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Celebrate Flight In Dayton, Ohio

The Early Show: U.S. Sen. John Glenn
CBS/The Early Show
Over the next four days, more than 150,000 flight fans are expected to descend on the Dayton International Airport for the Dayton Air Show. It's a big celebration this year because it marks the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight.

Taking part in the festivities is former astronaut and senator John Glenn, who was the first American to orbit the Earth, and, nearly four decades later, became the oldest person to fly in space. He tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler he considers himself fortunate.

"I was lucky to come along when a lot of things were developing back to World War II days when I started flying," Sen. Glenn says. "So much has happened since that time. This is a look at the whole thing. They have the old airplanes, some of the new airplanes, some of the latest technology...and acrobatic flying."

The show runs through Sunday. Sen. Glenn says he is encouraging people to visit the show and take a tour back in time.

Of all his experiences, he says, "Nothing beats combat flying as far as centering your attention on what has to be done.

"I think of those days and combat fliying, and later on, test fliying some of the new supersonic airplanes after the Korean War and then on into the space program, that has been great. I have been very, very lucky. I have had a lot of wonderful opportunities come along and I got to do it at the right time."

Asked about his reaction to the February shuttle disaster, Glenn says, "We're waiting for the report to know what physically has to be fixed on the shuttle so we can get going again and get the International Space Station fully manned, doing the research they are supposed to be doing."

While more attention should have been paid to the loosening foam that is now being blamed for the disaster, Glenn says, "It was happening on almost every flight. It never caused any problem, so they thought it was safe to fly that way. Going back, it wasn't working as advertised, wasn't working as it was supposed to and should have been fixed. I think some things like that will receive attention in the future."

In spite of the losses that have occurred, he says, the NASA safety record to date is amazing. "To think that we are operating in a vacuum of space," he says, "and have done that for, you know, 140 flights or whatever the current total number is, with all the new speeds and technologies involved with it, it's amazing we have the safety record we've had, I think."

To make needed changes and then move forward with the shuttle program, Glenn says, is in "the spirit of the Wright Brothers."

Among others joining in the Dayton celebration are Scott Crossfield and Patty Wagstaff.

Crossfield is one of the first pilots to break the sound barrier. Like champion acrobatic pilot Wagstaff, he says he never thought he was making history.

"I just loved aviation and had very great opportunities to perform in it," he says. "It was good to do something to advance us way into the transonic region. I never thought of it as making history. I thought of it as making progress. I was one of those fortunate people whose avocation was my vocation."

Wagstaff adds, "I don't differentiate between work and having fun. My work is a lot of fun."

She says she got exposed to aviation early on, on her dad's lap. She says, "He'd let me fly these big planes. The passengers didn't know who was flying. I think exposure is everything."

To women, Wagstaff says aviation is a great opportunity. "Aviation was effectively closed off to women until about 20 years ago. Now it's wide open. I believe airlines and anything to do with aviation is trying make amends for that. So the opportunities are really endless," she says.

Crossfield was bitten by the bug when he was very young as well. He says the 20th century was defined by progress in aviation. A retired engineer, he believes America still has the capacity to make progress by leaps and bounds as it did in the aviation age."