Archive for the ‘2014 Summer Vacation’ Category

A Day at Udvar-Hazy   1 comment

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.
Blackbird (3/4 from the Right)

I’ve loved the Blackbird family since I was a kid. I always appreciate the opportunity to see one, especially a record-setter.
SR-71 (Nose)

SR-71 (Rear-Right)

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.
Discovery Nose

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.
Over the Wing

I just walked around this vehicle several times, staring at it. I imagined myself at its controls so many times in my life.
Discovery Engines

I was sad to think the Shuttles are no longer flying, with nothing to replace them.
Entering the Space Gallery

The Space Gallery had a number of other artifacts, including another film Nikon body modified as an early digital camera.
Early Nikon 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.
Gemini Paraglider Test Vehicle with Rogallo Paraglider

A testbed capsule was towed behind a car, much like a kite.
Gemini Paraglider Test Vehicle

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.”
P-40 Flying Tiger

The P-38 Lightening was designed by Kelly Johnson, who also designed some significant aircraft, including my beloved Blackbird.
P-38 Lightening

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.
B-29 Nose

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.
MiG-21 and F-4

F-4 and SA-2

The A-6 Intruder served from the Vietnam to the First Gulf War.
A-6 Top View

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.
F-14 MiG Killer

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.
XV-15 (Top View)

The Northrop N9MB demonstrated “flying wings.”
Northrop N9MB

The 707 was the first US jetliner. It’s prototype is at Udvar-Hazy.
707 Prototype

The supersonic Concord jetliner was there.

I had never seen one before. It is a gorgeous aircraft!
Concord (Nose)

This Dassault Falcon 20 was FedEx’s first aircraft.
Dassault Falcon 20

The Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer set the record for fastest unrefuled circumnavigation of the planet.
Global Flyer

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.

Posted 2014-09-14 by Mr. Guilt in 2014 Summer Vacation, Aircraft

National Air and Space Museum   Leave a comment

SpaceShipOne and the X-1
While in Washington, we wanted to check out the National Air and Space Museum (NASM). The NASM is home to a variety of historically significant aircraft. As air and space geeks, it was heaven.

We wanted to check out both sites, but started with the location on the Mall. Right when you walk in, you can see two spaceplanes. My personal favorite is the X-15.
X-15, right side

This research craft was flown in the Sixties. Three were built. One crashed, and the other is at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. They set a number of records, and twice flew beyond the internationally recognized boundary into space (100 KM).
X-15, left side

Across from the X-15 was the most recent spaceplane, SpaceShipOne. This was the first manned, non-government craft to enter space.
SpaceShipOne (Belly)

SpaceShipOne (Top)

It was exciting to see something I followed make history among aircraft I read about in books, such as the X-1 (above), or The Spirit of Saint Louis.
SpaceShipOne and The Spirit of Saint Louis

Speaking of the X-1, the first aircraft to break the sound barrier was neat to see.

Nearby was another early supersonic research craft, the Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket. It was the first aircraft to go twice the speed of sound.
Douglas D-558-2

On the floor was Columbia, the command module of Apollo XI.
Apollo XI

The P-59 Airacomet was also in the entry gallery. This was the first American jet fighter. It was, however, an underperformer, and never saw combat.
XP-59 Airacomet

The P-59 was replaced by the P-80 (later F-80) Shooting Star. During the Korean War, an F-80 won the first jet-to-jet engagement. The prototype was at the NASM.

Walking through the galleries, there is an impressive look at naval aviation. A number of aircraft from several years were represented, including an A-4.

I couldn’t get a good shot of the original Wright Flyer, but they did have one of the few remaining Wright bicycles on display.
Wright Bicycle

A bicycle would later be the powerplant for the Gossamer Albatross.
Gossamer Albatross

This F-104 served as a chase plane for NASA, including the X-15 program.
NASA F-104

The space gallery is dominated by a mock-up of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program (ASTP).

They had a reentry module from a Soyuz–the only one I’ve ever seen.
Soyuz Reentry Module

I was amused by the markings on the capsule. “Man Inside! Help!”
Man Inside! Help!

The space gallery actually had an early digital SLR. It was a Nikon film body mated to a Kodak image processor, doubling the size of the camera. Good thing there is no gravity there.
First Digital SLR

A traveling exhibit of the photography of Spirit and Opportunity included a full-scale mockup.
Spirit Mock-Up

It was great to see all the significant aircraft. The only downside of the NASM is that it is a bit landlocked, with no room to grow. As a consequence, there is a limit to the size and quantity of aircraft they can house. However, the next day, we would get to see the solution to that problem.
SpaceShipOne (Side)

Posted 2014-09-07 by Mr. Guilt in 2014 Summer Vacation, Aircraft

Lions, Tigers, Caracals, and Old Friends at the National Zoo   2 comments

Hanging with Dad
From Philadelphia, we went south to our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Our first stop there was the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, otherwise known as the National Zoo. There were several animals we wanted to see, and was an amazing campus.

On entry, a prairie dog peeked up to greet us.
Prarie Dog Peep

But, let’s face, it, I was there to see cats. The National Zoo did not disappoint. There were two sets of lion cubs, for a total of seven.
Cub on a Ledge!

They were getting into everything!
Tugging the Hose

Reach the Branch

Cub by the Branch

Two Cubs Walk Into a Bar...

…and on to everyone!
Attack Mom!

