron to Columbus carrying U.S. Mail in a Gross 4-place glider in 1935. Landmark established 29 June 1983.

No. 4 Frankfort, Michigan: Frankfort has been a soaring Mecca since the early 1930s: the original site of the Frankfort Sailplane Manufacturing Company (which manufactured the famous Cinema sailplanes and later the TG-1), and the Frankfort Soaring Association. Landmark established 9 May 1992.

No. 5 Torrey Pines, California: Honors the pioneers who flew gliders from this site in the 1930s, and future pilots who continue to fly through all forms of motorless flight at this site. Landmark established 6 June 1992.

No. 6 Waynesboro, Virginia: Honors a 121.6 mile record flight by Richard Chichester duPont in the Bowlus-duPont Albatross I sailplane on September 21, 1933. Landmark established 17 September 1993.

No. 7 Point Loma, California: Dedicated to the pioneering spirits of W. Hawley Bowlus (raised the duration record to 9 hrs 5 min 27 seconds) and Jack C. Barstow (raised the duration record to 15 hrs 12 min), and others who made milestone flights in glider history at this site in 1929 & '30. Landmark established 27 April 1996.

No. 8 Miller Beach, Indiana: Dedicated to Octave Chanute and his assistants whose gliding experiments here in the summer of 1896 helped make sustained flight a reality. Landmark established 27 July 1996.

8 December 1996 at the Nuuanu Pali Lookout, O'ahu, Hawaii,
National Landmark of Soaring No.9
An international soaring record was established here on the 17-18th of December 1931 when William A. Cocke, Jr. remained aloft in a glider, called the Nighthawk, for 21 hours 34 minutes. This set a new US and World endurance record for motorless flight (the US record is still the official US record). Cocke and the Nighthawk were launched from the John Galt gliderport, which is located just a short distance northeast of this marker, by being towed behind an automobile. Illuminating the path for Cocke and the Nighthawk along the cliff face during the night was the US Army's 64th Coast Artillery Battery from Ft. Shafter.


WHERE IT IS

The NSM is open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm, year round. It is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

To reach the National Soaring Museum from the New York State Thruway, between Rochester and Syracuse, take Route 14 south to Route 17 west, and take Exit 51. From Williamsport, Pennsylvania, take Route 14 north, through Elmira to Route 17 west, and Exit 51. From Corning, New York, take Route 17 east to Exit 51. Once off at Exit 51, just follow the "Soaring Attraction" signs. The NSM is located atop Harris Hill.

Other area attractions include the Arnot Art Museum, Mark Twain Drama, the Mark Twain gravesite, The Corning Glass Center, the Rockwell Museum, the Glenn Curtiss Museum, and the Watkins Glen Raceway.


Man's quest for flight goes back to the beginning of time. Early achievements occurred in the 19th Century as Sir George Cayley, Otto Lilienthal, and Octave Chanute built gliders that flew successfully. Later it was the Wright Brothers' hundreds of glider flights that led to the invention of the powered airplane.

Elmira, New York was chosen as the site of the first National Soaring and Gliding Contest in 1930. Harris Hill soon drew thousands of spectators to the annual contests and became the first training site for military glider pilots in World War II.

The soaring passion continued through the 1950s and '60s by exploring new ways to fly at higher altitudes. Today the most remarkable example of motorless aircraft is the Space Shuttle, the world's fastest, heaviest, and most complicated glider.


National Soaring Museum
Harris Hill
51 Soaring Hill Drive
Elmira, New York 14903 USA

Phone: 607-734-3128

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