Beyond the Limits: Flight Enters the Computer Age

May 12, 1989 – May 23, 2011

National Air and Space Museum
Independence Avenue and 6th Street, SW
Washington, DC

Beyond the Limits: Flight Enters the Computer Age, Gallery 213, 2nd Floor, East Wing Floor Plan

The gallery illustrates how the electronic computer has revolutionized aerospace engineering, aviation, and spaceflight. Computers are used to design and build air- and spacecraft, monitor air traffic, navigate and control flights, and train pilots.

The exhibition is divided into 7 areas:

  • Design
  • Aerodynamics
  • Computer-Aided Manufacture
  • Flight Testing
  • Air Operations
  • Flight Simulators
  • Space Operators

Highlights include:

  • X-29: forward-swept-wing airplane (full-scale model)
  • Cray-1 supercomputer: once the world's fastest computer
  • Interactive computers: Visitors can test their skills at designing the wing of a jet airplane, guiding a lunar landing safely to the moon's surface, and landing an airplane at a busy airport in New York.
  • HiMAT: robot airplane that pioneered the use of fly-by-wire technology, in which a computer -- not the pilot -- controls the aircraft's flaps, rudder, and ailerons
  • Minuteman III ICBM Guidance and Control System: the brain of the Minuteman missile, the standard U.S. land-based intercontinental ballistic missile
  • Full-size space shuttle cockpit simulator
  • A non-flown flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder (black box) used to determine the cause of aircraft accidents