My husband and I had the opportunity to tour the National Air Force Museum this week in Dayton, Ohio. It’s an amazing place, with four large buildings containing the history of our nation’s military aviation journey from the Wright Brother’s bi-winged flyer to today’s unmanned drones. We spent over four hours mesmerized by the beautiful display of machinery, and reading through details about the stories behind aircraft from around the world.
As I walked through the exhibits, I was struck by the irony of how a piece of machinery designed by the Wright Brothers in the early 1900’s for purposes of air transportation, became (because of the timing of the start of the First World War) the foundation for decades of military innovation – to be used for purposes of aggression in the defense of freedom. Although the nearly 100 years of innovation no doubt accelerated the development of peaceful air travel, room after room of enhancements made to materials and aeronautical engineering were focused on improving ability to hit targets faster and more accurately, and enabling the ability to evade enemy fire and detection.
The advancements made in military aviation no doubt helped secure freedom for much of the world. Had it not been for many these innovations, we would not have some of the collateral benefits we enjoy as passengers on commercial and private aircrafts, nor would we have had the incredible achievements in our space program and its associated benefits. On the other hand, innovation always presents options and choices of whether we use technological superiority in constructive or destructive ways, and today’s focus on drones and unmanned aircrafts elevate the importance of leadership perspective and critical thought. As we accelerate the ease of destruction perhaps it becomes more imperative that we exercise restraint.