The Nation Air and Space Museum on the Mall, as I noted, is a bit landlocked, and too small for many aircraft in the Smithsonian’s collection. To accommodate the larger vehicles in their collection, the Udvar-Hazy center opened in 2003 as an expansion to the center. There collection has expanded into this new space. I got to spend a brief time there once on a business trip; on our family vacation, I got to explore the space more fully.
Perhaps my favorite vesical is an SR-71 Blackbird. It also happens to be my second favorite vehicle made of titanium.
I’ve loved the Blackbird family since I was a kid. I always appreciate the opportunity to see one, especially a record-setter.
When I was last here, they Space Shuttle Enterprise was the centerpiece of their collection. Since the retirement of the Shuttle fleet, it has been unfortunately moved to New York. The Enterpirse was used for the Approach and Landing Tests. It never went to space. In its place, the Space Shuttle Discovery was rolled in.
The Discovery has is the oldest of the remaining Space Shuttles, and the one with the most missions. It first flew in space in 1984, and completed the last of its thirty-nine missions in 2012.
I just walked around this vehicle several times, staring at it. I imagined myself at its controls so many times in my life.
I was sad to think the Shuttles are no longer flying, with nothing to replace them.
The Space Gallery had a number of other artifacts, including another film Nikon body modified as an early digital camera.
An early plan for the Gemini program was for the capsule to return not by splashing into the ocean (as it did), but under a paraglider.
A testbed capsule was towed behind a car, much like a kite.
A mock-up of the Pathfinder lander was there, along with the Sojourner, one of the first robotic rovers on Mars.
Several warplanes were in the main aircraft gallery. An F4U was hung dramatically by the entrance.
The P-40 was famous for the American Volunteer Group, the “Flying Tigers.”
The P-38 Lightening was designed by Kelly Johnson, who also designed some significant aircraft, including my beloved Blackbird.
The P-61 Black Widow was a World War Two era night fighter. My grandfather worked on the early RADAR carried in this craft.
A B-29, the Enola Gay, loomed large over the World War Two exhibit.
One of the first Soviet jet fighters was the MiG-15.
It was no match for the F-86 Saber, which ruled the skies during the Korean War.
The F-4 and MiG-21 were adversaries in the Vietnam War.
The A-6 Intruder served from the Vietnam to the First Gulf War.
The iconic UH-1 “Huey” represented rotary-wing aircraft of the Vietnam War.
The collection’s F-14 was involved in combat in the 1989 Gulf of Sidra incident, shooting down a MiG-23.
I found the collection of prototypes fascinating. The X-35 developed concepts that became the F-35 Lightening II. It is the first aircraft to take off and land vertically and break the sound barrier.
The XV-15 developed tilt-rotor aircraft to the point it could become a viable platform.
The Northrop N9MB demonstrated “flying wings.”
The 707 was the first US jetliner. It’s prototype is at Udvar-Hazy.
The supersonic Concord jetliner was there.
I had never seen one before. It is a gorgeous aircraft!
This Dassault Falcon 20 was FedEx’s first aircraft.
The Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer set the record for fastest unrefuled circumnavigation of the planet.
We spent hours admiring this collection–perhaps second only to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in terms of size, but with much more significant aircraft.