Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Located near Dulles International Airport, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center opened its doors in Dec 2003. Due to the size of the Center the Smithsonian was finally able to exhibit a majority of its large aircraft collection that it simply could not display at the main museum on the National Mall. The over 50,000 square foot primary hanger is show center for the airplane and helicopter collection with the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar holding the space collection, highlighted by currently the Space Shuttle Enterprise, but soon to be replaced by the Discovery. The stellar aircraft collection includes a Lockheed SR-71, Concord, Boeing’s 367-80 and 307 Stratoliner, B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, Northrop N-1M, and many other rare aircraft. Additionally the Museum has an observation deck that looks like an aircraft control tower providing a view of Dulles as well as an IMAX theater. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center truly lives up to its nickname of America’s Hangar.
Ok, we have one major problem. The Udvar-Hazy Center is my favorite museum and I could easily pick dozens of airplanes, but like all of our reviews on Aeroseums we have to pick 3 so here are three aircraft that you just have to see if you only have a short time to be at the museum and my Personal Gem, ok 2 Personal Gems this time.
Exhibit 1: SR-71 Blackbird
Greeting you upon your entrance to the museum is the sleek Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. This record setting Blackbird set the Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. speed record flying 2,124MPH and clocking a time of 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds between the two cities. Developed by a team of engineers at Lockheed’s Skunk Works, lead by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, with its first flight in December 22, 1964, the SR-71 was a follow on to the CIA’s A-12. There are a total of twenty remaining SR-71 Blackbirds. Other records achieved by the SR-71: “absolute altitude record” of 85,069 feet, New York to London 1,435.587MPH (need to slow down to refuel) in 1 hour 54 minutes and 56.4 seconds, a flight of 15,000 miles in 10 hrs. 30 min., St. Louis, Missouri to Cincinnati, Ohio 311.4 miles in 8 minutes 32 seconds, and more can be found here.
The positioning of the SR-71 Blackbird in the Udvar-Hazy Center is stunning: not only is it one of the first airplanes you see when you walk in as you look from nose to tail you then see the Space Shuttle Enterprise (soon the be Discovery) between the SR-71’s twin tails.
Note: The SR-71 has long been my favorite airplane ever since I laid eyes on one at the EAA Fly-in (AirVenture) in 1989
Exhibit 2: B-29 Superfortress
One of the most controversial, but historical, aircraft in their collection: the Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, known by its name “Enola Gay”, dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The B-29 was first flown September 21, 1942 and entered service in May of 1943. Enola Gay was produced late in the war on May 18, 1945. The Superfortresses was the largest Allied bomber to fly in World War Two and introduced new technologies like pressurization, remote controlled weapon stations and electronic fire control systems.
Exhibit 3: Discovery OV-103
Space Shuttle Discovery replaced the Space Shuttle Enterprise on April 19th 2012. Discovery first took flight took place August 30, 1984 on STS-41-D. Since then Discovery flew a total of 39 times spending one year (365 days) in space, the most of any shuttle. Space Shuttle Discovery also led the return to space missions after both the Space Shuttle Challenger and Space Shuttle Columbia accidents. The Hubble Space Telescope was also launched and serviced, and then Discovery became first shuttle to dock with the International Space Station.
Personal Gem: N-1M Flying Wing
I have always held a place in my heart for flying wings. I am not sure what it is but the N-1M just calls out to me. The N-1M was one of John “Jack” Northrop’s early flying wings. It was a one of a kind proof of concept that later lead to the N-9M and then later the YB-35.
Personal Gem 2: 307 Stratoliner
The Boeing 307 Stratoliner was the first pressurized commercial transport and built in 1938 it was well ahead of its time. It was originally ordered by PanAm and then TWA, but World War Two intervened and with modification the design became the C-75. This airframe was restored and on March 28, 2002 it had an emergency ditching in Elliott Bay near Seattle, Washington due to running out of fuel. It was restored again and flew via EAA AirVenture (where I took this photo) to the Smithsonian where it is today.
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway
10:00 am – 5:30 pm Daily
Note: Photo Gallery is in original post.