More than 115 years after the Wright Brothers made their first flights, the Dayton region remains an aviation hub and is home to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is also the largest single site employer in the state.
The chairman of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance urged Congress on Tuesday to approve a bill that would re-authorize the heritage area for seven years, which would allow the aviation center to continue to receive federal dollars.
Testifying before a House subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, Ted Prasse of the alliance said the “bipartisan bill” co-sponsored by Republican Mike Turner of Dayton and Democrat Joyce Beatty of suburban Columbus “is critical to our ongoing work.” The same bill has been introduced in the Senate by Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown.
Turner said the bill would “ensure NAHA receives the vital federal funds they need to operate the Heritage Area and preserve our community’s rich aviation history.”
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Originally, Amanda Wright Lane, the great grand-niece of Wilbur and Orville Wright, was scheduled to testify. But she was unable to make the trip, which led to Prasse reading her prepared statement.
The NAHA designation was first authorized nearly 15 years ago in 2004. There are 55 national heritage areas across the country, which the National Parks Services describe as “grassroots, community-driven approaches” to conservation and economic development.
The goal of the heritage area is to emphasize that the Dayton region remains the center global center on aviation pioneered by the Wright Brothers.
The National Aviation Heritage Alliance uses the area’s designation to market the region for aviation related tourism as well, Wright Lane told the Dayton Daily News. The alliance is in the process of planning events to celebrate both the 50th anniversary of Ohioan Neil Armstrong’s moon landing and the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion of Normandy, France during World War II.
“The tourism angle of it can be such a strong boost to our region,” Wright Lane said. “You don’t realize the impact it has on a nation and the world when you have a story like this in your backyard.”
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