Fbgdavidson From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2004, 3706 posts, RR: 28 Posted (8 years 5 months 6 days 11 hours ago) and read 9008 times:
I wouldn't usually do this for a museum visit but since the Udvar-Hazy is a world class museum I thought a report would be welcome on here. Wasn't quite sure which forum was best for this, but since some people have put their spotting trips in here I thought it seemed most at home here.
Having visited the excellent National Air & Space Museum on National Mall in Washington DC back in September 2003 (click for pictures) it was brought to my attention that in December of that year the Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center was opening close to Washington Dulles airport. This was to be home to a new generation of aircraft that the Smithsonian had originally had been unable to display due to lack of an adequate facility. Indeed on my flight back to London I had seen the Boeing 367-80, the Air France Concorde and Boeing 307 Stratoliner parked out on the apron awaiting the completion of the hangar for their storage.
Air France Concorde F-BVFA, Air France Concorde and Boeing 307 Stratoliner (Apologies for bad photo, my old camera didn't have a good zoom!)
I planned to make a number of trips that involved flying into Washington Dulles airport in the following year whilst I finished University and I was very keen on making a quick stopover at the Museum.
It had been over two years since the opening of the museum and countless passings of the museum on Route 28 en route to Hampton Roads area, before last week my girlfriend and I finally made the decision to go. A hotel was booked so we could also make a visit to Washington itself on Sunday.
Saturday morning came and we left Richmond in good time to see the whole museum. The drive was uneventful apart from the very last bit where the road up the museum goes right under the end of the approach for runway 01R which you can see in this picture, which was taken as I landed on 01L a few months ago.
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
I was expecting the museum to be fairly quiet but this was far from what came about in the end. It appeared as though thousands of Girl Scouts were on some kind of field trip.
It was difficult to know where to start but downstairs seemed the most obvious and is it happened was where a lot of World War I aircraft were on display. Well I think they were, they looked pretty old!
The early years of aviation
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
There was no set pattern or gallery system, at all, although aircraft tended to be grouped into those of similar background. A natural pathway for us followed the wall of the museum and this meant we got to see a collection of different engines (which was a bit lost on me!) and Korean War Aviation which was down by the large hangar door. I tried to glimpse around the corner to see Dulles itself but a maze of trees blocked the view.
We made our way down the back wall past a lot of German World War II military stuff to what appeared to be more civil related aircraft. Grouped here were the Boeing 367-80 (the 707 prototype for the numpties like me!), the Air France Concorde and Boeing 307 Stratoliner. All of which I'd seen at Dulles parked on the ramp a few years ago.
The amount of aircraft was incredible, not only were they on the floor level but half way to the ceiling, three quarters of the way to the ceiling and right up hanging off the ceiling. Everywhere you looked there was something with wings!
Overview of the Aviation hangar
In the civil aviation area was a collection of models of various aircraft, primarily those of defunct airlines and around this a number of smaller, almost experimental aircraft. The aircraft dated from Junkers Ju-52 and previous right through to the Air France Concorde. An elevator and staircase offered better views of the Concorde and rest of the hangar and it certainly puts the place into perspective when seen from above.
[img]http://img385.imageshack.us/img385/1078/dsc026625ac.jpg[/i] Boeing B-29 Superfortress 'Enola Gay'
We decided it was a good time to head to the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar. This was dominated by the Space Shuttle Enterprise and a few other bits and bobs around it.
Space Shuttle Enterprise
To be honest I'm not that big into space exploration and that kind of thing so a lot of it didn't mean much to me. However, there was an astronaut on call! Dr. Tom Jones, who was an astronaut from 1991-2002 (I think) that was signing his new book and he gave a couple of speeches over the day. Listening to his recollections and background in the Air Force was very interesting although when it came to answering questions from the audience the Girl Scouts got priority and we left as the poor guy was left to fend off a barrage of infantile questions
Dr. Tom Jones - former astronaut on hand to answer questions
We paused briefly for coffee and as it was getting on to early afternoon thought it was time to go up the observation tower for views of Dulles and approaching aircraft. There was a short line that only took a couple of minutes to reach the front of and we were up seven floors in no time. Being between 01R and 01L we had great 360 degree views of the approaching aircraft which seemed to be predominantly UA heavies on 1R and smaller stuff on 1L. From up high though you could see the aircraft turning onto approach and see them fly right by the window and touchdown. Having not been in a control tower before it was rather interesting! If you visit the Udvar-Hazy this is a must although the entrance is quite well hidden so you could easily miss it!
Austrian Airlines A330 landing on 01R
United 747 landing on 01R at Washington Dulles (Apologies for the screaming kids in the background and lack of zoom!)
Down one level in the observation tower was a rather nifty display of ATC, a reconstruction of EWR, but why not have Dulles airport relayed live, albeit with a bit of a delay to censor anything we shouldn't here? That'd have been pretty awesome, channel 9 without having to fly UA
After descending from the tower we thought it would be a good time to join a group tour, they left every 30minutes from beside the SR-71. As I was most interested in the civil aviation stuff we found a tour that had just set off in that very direction. As the tours are free you often get people joining midway through and we were no exception. Due to the size of the place the guides had earpieces and speakers attached to their jackets. As with my tour of the NASM in DC itself I noticed the guides happened to be of the older generation and were extremely knowledgeable. Our particular chap seemed to be very hot on his WWII aircraft and we stood beside Enola Gay for a good ten minutes or so. Despite this chap's wide range of knowledge an early teen decided to question his every word, much to the admonishment of his mother who ushered him away from the group pretty fast . We got detailed descriptions of the Junkers Ju-52, Boeing 367-80, Boeing 307 Stratoliner and a little bit about the Concorde before heading towards the SR-71 with a quick stopover at some of the German WWII aircraft.
Boeing 307 Stratoliner
The tour was brought to an end back at the nose of the SR-71 'for fear of getting on a bit' as the guide put it. This was well received by my girlfriend who despite a vague interest in aircraft was tiring after almost four hours! I have to admit I was in a similar state!
View of Lockheed Sr-71 Blackbird and Space Shuttle Enterprise
Verdict: The Udvar-Hazy center is a must for aviation and space enthusiasts as well as an excellent facility for those with a passing interest. It is an ideal place to spend a few hours on a long layover at Dulles and the amount of legendary aircraft is unsurpassed IMO. Well apart from the NASM in downtown DC perhaps
If anyone wants to see more pictures I have a photo album with around 45 pictures from the Udvar-Hazy Center here. There is no need to register or sign in so have a look!
"My first job was selling doors, door to door, that's a tough job innit" - Bill Bailey
Fbgdavidson From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2004, 3706 posts, RR: 28
Reply 10, posted (8 years 4 months 3 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 7620 times:
Quoting Stretch 8 (Reply 8): "I'm not that big into space exploration and that kind of thing so a lot of it didn't mean much to me."
Good God man, you need help! I still enjoyed your report!
I'm so misunderstood
What I should have said is I wasn't as au fait with what was on display in the Space exploration hangar. It was interesting but found it hard to comment on much of it because I couldn't tell you what it all was!! I was a little better amongst the aviation stuff...
"My first job was selling doors, door to door, that's a tough job innit" - Bill Bailey