Recently, I moved back to the Washington DC area and I used this opportunity to re-visit some of our Nation’s Capital region most wonderful museums.
I was surprised that some of the displays were updated and some of the expositions were completely new:a good example is the Discovery Space Shuttle In Udvar-Hazy Center.
Furthermore, I always loved aviation and planes, therefore, the opportunity to visit the two DC area museums connected with aviation make me very happy. In my opinion, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is the number two air museum which should be visited by all aviation enthusiasts (THE NUMBER ONE is the National USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio – I have also some good photos from that location in three parts: WWII military aircraft, Cold War aircraft and modern military aircrart).
Udvar-Hazy is very often being advertised as “a companion facility” for the National Air and Space Museum located near the National Mall. Somehow, I find this facility to be much superior to the museum Downtown DC. It is less crowded and located next to the Dulles International Airport, which makes it more “real.”
I will break my visit to the Udvar-Hazy into two blogs: modern military planes and space, followed by WWII military aircraft with modern civilian planes. It was fun to take plenty of good photos and enjoy the beautiful planes – I want to share this experience.
Therefore, with any delays – let’s start! In my opinion, it is necessary to start from most beautiful aircraft in the collection – the one and only Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. (http://airandspace.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?object=nasm_A19920072000). I attached the link to the short history of
this amazing aircraft but I would like to mention few facts which are hard to find but fun to know.
A total of 32 Blackbirds were built; 12 were lost in accidents and none lost to enemy action. Furthermore, the aircraft had very interesting missile counter-measure system: if the incoming missile was detected, the pilot simply increased the speed and out run it!
Another amazing aircraft presented on the display is the Lockheed Martin X-35B STOVL. This particular plane was the first prototype to fly and was extensively used by DARPA to further develop the project.
Behind the aircraft, to the left side of it, you can see the entire propulsion system. The jet engine system (because it is a complex combination) is truly amazing. I do not envy the mechanics who have to maintain that beast on daily basis. Here is the link to the information provided about the aircraft by the Smithsonian Institution (http://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/modern-military/).
The next plane in the Cold War collection is the Grumman F-14D(R) Tomcat. It is well know as a workhorse of the US carrier aviation and was made famous in the Hollywood blockbuster, “Top Gun.” If i am guessing correctly, F-14 will not be “playing” in the re-make of this movie but Tom Cruise (30 years older) will be in the in it.
F-14 is a true beauty and you really have to see it in person to get the true size of this plane!
In Udvar-Hazy Center, the F-14 is presented in the “close wing” configuration but to experience the true beauty of this plane you have to see it with wings extended. I think, I may have photos from Ohio with the wings in that configuration.
Another veteran of many conflicts which is on display in Udvar-Hazy Center is the McDonnell F-4S Phantom II. Very popular platform – it is still operated today by many countries. (http://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/korea-vietnam/)
Finally, by showing F-4 you must also present its main opponent from the Vietnam War era – Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21F Fishbed C. MiG-21 is also a true beauty and its slick lines amazed the
aviation enthusiasts for years! MiG-21, similarly to F-4, is still used by many countries today. (http://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/korea-vietnam/)
After more than 55 years since entering into production, MiG-21 is still alive, with constant upgrades to its avionics and engines. F-4 and MiG-21 are displayed side-by-side so you can see how they compare in the real life.
Another aircraft which was glorified in the Hollywood movie is the Grumman A-6E Intruder.
Personally, I find the movie “Flight of the Intruder” with Willem Dafoe and Danny Glover, to be much better and realistic to cheesy “Top Gun.” However, it is just my opinion. Anyway, A-6 did some serious work for the USAF and US Marines as the all-weather attack and electronic warfare aircraft since the Vietnam War.
The Human Spaceflight section has great stuff on display. The crown jewel of the collection is the Space Shuttle Discovery. Looking at this masterpiece of technology it is amazing to see that we humans can do wonderful things.
Therefore, as you can see the Udvar-Hazy Center is a great place and “a must see” attraction in the vicinity of the USA capital area.
Here are some additional photos for your viewing pleasure!