Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

16 01 2010

We toured the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum/Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center yesterday afternoon with Michael’s sister, Ann. Although it opened almost a decade ago, we hadn’t been out there until now. Since Ann is an engineer and has designed brake systems for business airplanes, we thought she might like this excursion. (We also learned that “Hazy” is pronounced “Haa-zee,” not “Hay-zee.”—good to know we were wrong all these years!)

Whether you’re an airplane enthusiast or not, it’s a spectacular collection of 163 aircraft, 154 large space artifacts, and more than 1,500 smaller items. I was amazed at how small the cockpits were in some of the smaller planes—some look like they could only hold a person the size of a 10-year-old! There are two hangars: the Boeing Aviation Hangar is 103 feet high, 986 feet long and 248 feet wide (293,707 square feet); the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar is 80 feet high, 262 feet long and 180 feet wide (53,067 square feet). The museum has an observation tower (164 feet high—seen in the last photo), a 479-seat IMAX Theater, three multimedia classrooms, a museum store, public dining facility and simulators. Admission is free (IMAX movies additional). Open daily, 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25)

One of my favorite planes was the incredibly shiny Boeing 307 Stratoline Clipper Flying Cloud (the large silver plane in the second row, right). This plane was the sole surviving Boeing S-307 Stratoliner, arriving at Dulles International on its last flight, August 6, 2003.

The Fulton Airphibian FA-3-101 (the red plane that looks like it’s broken into two parts) caused me to do a doubletake. The Fulton Airphibian was the first roadable (never knew that word existed!) aircraft designed to be used as a car or an airplane (how convenient!) certified by the Civil Aviation Administration in 1950. According to the Smithsonian’s website: It could fly to an airport and then, after disengaging wings, tail, and propeller, become a car. While a technical success, the Airphibian did not become a marketable design. The weight of its automotive parts caused sluggish performance in the air, a problem with all aero cars—average speeds were 160 kilometers (100 miles) per hour in the air and 89 kilometers (55 miles) per hour on the road. A former company officer donated the Airphibian in 1960 and Robert Fulton III restored it in 1998.

Another interesting plane was the Waterman Aerobile (the cartoonish-shaped blue and white plane, 2nd from bottom of collage). This vehicle made Time Magazine‘s “50 Worst Cars of All Time” list. You’ll see the Concord Air France directly below the Waterman Aerobile in that photo. At 202 ft., 3″ in length, it spanned the entire width of the building!


The information below is from the exhibit signage:

Boeing 307 Stratoliner Clipper Flying Cloud—First flown in late 1998, the Boeing 307 was the first airliner with a pressurized fuselage. It could carry 33 passengers in great comfort and cruise at 6,096 meters (20,000 feet), while maintaining a cabin pressure of 2,438 meters (8,000 feet). This enabled the Stratoliner to fly above most bad weather, thereby providing a faster and smoother ride. The Stratoliner incorporated the wings, tail, and engines of the Boeing B-17C bomber. The wide fuselage was fitted with sleeper berths and reclining seats. The wide fuselage was fitted with sleeper berths and reclining seats. Ten Stratoliners were built. The prototype was lost in an accident, but five were delivered to TWA and three were purchased by Pan American Airways. TWA owner Howard Hughes purchased a heavily modified version for his personal use. The airplane displayed here was flown by Pan American as the Clipper Flying Cloud. Boeing restored it in 2001.

Waterman Aerobile #6In 1934 the Bureau of Air Commerce recognized the Waterman Arrowplane as one of the two award-winning designs for its flivver (light, easy to fly, and affordable) aircraft competition. Waldo Waterman’s improved Arrowplane, the Aerobile #6, fulfilled his dream of designing a tailless roadable airplane. The Aerobile was a two-place, high-wing, cabin monoplane with a transmission drive system that operated the propeller in the air and the rear wheels on the ground. The one-piece wing was removed by moving a lever and pins. Painted in “Buick blue,” it had many standard Studebaker, Ford, Austin, and Willys automobile parts to keep the price down and maintain the look of a car. It received FAA certification in the experimental category in 1957, but no market materialized. Gift of Waldo Waterman

Several exhibits showcased various cameras—including a Graflex Model RB used by Charles and Anne Lindbergh. Click here to see some of the other still and movie cameras on display. Another interesting exhibit was the Apollo 11 Objects Collection, shown here.

The last photo in the collage below is of the front of the museum at dusk—how serendipitous to have an airplane passing through at the time I captured the image!