The National Air
Museums Steven F.
UdvarHazy Center, which
opened Dec. 15, has been in the works for more than
20 years. It is worth the wait. It may be the best
place in the world to see airplanes.
Soon after opening the enormously popular Air and
Space Museum in Washington, D.C., in 1976, the regents
the parent Smithsonian Institution began laying plans
for a second facility where more of the historic
airplanes in the collection could be shown.
The outcome is the UdvarHazy complex in Chantilly,
Va., adjacent to Dulles Airport, 28 miles west of
It consists of a series of hangar-like structures
with steel arches sweeping 10 stories high. The aviation
hangar alone is longer than three football fields
and a third larger than the flagship museum building downtown.
The center is named for businessman Steven F. UdvarHazy,
who contributed $65 million for the project.
|From an overlook,
visitors can gaze down on a sleek SR-71 Blackbird.
Also shown are an F4U Corsair (upper left corner),
a Pitts Special (hanging upside down), and
a P-40E Warhawk (with shark mouth insignia).
On opening day, 80 aircraft were on display, with
more to come. Eventually, UdvarHazy
will have 200 aircraft and 135 spacecraft in two main exhibition hangars.
Smaller aircraft hang from the arched trusses. Elevated
walkways rise to four stories above the floor, allowing
visitors to see the suspended aircraft nose
The museum entrance is on the second level of the
hangar, so the first glimpse visitors get of the airplanes
is from an elevated walkway, looking down on
the vast exhibition floor.
The view from the walkway is framed by two fabled
World War II fighters, a P-40 and an F4U Corsair, hanging
at eye level to visitors and situated just
Twenty-five feet below, nose forward, is the SR-71
Blackbird, the fastest airplane ever built. It is
also, just possibly, the best-looking airplane ever
Beyond the SR-71 is the arched opening of the unfinished
space hangar, from within which the space shuttle
Enterprise faces out toward the observation
(The Enterprise arrived at Dulles in 1983. Refurbishing
could not begin until it was moved out of a building
on airport property last year. As work proceeds,
visitors peer across construction barriers to see the shuttle and other artifacts,
such as a Mercury capsule. Until the space hangar opens, some 60 space artifacts
are on display in the aviation hangar.)
|Warhawk. Opening day finds
Don Lopez, deputy director of NASM, talking
to the press
as a P-40
Warhawk bearing his name flies through
the gallery. Lopez, a World War II ace, flew a
P-40 in combat.
The view is spectacular in all directions. The aviation
hangar stretches almost 1,000 feet from end to end,
with no partitions to block the view. Modern military
airplanes are on the north end of the hangar, airliners are on the south end,
and aircraft from World War II and earlier are in the center.
Display cases on the ground floor have smaller artifacts:
uniform; Charles Lindberghs flight suit; Amelia Earharts flight
suit and scissors used to cut her hair before her last mission; hats worn by
and Curtis E. LeMay.
For those who can tear their eyes away from the airplanes,
there is a large collection of aircraft engines and
Visitors can take an elevator to the top of the Donald
D. Engen Observation Tower (named for the former
museum director who died in a glider accident in
164 feet high, for a pilots eye view of airplanes landing
and taking off from the Dulles runway and a scenic sweep of Virginia.
Opening day drew more than 7,000 people, even though
it was a Monday with snow on the ground. Museum officials
believe yearly attendance will reach three
million, once word of its attractions gets around.
The museum director, retired Marine Corps Gen. John
R. Dailey, likes to call UdvarHazy the
nations hangar, a variation on the Smithsonians
familiar nickname as the nations attic.
The Enola Gay
At the center of the aviation hangar is the most famous
of the airplanes at UdvarHazy,
the B-29 bomber Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.
The Enola Gay is raised up on an eight-foot platform
with a P-38 Lightning under one wing and a P-47 Thunderbolt
under the other. Other World War II airplanes
are all around: a British Hawker Hurricane, a German FockeWulf FW-190A-8,
a Japanese Kawanishi N1K1 naval fighter, and numerous others.
|Artifacts. Display cases
contain smaller artifacts such as Eddie Rickenbackers uniform (shown
here), Charles Lindberghs flight suit, and
hats worn by Gen. Hap Arnold and Gen. Curtis LeMay. (NASM photo by Eric Long)
Controversy about the Hiroshima mission continues
elsewhere, but the aircraft is displayed as nonpolitically
possible. Director Dailey said that the basic
descriptive label in front of the airplane delivers the facts and allows
people to understand these facts within the context of their own beliefs.
That did not satisfy antinuclear protesters who staged
a demonstration in the museum on opening day. One
of the protesters hurled a bottle of red paint at
the Enola Gay. It bounded off, denting the airplane and shattering on the floor
below. (See The Activists and the Enola Gay, p. 29.)
