VA: Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum


Although I’m from Maryland and have easy access to DC and Virginia, I haven’t spent much time there since starting this blog. This means I don’t have very many pictures to create blog posts from, so I’ll have to start from scratch. During my recent visit home for the holidays, Patrick and I took a trip to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, VA.

Some of you may know that I got the chance to work for the National Air and Space Museum education department during the summer of 2012 (NASM, located on the National Mall), which included a trip out to its extension, the Udvar-Hazy. This museum is difficult to get to without a car, but I highly recommend it! As NASM has way too many artifacts to store in its downtown location, the Udvar-Hazy was built to showcase as many artifacts as possible. I’ve never been crazy about planes, but the museum is absolutely amazing, and what I did find exciting was seeing the Space Shuttle Discovery up close.

Space Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery

Discovery is the main attraction in the James S. McDonnell Space Hanger, but it also includes satellites, rockets, missiles and space suits. During the intern tour of the Udvar-Hazy, the director made a point to mention how well-designed this facility was compared to the downtown Air and Space Museum. After many years of observing what worked and what didn’t, the museum was designed for maximum efficiency. With private funding, the facility was completed on time and $13 million under budget. One of the best parts of the museum is the multi-leveled viewing ramps spaced throughout the museum, which allow guests to see the exhibits from a multitude of angles.

There are multiple levels throughout the museum which allow guests to view the exhibits from many angles.

Another view of Discovery and the James S. McDonnell Space Hanger

Discovery's heat shields

Discovery’s heat tiles

Aside from the Space Hanger, the rest of the museum is mainly concentrated in the Boeing Aviation Hanger (floor plan), where the exhibits are arranged by the war or time period during which they were developed (Modern, Cold War, Korea and Vietnam, World War II, etc.).

Boeing Aviation Hanger

Boeing Aviation Hanger, Blackbird front and center

Boeing Aviation Hanger’s main attraction (or at least, the first thing you see upon entering the museum) is the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, another one of my favorite exhibits.

Looking out over the Blackbird, away from Discovery and toward the museum exit.

Looking out over the Blackbird, away from Discovery and toward the museum exit.

During its operational history, the Blackbird achieved the world record for sustained flight at the highest altitude. It also set records for speed, traveling from LA to DC in under 70 minutes. Through a series of innovations designed to make the aircraft as stealthy as possible, Lockheed Martin managed to make the Blackbird appear as “bigger than a bird but smaller than a man” on radar. Even if ground-based missiles were launched at the Blackbird, the plane traveled so fast and so high that they simply couldn’t catch up, and missed the aircraft by several miles.

A few other interesting aircraft are shown below:

Enola Gay - the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb

Enola Gay – the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb in combat

Arrow Sport A2-60 - The wings were originally only attached to the center of the plane; however it made many pilots uncomfortable enough that the N-shaped struts were later added.

Arrow Sport A2-60 – The wings were originally only attached to the center of the plane; however it made many pilots uncomfortable enough that the N-shaped struts were later added.

De Havilland Canada DHC-1A Chipmunk Pennzoil Special

De Havilland Canada DHC-1A Chipmunk Pennzoil Special – Purchased and piloted by Art Scholl, who frequently flew with his dog on his shoulder.

Robinson R44 G-MURY (been flown around the world twice), Bell H-13J (first flight of a U.S. president), Bell Model 47B (flew for 57 years making it the longest flying helicopter in history, set world hovering record)

From right to left: Robinson R44 Astro G-MURY (red; flown around the world twice), Bell H-13J (blue and white; first flight of a U.S. president), Bell Model 47B (white top; flew for 57 years making it the longest flying helicopter in history, set world hovering record)

Hiller 1031-A-1 Flying Platform - one-man "flying carpets" that a pilot controlled by leaning in the desired direction of travel; I imagine it is similar to a Segway; unfortunately this design never came to fruition as the extra engines required for safety made the craft too heavy for maneuvering, defeating the original purpose

Hiller 1031-A-1 Flying Platform – one-man “flying carpets” that a pilot controlled by leaning in the desired direction of travel. I imagine it is similar to a Segway; unfortunately this design never came to fruition as the extra engines required for safety made the craft too heavy for maneuvering, defeating the original purpose.

I imagine one of the best parts of the Udvar-Hazy is its observation deck, which overlooks Dulles International Airport. During both of my visits I completely forgot to check out this part of the museum, but I imagine the views are wonderful.

Udvar-Hazy and a crescent moon just after sunset

Udvar-Hazy and a crescent moon just after sunset

Contrails from planes at Dulles International Airport create a beautiful sunset

Contrails from planes at Dulles International Airport create a beautiful sunset

The Udvar-Hazy is a bit out of the way for a short trip to DC, but if given the opportunity to visit, you should definitely make it happen. Check out their website for more information.

One thought on “VA: Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum

  1. I missed this one Emily and it’s a visual treat! Watching an SR-71 depart Kadena AB, Okinawa in 1972 was an impressive display of its powerful engines. Thanks for stuff under CV part of blog, especially the music to study and improve concentration by, the latter of which I am sorely in need of! LOL I couldn’t find a box “Leave a Reply” to comment on about your posters there, is why I put my comment here. – Roy

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