Volunteers from four aviation history organizations are collaborating to produce an on-line catalog of U.S. Air Force Engineering Division records now held at the U.S. National Archives II in College Park, Maryland.
This gigantic collection of records chronicles the development and procurement of practically everything acquired by the USAF between 1917 and 1947. It contains reports, drawings, photographs, project diaries, and correspondence that trace hundreds of aircraft, engine, armament, and equipment R&D projects from initiation through development, design, testing, manufacture and operation.
This collection represents the expenditure of billions of dollars, a huge amount of American ingenuity and is the core of American aeronautical history, note officials with the Aircraft Engine Historical Society, which is based in Huntsville, Ala. While interesting to historians and aviation history enthusiasts, it is also of enormous value to modelers and restorers of vintage aircraft.
This collection is available at no charge to anyone visiting the National Archives, but until now the lack of a well-organized or searchable catalog made it all but impossible to use.
In January 2005, the Aircraft Engine Historical Society began the task of creating an online catalog of the USAF Engineering Division records.
More than 8,400 pages were scanned and work packages created so the project could be divided among volunteers for data entry, which started in June 2005.
Realizing the importance of this project, three other non-profit organizations, The American Aviation Historical Society (AAHS-online.org), Society of Air Racing Historians (AirRace.com) and World War 1 Aeroplanes (WW1AeroplanesInc.org) encouraged their members to volunteer. Since then more than 54,000 citations have been added to the online database accessible at EngineHistory.org.
The catalog is expected to be completed in late 2009, but in the meantime researchers can use this “work-in-progress” to assist their investigations, officials say.