Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: Soar Together @ Air and Space Virtual Family Day - Floating Airfields

What is an aircraft carrier?

  • They are called many things – cities at sea, floating islands, floating airfields. That’s because they carry up to 5,000 people and up to 90 aircraft!
  • The largest U.S. aircraft carrier is three football fields long.
  • They are important because they bring our military and aircraft closer to where they may be needed.

Explore aircraft carriers past and present through these activities.

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Carriers Past

Watch this video about the history of aircraft carriers and then talk with your family about the following questions:

  • What important role did aircraft carriers play during wartime?
  • What differences did you notice between the first ship aircraft flew onto compared to the ones built later?


  Carriers Present

Ever wonder what life is like on a “floating city”?

Follow the STEM in 30 crew along as they spend time on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, a nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

Talk about it!

  • What jobs did you see in this video?
  • During the tour of different spaces of the aircraft carrier, did you notice anything that resembled places you can find in your neighborhood?
The Flight Deck: Chaotic or Coordinated?

Watch and listen as Curator of Modern Military Aircraft at NASM, Mike Hankins, describes what’s happening during this timelapse video of a snapshot of the flight deck in action.

Talk about it!

  • Was there anything that surprised you about the flight deck?
  • How many different sizes of planes did you see on the flight deck?


  Try this at Home

Which paper airplane design allows you to land on an aircraft carrier?

Can you get your plane to land on the aircraft carrier? Or will your plane fall into the ocean? Give it a try!

Learn more about Naval Aviation

Science Topics
Engineering Topics
Aerospace, Engineering Process
K-6, Middle School
3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade

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