Wednesday, August 31, 2016
NATIONAL AIR and SPACE MUSEUM - Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Washington DC is known for its musea; one of them being the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) which holds very important Air and Space memorabilia such as the 1903 Wright Flyer, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis, the Apollo 11 command module and the Bell X-1 first supersonic aircraft flown by Chuck Yeager.
Far less known is its sister museum at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy center at the Washington Dulles International airport, about 40 miles west of the capital, which is also part of the Smithsonian institution. This much larger facility built in 2003, houses some of the larger air and spacecraft that couldn't find a place in the downtown museum.
I visited the Üdvar-Hazy center, while on a short 24hr layover in Washington earlier this month and was very impressed with the overal look and feel of the museum. The NASM group is known for only accepting "rare birds" in its collection; they are clearly after record breaking or last remaining machines rather than just displaying anything being donated.
Its main attraction is the Space Shuttle "Discovery"; which spend 365 days in space over 39 different space missions. I had seen a Shuttle mated to its Boeing 747 transporter before, but had never been that close. Being brought up in the Space Shuttle era, to stood there in absolute owe for probably the best part of an hour!
I've heard people asking when they will clean Discovery, which is obviously the wrong question to ask... Standing there gracefully just like she last came back from space on March 9 2011, with all of the space dust and burnt tiles intact!
In the World War II section, one finds some very rare birds, such as the only remaining German Arado 234 and Dornier Do 335 Pfeill.
Enola Gay, a WWII US bomber is known for the wrong reasons; being the first aircraft to drop a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
The Boeing B-307 Stratoliner "Flying Cloud" is another "only survivor"; being the first pressurised airliner.
Entering the jet age, the Boeing 367-80, also called the dash 80, this is the predecessor of would later be called the B-707.
The worlds fastest manned air breathing aircraft, the SR-71 Blackbird, was nicely lined up with Discovery behind it; what a sight.
Obviously this is only a quick snapshot of what can be seen at the Udvar-Hazy center. To all aviation geeks in the area, don't miss this free museum! You won't regret it...