There dad is Luke, a very handsome dude.
Luke and His Kids

If I’m reading this right, he’s the father of John, the new African lion at the Cincinnati zoo. Good looks clearly run in the family. And he knows it.
Smell That Fresh Air!

But, seven cubs can be exhausting!
Snoozing Lion

There were also two tiger cubs and their mom. The cubs are right at a year old.
Tiger Secrets

They like to stalk…
Stalking Tiger

…have a drink…
Have a Drink

…and, of course, take a nap. They are cats, after all.
Don't Wake the Tiger

I was excited to see a caracal, a cat they don’t have at very many zoos.
Sitting Caracal

He was a bit shy.
Caracal in the Grass

The caracal decided to wander off. As a cat geek, I understood, even if I think I was one of the few who was most excited to see them.
Caracal Stroll

As is often the case, the caracal was positioned near a bobcat.

We got to see a snoozing sand cat.
Snoozing Sand Cat

And a snoozing clouded leopard. Like I said, they’re cats; they sleep.
Dream Cloudie

Another sleeping cat we saw was an old friend. Lek is a fishing cat, born in Cincinnati. I have pictures of him and his brothers as cubs.
Dozing Lek

This Queen City boy has fathered four cubs with Electra, a female.
Lek Watching Me

We like cheetahs.
Alert Cheetah

DC Cheetah

Lounging Cheetah

My daughter has also started taking photos at zoos, getting her own perspective on the animals.
Caitlin Taking Pictures

Caitlin Photographs a Meerkat

There were seven Asian small clawed otter pups.
Peeking Otter Pup

Some were busy constructing something.

Others…less so.
Otter Belly!

I’m always amused at zoos when there are animal “tourists.” Usually it’s a squirrel or some birds. The elephants appeared to have a pet deer.
Pet Deer
The keepers seemed to indicated this was an ongoing problem, but didn’t really pose a danger to either species.

Meet the Ruppell’s griffon vulture. While this one was hanging out on the ground, these are the highest-flying bird on the planet. They are typically cited as flying in the thin air at 20,000 feet, though there are records of them being as high as nearly 40,000 feet.
Ruppell's Griffon Vulture

Lots of turtles on a log.
Turtles on a Log 2

Turtles on a Log 1

Degu are small rodents native to South America.
Degu on a Branc

I’m becoming quite the fan of the burrowing owl.

We had a great day at the National Zoo, and walked over its great expanses.

The Philadelphia Zoo is a Series of Tubes   Leave a comment

Tiger in the Tube

Our summer vacation took us eastward this year. Our first stop was Philadelphia. There, we checked out the Philadelphia Zoo, the nation’s oldest zoo. I was rather impressed by their animals, as well as the enrichment they were afforded.

One of the neatest bits of enrichment was Zoo360 Animal Exploration Trail, a series of enclosed paths for animals to meander. They had it for primates, but I first encountered some goats.
Goats on a Bridge

But the coolest was yet to come: Big Cat Crossing. This path allowed their lions, jaguars, leopard, cougars, and snow leopards to explore the zoo. When we were there, a pair of tiger brothers, born at the Columbus Zoo, were watching the crowds.
Tiger Tube

Looking Down on Us

They really are handsome cats.
The Sun is Too Bright!

In the big cat area, we also got to see lions.
Makini the Lion

Maya, a female snow leopard was there with her two (older) cubs, Buck and Ranney. The cubs were quite active, pouncing and wrestling with each other.
Tag! You're It!

Teasing a Sib


Tusslin' Flurry

Pondering the Next Pounce

Though her kids tried to get her into the mix, Mama Maya decided to stay above the fray.
Happy Maya

Such a pretty snow leopard!
Pretty Maya

The tiger girls were in their enclosure, stalking.
Stalking Tiger


One came right up to the glass I was crouching by to take pictures, and sprayed right next to me. At first I was disgusted, until my daughter pointed out by “marking” me, she was claiming me. I was…honored…really.
Contemplative Tiger

There were black-footed kittens!
Sleeping Like a Log 2

Of course, they were all asleep. Still quite cute.
Cats Love Boxes (Whatever Kind They Are)

Was this one getting up?
Wrong Side of the Bed

Nope. Just shifting.
Sleeping Like a Log

A Canadian lynx sat in the sun.
Sunny Lynx

There was a cheetah nearby. A keeper gave a talk, discussing his encounters with different cheetahs who passed through his care. The cheetahs had a lure system, which the keeper seemed surprised was good enrichment for the worlds fastest mammal.
Philly Cheetah

Cheetah Trot

The series of tubes proves to be enrichment for homo saphiens, too.
Rebecca in the Tubes

My daughters new favorite animal is the red panda, which I’m a fan of, too.

Quite cute and fluffy!
Snack Time

On the Platform

Tony is a southern white rhino with a big horn!
Tony, the Southern White Rhino

Ever see a Galapagos tortoise cuddle puddle?
Tortoise Cuddle Puddle

Serious close-up!
Snugglin' Tortoise

I liked watching the maned wolf. Such striking color.
Maned Wolf

Having obsessed over their pens lately, it was nice to see brown pelicans Crackle and Snap.
Snap and Crackle

Overall, I really enjoyed the Philadelphia Zoo. It was a good size for walking around and spending a day, and they clearly cared a lot about their animals. And the animals seemed to enjoy each other.
Changing of the Guard

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