Army aviation emerged from WW I with little experience in aeronautical research and development. It was at McCook Field in the years following the armistice that a small group of engineers and aviators laid the foundation for American air power. The Air Service Engineering Division undertook research and development projects across the range of aeronautical technologies, from aerodynamics, structures and propulsion to ground breaking work in navigation and the design of new instruments. The test pilots assigned to McCook established an extraordinary tradition of competence and courage, testing the new ideas emerging from the workshops and testing facilities. Record setting speed, altitude and distance flights growing out of McCook programs made international headlines and demonstrated the growing capacity of the airplane as an instrument of war and peace. When McCook grew too small for safe flight operations, far-sighted citizens of Dayton insured the traditions established on the banks of the Miami River would be carried on at Wright Field, and the Gen City would remain the place where new ideas in military flight technology came from.
Tom Crouch is the senior curator, Aeronautics Department, at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. A Smithsonian employee since 1974, he has served both the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History in a variety of curatorial and administrative posts. Prior to coming to the Smithsonian he was employed by the Ohio Historical Society as director of education (1969-1973) and as director, Ohio American Revolution Bicentennial Advisory Commission (1973-1974).
Dr. Crouch holds a BA (1962) from Ohio University, an MA (1968) from Miami University and a PhD (1976) from the Ohio State University. All of his degrees are in history. In addition, he holds the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, conferred in June 2001 by the Wright State University.
He is the author or editor of a number of books and many articles for both popular magazines and scholarly journals. Dr. Crouch has won a number of major writing awards, including the history book prizes offered by both the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Aviation/Space Writers Association. He received a 1989 Christopher Award, a literary prize recognizing "significant artistic achievement in support of the highest values of the human spirit," for The Bishop's Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright. His book, Wings: A History of Aviation From Kites to the Space Age, won the AIAA Gardner-Lasser Literature Prize for 2005, an award presented to the best book selected in that year from all books in the field of aerospace history published in the last five years.