Armstrong, Aeronca, Apollo 11 -- America's "A Team"
It was a twist of fate destined for the history books.
Young Ohioan-and-future-Astronaut Neil Armstrong could never have imagined that…
The plane in which he was taking flying lessons was built by the same company that years later would create a product to protect him on his historic flight to the Moon!
That company was Aeronca of Middletown, Ohio.
A fan of flight from his earliest days, Neil Armstrong the teenager “took his first flying lessons...in the Aeronca 7AC Champion airplane manufactured in Middletown, Ohio,” according to the website of the museum that now bears his name. (1)
The “Champ was Aeronca’s best-selling model…It was in one of the three Champs at Wapakoneta that Neil Armstrong learned to fly…” (2)
According to Biographer James R. Hansen, Armstrong and two high school classmates learned to fly in the summer of 1946. “Each soloed about the same time..It was a little unusual, though, that Neil earned his pilot’s license before he got an automobile driver’s license,” Hansen wrote. Neil’s father explained why : Neil didn’t have a girlfriend and didn’t need a car. “All he had to do was get out to that airport,” the elder Mr. Armstrong said. (2)
Years later Aeronca would play an even greater role in Neil Armstrong’s life...
After World War II, with light aircraft production ending, Aeronca “began looking for new manufacturing opportunities…” Ultimately, it found them in Space. (3)
“Most notably from this era, Aeronca developed brazed honeycomb panels and structures. These panels were lightweight and very strong, and were used to help send man to Space and the Moon…. (3)
“The panels helped guard astronauts against the intense temperatures of reentry from Outer Space, and were first used on the Apollo 11 command module” (3) which — as fate would have it — served as living quarters for astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins” in 1969.
The first human to set foot upon the Moon’s surface, Armstrong pronounced : “That’s one small step for a man...one giant leap for mankind.” (4)
It took the courage of three explorers, an army of scientists and a forward-looking Middletown, Ohio, company -- today known as Magellan Aerospace -- to make it all possible.
So far, no word about a driver’s license…
A final note:
In later years, Neil Armstrong continued living as a “Buckeye” on a large farm in the Lebanon, Ohio, area. He taught aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati and became associated with computing technologies and electronic systems companies. Armstrong made his home in Indian Hill, a Cincinnati suburb. He died on August 25, 2012, at the age of 82. (5)
(1) From the Armstrong Air & Space Museum https://armstrongmuseum.org/search/node?keys=first+flight
(2) From “First Man - The Life of Neil A. Armstrong” by James R. Hansen. Published in 2005 by Simon & Schuster. Available for checkout at MidPointe Library.
(3) From “Aeronca,” a brochure developed by MidPointe Library. Available in the Local History and Genealogy Section of MidPointe’s Middletown location, 125 South Broad Street.
(4) Armstrong quote from Nasa: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo11.html
(5) Neil Armstrong obituary by Legacy.com
The image of an Apollo spacecraft (above) and others can be found on MidPointe Library’s Digital Archives:
www.midpointelibrary.org > eLibrary > Digital Archives.