This Day in the Law
August 19

National Aviation Day (1939)

On August 19, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the day to be National Aviation Day. The day is a federal observance, not a public holiday, but it is codified in the United States Code.

August 19 is the birthday of Orville Wright, pilot of the Wright Flyer. Orville and his brother Wilbur are given credit for building the world’s first successful airplane with aircraft controls that enabled them to steer the plane. The brothers were not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, but they were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed wing flight possible. Orville Wright’s first flight was 12 seconds long, and he flew 120 feet.

Each year the President of the United States has the option of issuing a proclamation to designate August 19 as National Aviation Day, calling on government officials to display the flag of the United States on all government buildings on the day and inviting the American people to observe the day. Thus, National Aviation Day is only celebrated at the discretion of the President.