My flight did not leave until later in the afternoon, so on my way out of Washington D.C., I met up with Xeni Jardin for breakfast and wonderful conversation, hoping she could have joined us for a visit out to the Udvar-Hazy Center. Unfortunately, she could not make the visit, but I’ll look forward to the next time we can chat. Xeni, the museum is totally awesome and completely worth your time.
Right after breakfast, Erik Couse stopped by to pick me up and give me a ride out to the airport. Our scheme was to visit the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center for a couple of hours before I jumped on the plane to fly back to Salt Lake.
This is the scene that greeted us as we walked into the Udvar-Hazy Center. You can get a full resolution, 4096 pixel wide image of this here. Right in front, you have a P-40 Warhawk and an F4U Corsair in front of an SR-71 Blackbird with the Space Shuttle Discovery peeking out from the space gallery behind. On the right you have Vietnam War era jet fighters as well as surface to air missiles and on the left, some of the most rare collections of both WWI and WWII aircraft in the world as well as the Concorde and other commercial aircraft like the Boeing 307 and a Boeing 707 and even a Junkers Ju-52.
The Udvar-Hazy Center was part of the Air and Space Museum that I’ve never actually seen before and man, was it totally worth it. Its much quieter than the downtown Air and Space Museum with many fewer people and the history contained in those buildings is amazing. The Shuttle Discovery of course is one of the highlights and made for a completion of sorts from the last time I saw a space shuttle up close.
Like most things in this place, its hard to actually capture the full size in a single frame. Panoramas are the way to go and I love the iPhone panorama feature for shots like this. You can get the full resolution 5936 pixel wide image of this here and it was even featured on BoingBoing here.
The thing that I liked about the Shuttle Discovery exhibit was that they did not clean it up. The Air and Space Museum decided to keep it raw… just like it entered the atmosphere last.
They also had one of the most amazing aircraft ever built, the SR-71 as a central exhibit. There is a pretty rare SR-71 up at Hill AFB that we visited on a photowalk a while ago, so I had some experience trying to figure out how to shoot the Blackbird. The trouble with photographing this plane in an enclosed space is that its long, black and sleek. Without some significant setup time and effort, its tough to get the whole aircraft in the frame. So, given the limited time on this trip, I focused on the details. I’d love to come back to photograph it some time and take the time to light it and really do it right.
The Enola Gay is also present and completely restored. The history of this aircraft is so big, its kind of hard to imagine the kind of history that comes with this particular aircraft. Anyone interested in airplanes pretty much knows about this aircraft and its role in history, so it was both somber and intriguing to be able to get up close and see the real aircraft that I had built a 1/48 scale model of when I was a kid.
The Udvar-Hazy facility also has two of the wildest looking and rarest combat aircraft in the world, the world’s only surviving Dornier Do 335 and the Arado 234. These are two of the strangest and yet most advanced aircraft ever to come out of WWII. Had the German leadership at the time been more competent, these aircraft could have been more damaging to the US and Allies.
The Northrop N-9M flying wing was another interesting and rare aircraft. Back in the fall of 1989, I was on a ranch in Nevada where I saw this strange line in the sky that kept rolling back and forth. The rancher I was with was also looking at it and we had no idea what it was we were seeing. Anything we might have been thinking was kept completely to ourselves… Eventually, it got close enough and banked off for us to see that it was a *huge* black flying wing. This it turned out was the B-2 bomber right around when it made its first flights. After seeing that it was an airplane, the rancher exclaimed “Oh, shoot… I saw those back in the 40’s”. I though he was nuts, but he was of course, right.
I’ve seen Concorde aircraft in New York on the Intrepid Museum and as a gate guardian at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. But this was the first time that I’ve actually been able to get up close. In some ways its a massive aircraft, but in others, you can see how narrow the fuselage actually was. Despite the aircraft’s huge size, it only carried 90-100 passengers. That said, I would have loved to have flown in it.
Thanks Erik! It was good to meet up and talk. I’ll be looking forward to the next adventure, which according to my watch, is coming up fast… :-)
P.S. All kinds of cool, this post got mentioned on BoingBoing!