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.
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.
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’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.
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:
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.
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.