Since opening Dec. 15, 2003, more than 6 million people have visited the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. In five years, the center has doubled the number of artifacts on display, and its two hangars are filling rapidly, with 158 large aircraft, 153 large space artifacts and thousands of small artifacts. It houses iconic aircraft such as a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the Concorde, the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay and the space shuttle Enterprise.
“The opening of the Udvar-Hazy Center gave us much-needed space to display almost 80 percent of our collection, a large part of which had been in storage for a long time,” Museum Director Gen. John R. “Jack” Dailey said. “In five years, the Udvar-Hazy Center has become one of the most visited aerospace museums in the world–second only to the museum’s Mall building–and the most popular museum attraction in Virginia.”
The Smithsonian’s flight collection is the largest and most significant of its kind, with some 60,000 artifacts, including many of history’s most rare and iconic artifacts. Fully one-third of the aircraft in the aeronautics collection are one-of-a-kind examples.
In its short history, the Udvar-Hazy Center has already established landmark events that draw crowds from the Northern Virginia community. The annual “Become a Pilot Day” fly-in has become a can’t-miss event for aviation enthusiasts; in June 2008, it drew 16,500 people and 60 different aircraft. The Halloween celebration “Air & Scare” provided a fun aviation-related trick-or-treating environment for 21,000 visitors this fall. The Airbus Imax Theater has also become a destination for serious movie buffs because of its reputation for having the best sound system in all the D.C. metropolitan region. A record number of film fans went there to see “Dark Knight,” which sold out more than 50 performances. The movie will be showing again Dec. 19.
The center’s education department partnered with Fairfax County Public Schools to produce a series of interactive electronic field trips that was awarded a regional Emmy Award this fall. This educational programming reaches a potential audience of 11 million school children directly in their classrooms.
Last summer, scenes for “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen” were shot at the center. The movie is expected to be released next June. Numerous documentaries and news stories have been produced at the facility.
Plans are underway to open Phase Two of the center by 2011; this addition will allow the museum to house its restoration, preservation and archives under one roof. There will be four separate facilities in the Phase Two development:
- Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar: spacious enough to accommodate several aircraft at one time with a second-floor viewing area designed to give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at work rarely seen by the public.
- Archives: the foremost collection of documentary records of the history, science and technology of aeronautics and space flight will be housed in a single location for the first time, providing researchers with ample space and equipment.
- Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory: will provide conservators much-needed space to develop and execute specialized preservation strategies for artifacts.
- Collections Processing Unit: a dedicated loading dock and specially designed secure area for initial inspection and analysis of artifacts.
The National Air and Space Museum flagship building is on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located near Washington Dulles International Airport. Both facilities are open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free, but there is a $12 fee for parking at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
# # #