The Smithsonian acquired the Enola Gay in 1949, but
it was kept outdoors in various locations for years
and was in bad condition when it was taken apart
into storage at the Smithsonians Garber facility in Suitland, Md., in
Putting it back together was not easy.
The Enola Gay was disassembled into 52 pieces
for storage at the Garber facility, and none of the
team that did the disassembly is still with us today, Dailey
Unfortunately, the way it was disassembled was
not in accordance with the Boeing directives that describe
the procedures, so they were of little value when it
came time to reassemble the aircraft. Some of the joints that had to be
were intended to be done only on factory assembly jigs. This required some
expert crane handling and ingenuity to accomplish the
Dailey said it was the largest reassembly job
we have ever attempted and is a source of great pride
In all, the restoration, which began in 1984, took
300,000 staff hours to complete. The aluminum skin
has been polished to its original shine.
parts and systems
are of World War II vintage, and many of them are original.
|Showstopper. The museums
most famous airplane, the B-29 bomber Enola Gay,
dwarfs smaller contemporaries,
the twin-engine P-38 Lightning (foreground) and
a Japanese N1K2 Shiden Kai.
The Norden bombsight is the same one that flew on
the Hiroshima mission. The tires are the ones that
on the aircraft when the Smithsonian got
1949. The tires have been treated with materials that help preserve the
The aircraft has had a special visitor at UdvarHazy.
Retired Brig. Gen. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., 88, who flew
the Enola Gay on its mission to Hiroshima, was there
for a special Salute to Military Aviation
Dec. 9, and at the dedication of the new museum on Dec. 11. As crowds of
well-wishers streamed by, Tibbets stood by the airplane, talking and shaking
The Langley Aerodrome
The oldest aircraft at UdvarHazy is the Langley
Aerodrome A, which hangs at the level of the second
walkway, looking more like a huge butterfly than an
It was fished out of the water and restored after
it crashed (twice) into the Potomac River in 1903.
staffers joke that the Aerodrome achieved
altitude record when it was hoisted to its present position, 25 feet above
the hangar floor.
The Langley Aerodrome was the basis for an epic feud
between the Wright brothers and the Smithsonian and
almost kept the museum from ever getting
on the Wright Flyer, which today is a centerpiece of the collection at
the Air and
In 1903, Samuel Pierpont Langley was secretary of
the Smithsonian. He was also a competitor of the Wrights
in the development of powered flight.
in the race was the Aerodrome. The wings of this improbable-looking contraption
consisted of four linen-covered panels, two on each side of a tubular frame.
It was launched from a catapult on top of a houseboat.
The Langley Aerodrome was all engine (52 hp vs. a
dinky 12 hp engine on the Wrights Kitty
Hawk Flyer) and no aeronautics. It went directly from the catapult into
Langley died in 1906, but his successors at the Smithsonian
billed the Aerodrome as the worlds first airplane capable
of sustained flight. Glenn
Curtiss did get the Aerodrome to fly a bit in 1914, but that was after
numerous modifications and improvements.
Orville Wright was outraged. (Wilbur died in 1912.)
Not until the Smithsonian said in writing in 1942
that the Wright brothers were the first to fly
was Orville satisfied and the way cleared for the Smithsonian to obtain
The Curtiss P-40E Warhawk near the main entrance to
the museum is painted with the sharks mouth insignia
of the legendary Flying Tigers.
The name on the nose is Lopes Hope. As all good
aviation buffs know, Lope is
Donald S. Lopez, longtime deputy director of the National Air and Space
Museum and an ace with five victories in China in World
On Dec. 12, 1943, Lopez took on a Nakajima Ki-43 Oscar
that was attacking another P-40. The Japanese pilot
turned toward Lopez, head-on, and kept
left wings of the two aircraft collided, and the Oscar got the worst of
it. As the
Oscar tumbled downward, out of control, Lopezminus three feet of
flying and finished the mission.
The museum has a Ki-43 Oscar like the one Lopez engaged
that day, and it is on the list for exhibition at
The P-40 now on display has the same markings as the
airplane assigned to Lopez in China, but those were
not the markings of the P-40 he was flying
hit the Oscar. That day, Lopez had been in China for less than a month
his eighth combat mission. He was still too junior to have his own airplane
with his name on the nose.
Other museum officials also have personal connections
with vintage airplanes at UdvarHazy.
|Special Visitor. At the museum dedication, retired
Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets Jr., who flew the Enola
Gay on its Hiroshima mission, posed for pictures
and talked to well-wishers streaming by.
Three of the airplanes on display, for example, are
types that director Dailey flew when he was on active
duty with the Marine Corps: the XV-15
research aircraft, the Vietnam-era F-4S Phantom fighter, and the SR-71.
