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NASA Celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the NACA
March 3, 2015


One hundred years ago, on March 3, 1915, Congress established the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which would later form the foundation on which NASA was built.

At the time of the NACA founding, our nation's leaders were concerned that the U.S. was losing its edge in aviation technology to other countries. The NACA mission was to “supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight with a view to their practical solution…”

On December 20, 1939, ground breaking for the NACA's second research and testing center began in Sunnyvale, California, and was later named the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory in honor of Dr. Joseph Ames, one of the founders of the NACA and a staunch advocate for basic scientific research. (The first NACA laboratory began operation at Langley Field, Hampton, Virginia in 1920.)

Aerial photograph of NACA building N-210 in the foreground in October 1940.
The Flight Research Laboratory and hangar (building N-210) was completed in August 1940. Rooms for offices are on the east side. “NACA” was painted on the hangar roof for aerial recognition, then later removed as a wartime security measure. Starting construction of the 7-by-10 foot and 16-foot wind tunnels is in the background. There were only a few cars on unimproved roads. (October 1940)

In August 1940, the first permanent building of the Ames site—N-210, the Flight Research Laboratory and hangar—was completed. Here began Ames Research Center's legacy of innovative aeronautical research that continues today.

Photograph of Ames staff assembled in front of N-210 in August 1940.
Ames Aeronautical Laboratory staff assembled in front of the new flight research building, N-210, on August 30, 1940. (Click image for full resolution.)

Researchers at the NACA's four facilities—Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory (Cleveland, OH), and Muroc Flight Test Unit (Edwards, CA)—not only helped the U.S. regain its edge in aviation technology, but become the world's leader in civil aviation.

On October 1, 1958, at the beginning of the “Space Race,” the four NACA aeronautics research laboratories and flight facilities, personnel, and research activities were incorporated into the newly formed NASA. NASA inherited a generation of experience in aeronautical research, including operating the finest laboratories and wind tunnels, and continued to train the brightest aeronautical engineers to conduct cutting-edge research.

Photograph of Aviation Systems Division staff assembled in front of building N210 in September 2011.
Aviation Systems Division staff assembled in front of N-210, the original NACA flight research building on September 6, 2011. (Click image for full resolution.)

Today, the legacy of the NACA lives on at NASA and in the Aviation Systems Division through our commitment to technical excellence and dedication to improving the nation’s air transportation system for the flying public.

For more information about the NACA's 100th Anniversary, please visit:

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