Military Aviation Showcased at New Air and Space Center
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
DULLES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Va., Dec. 5, 2003 To call the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center awe-inspiring is just not adequate.
A Marine F-4 Phantom II points at a MiG- 17 at the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport, Va. The center, a part of the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, will open Dec. 15 as part of the Centennial of Flight. Photo by Jim Garamone.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The press received a sneak preview today of the new facility, due to open to the public Dec. 15. Built next to the airport here, the center expects about 3.5 million visitors in its first year of operation.
The Udvar-Hazy Center is named for the man who donated $65 million toward construction of the $311 million facility.
The center will allow the Air and Space Museum to showcase more than 80 percent of its collection. It currently has room to display 10 percent at the museum on the National Mall in Washington.
That museum is the most visited in the world. This past year, more than 10 million visitors saw such flight icons as the original Wright Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 command capsule.
Those icons of flight, and many others, will remain at the downtown museum. But there was no way to display the larger icons. As you enter the center, the first aircraft you see is the SR-71 Blackbird the Air Force's premier surveillance aircraft from the 1960s to the 1990s. In its final flight before being donated to the Smithsonian, the SR-71 set a transcontinental speed record of 1 hour, 4 minutes.
Behind the Blackbird is the Space Shuttle Enterprise. Still undergoing restoration, the shuttle dwarfs the Gemini 7 and Mercury capsules arrayed before it.
To the left of the Blackbird is another aviation icon. The B-29 Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. The bomb leveled the city and changed warfare forever.
Around the Enola Gay are various Japanese, German, British and American planes from World War II. A P-47 Thunderbolt rests next to its great adversary, the German Fw-190. A P- 38 Lightning is next to a Japanese "George" naval aircraft.
But the action isn't all on the ground. The hangar-like structure has planes hanging from the roof and catwalks so visitors can get an up-close view. A World War II P-40 Warhawk named "Lope's Hope" has the full Flying Tiger paint job and looks like it is still soaring through the skies over China. Next to it is an F-4U Corsair with tailhook down looking as if it is ready to land on the World War II carrier USS Essex.
Commercial aviation is also highlighted. There is an Air France Concorde stretched across the width of the hangar and the Boeing 367-80, the prototype for the 707, is next to it.
The early days of aviation are represented by a JN-4D "Jenny," used as a trainer in World War I. There is a French Nieuport that U.S. Army pilots of the 94th "Hat in the Ring" Aero Squadron flew against the Kaiser in that war, and even earlier experimental aircraft.
The hangar-like facility even has an authentic hangar aroma but without elements like leaking hydraulic fluid.
The center is 28 miles from downtown Washington and there will be an express bus service from the Air and Space Museum on the Mall.
For more information on the center, go to the National Air and Space Museum Web site.