Tom Alison, the museums chief of collections
management, not only flew the SR-71, he flew the particular
SR-71 that is on the floor at UdvarHazy.
Among the other highlights in the aviation hangar
- The Concorde supersonic airliner. British Airways
and Air France retired their fleets last year. The
at UdvarHazy was the oldest in the Air France
fleet and arrived at Dulles in June 2003. The Concorde, which cruised at
twice the speed of sound, is the longest and heaviest
airplane at UdvarHazy (202
feet, 174,000 pounds empty).
- The Boeing 307 Stratoliner, the last one in existence
and one of only 10 ever built. It was the first
airliner with a pressurized cabin. It cruised
the weather at 20,000 feet (unprecedented for airliners of that era)
for a faster
and smoother ride and carried 33 passengers with the comfort of sleeping
berths and reclining seats. This particular aircraft was flown by Pan
American Airways, entering service in 1940 as the
Flying Cloud. In 1954, it was bought by the Haitian
Air Force and became the personal airplane of dictator Papa Doc Duvalier.
In the 1960s, it was used as a water bomber to fight forest fires in
Arizona. It was obtained by the Smithsonian in 1972.
- A Kugisho Okha 22 Kamikaze aircraft, essentially
a flying bomb, flown by a pilot on a one-way mission.
An Okha was brought within striking distance
by a Mitsubishi G4M Betty bomber. The pilot, who had received rudimentary
training, crashed himself at high speed into an Allied warship. The
Okha had a range
of about 80 miles. It was powered by a crude jet engine, similar to
the modern afterburner.
- The Aichi Seiran, a Japanese World War II bomber
built to operate from a submarine to strike at the
States or other distant targets, such
Canal. The wings folded up so the airplane would fit inside a submarine.
developed a special fleet of submarine aircraft carriers). An I-400 class
submarine could carry three Seirans in waterproof compartments. Assembled,
had a 40-foot wingspan and came with two large jettisonable pontoons
for operation as a seaplane. The Seiran never saw
combat. This is the last
surviving example, found by Allied forces in the
the Aichi factory after the war. (See Flights
From the Deep, p. 68.)
- Located side by side on the hangar floor are a
MiG-15 and an F-86 Sabre. In the Korean War, the
was flown by Russians, Chinese, and North
was bested, by a ratio of 10 to one, by the American F-86.
- The Boeing 367-80 Dash 80, the prototype
for Americas first
commercial jet airliner, the Boeing 707.
- A Nieuport 28C.1 fighter, assembled from components
of five different Nieuports, exhibited in the markings
of the famous 94th Hat in the Ring Aero
Squadron. This type of aircraft was the first fighter US airmen flew
in World War I. Nieuports later starred in the
movie, The Dawn Patrol.
- The X-35 demonstrator for the Joint Strike Fighter,
the newest airplane at UdvarHazy.
One Museum, Two Sites
For all of its scope and grandeur, UdvarHazy
is not an independent operation. It is an expansion
of the National Air and Space Museum and a companion
to the building downtown.
|Ancient. The museums
oldest aircraft, the Langley Aerodrome A, predates
but never actually flew until 1914. In 1903, the
airplane, built by Samuel P. Langley, twice crashed
into the Potomac River.
Of the 265 employees of the National Air and
Space Museum, only 15 are assigned to the UdvarHazy
Center, the museums fact sheet says. Most
administrative and curatorial operations will be based at the museums
flagship building on the National Mall. Other Smithsonian staff not directly
by the museum, such as store employees, also work at the UdvarHazy
The major presence at UdvarHazy is some 300
education docents and other volunteers. They wear big Ask
Me buttons and answer visitors questions
with knowledge and enthusiasm.
The downtown museum had room for only 10 percent of
the collection. (Another 10 percent is on loan to
other institutions.) UdvarHazy gives the museum
space to display the 80 percent of its airplanes that had been in storage.
Many of them were too large to fit into the museum
There is no intention to move the museums best
known holdings, now exhibited in the downtown facility,
to UdvarHazy. Crown jewels shown
at the flagship facility include the Wright brothers 1903 Kitty
Hawk Flyer, Lindberghs Spirit of St. Louis, Chuck Yeagers
X-1 Glamorous Glennis, which broke the sound barrier in 1947, and the
Apollo 11 command module Columbia,
in which astronauts flew to the Moon and back.
Since October, the downtown museum has been the site
of a spectacular exhibition, The
Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age, commemorating
the 100th anniversary of powered flight. The program is built around
the Wright Flyer
and features 170 artifacts.
|Rivals. Displayed side by side on the hangar
floor are a Soviet-built MiG-15 (background) and
an American F-86 Sabre. In Korean War combat, the
Sabre bested the MiG by a 10-to-one margin.
Dailey said that, whereas the flagship building
combines large exhibit halls, such as Milestones of
Flight, with the more traditional exhibitions, such
as the new Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age, in the
galleries, the UdvarHazy Center will feature a single, coordinated
display approachexhibits of artifacts with brief identification
labels, grouped in major thematic areas featuring historical background
to provide context.
By Air and by Road
Getting the airplanes to UdvarHazy has been
a job in itself. Some of them, including the Enola
Gay, were trucked to Chantilly in pieces aboard a tractor-trailer
called Big Blue and then reassembled.
Others, such as the Concorde, flew to Dulles and came
to the museum on a direct ramp from the runway.
The first big artifact to arrive was the shuttle Enterprise,
which rode in piggyback atop a Boeing 747 and went
into long-term storage near the
site of UdvarHazy.
|From the Great War. This
Nieuport 28C.1 exhibits markings of the famous
US 94th Hat in the
Ring Aero Squadron. This was the first fighter
type to be flown by US airmen in World War I.
The classiest arrival was by the SR-71, which set
a transcontinental speed record on its last flight,
March 6, 1990. That day, the Blackbird
from Los Angeles
to Dulles in 64 minutes, 20 seconds, averaging 2,124 mph. (In operational
service with the Air Force, the SR-71 could reach top speeds of Mach
3.3.) It was stored
at Dulles until towed to UdvarHazy last September.
More aircraft continue to arrive at the aviation hangar,
and the space hangar will be open sometime this year.
Other attractions, such as an
are already in operation.
Still more lies ahead. The second phase of construction
will include a huge restoration hangar, where visitors
will be able to watch the preservation
of historic aircraft and spacecraft.
|Civilian side. Among the other highlights in
the aviation hangar are a Boeing 707 (foreground),
a supersonic Concorde (left), and a gleaming Boeing
307 Stratoliner, one of only 10 ever built.
This, however, awaits funding. The total cost of the
was $311 million, and the enabling legislation from Congress stipulated
that no federal funds could be used for construction.
An additional $92 million needs to be raised, Dailey
said. This will
enable us to pay off the existing debt and continue Phase 2, which
consists of the restoration center and archival research
Visitors can reach UdvarHazy by carfrom
Interstate 66 to Route 28 north, exiting on Air and
Space Museum Parkwayalthough a shuttle bus is
available from the museum downtown. Further information is available
on the museums
Web site, www.nasm.si.edu.
Air and Space was already the most popular museum
in the world. It set an attendance record of nearly
11 million last year, and that was
alone. Now that UdvarHazy has been added, theres no telling
what altitudes the response might reach.
its 1995-98 Enola Gay exhibit (above),
NASM displayed only the B-29s
forward fuselage, a propeller, tail fin,
and a few other parts. (NASM photo by Carolyn Russo)
The Activists and the Enola Gay
This is the National Air and Space Museums
third shot at exhibition of the Enola Gay.
The first time was in 1993, when the museum,
under different management, planned to display
Gay in a political horror show that emphasized
Japanese suffering and depicted Japan more as a
victim than an aggressor in World War II. An article
in Air Force Magazine brought the plan to light,
and, after a raging controversy, the exhibit was
canceled in early 1995.
The museums second shot came later in
1995, a replacement for the canceled version.
a straightforward, factual approach, built around
display of the forward fuselage, a propeller, the
tail fin, and other parts of the Enola Gay. The
rest of the aircraft had not been restored yet,
and, even if it had been, the 141-foot wingspan
would have made it too large to show in the downtown
museum. That exhibition ran for three years and
drew almost four million visitors, becoming the
most popular special exhibition in the museums
The exhibition that opened Dec. 15 at the UdvarHazy
Center leaves the airplane to speak for itself.
The basic facts, including the fact that it dropped
the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, are on the label
in front of the airplane.
That has drawn the ire of protesters. Demonstrators,
activists, and othersincluding a self-appointed
committee that includes such luminaries as Oliver
Stone, Daniel Ellsberg, and Noam Chomskyare
demanding that the museum rework the exhibit to
emphasize Japanese death and suffering at Hiroshima.
In effect, the activists want the museum to
depict the Japanese as victims, not as aggressors,
World War II. That was the line of the show that
was blown away by public outrage in 1995.
The mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, has
written to museum director John R. Dailey to
The exhibition canceled in 1995, the mayor said, would
have included displays of A-bomb damage and the
suffering the atomic bombs inflicted on living
human beings. This balanced exhibition was stopped
by a Congressional resolution at the insistence
of veterans groups determined to protect their
cherished belief that the atomic bombings were
justified and indispensable.
Dailey said the museum does not plan to change
the display of the Enola Gay at UdvarHazy.
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