Major Airlines Join Forces To Contribute $28 Million to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum

January 31, 2018
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The National Air and Space Museum has announced that nine major commercial airlines contributed gifts totaling $28 million to support the transformation of the flagship building in Washington, D.C. These are among the first major gifts received for the campaign to transform all of the museum’s exhibitions and visitor experience. Construction is scheduled to begin in late summer 2018.

In support of the “America by Air” gallery, American Airlines, The Delta Air Lines Foundation and United Airlines contributed as lead donors with Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and Spirit Airlines also supporting the effort to reimagine the gallery. In recognition of a gift from Southwest Airlines toward the transformation of other museum exhibitions last year, the Welcome Center in the museum’s “Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall” has been designated the Southwest Airlines Welcome Center.

“The generous contribution by the airlines not only signals their commitment to the storied history of air travel, but to inspiring young people to pursue careers in aviation and engineering,” said Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey, the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the National Air and Space Museum. “These gifts help launch the museum on a trajectory to realizing the transformation of this important place.”

“America by Air” is one of the three main halls at the museum’s flagship building on the National Mall. Through large aircraft to smaller artifacts such as uniforms, models and engines, the gallery traces the history of commercial aviation in the United States. It explores how improvements in technology have revolutionized air travel and how the flying experience has changed. The gallery features highlights such as a Douglas DC-3, the nose of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet that visitors can enter, a Ford 5-AT Tri-Motor and a Douglas DC-7.

The contribution by the airlines will support the reimagining of the hall and will be recognized at the entrance. The gallery is scheduled to close mid-2018, and the newly renovated gallery will open in approximately 2021. Most visitor favorites will remain in the gallery as others are welcomed to the building for the first time, including the Lincoln-Standard H.S. and the Huff-Daland Duster, both of which are currently on display at the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. The visitor experience will be improved through a refreshed layout with new design and graphics, new interactives and better accessibility throughout.

“This rare collaborative effort within the competitive industry of commercial aviation shows how important it is to inspire the next generation and the airline industry’s commitment toward that effort,” said John Plueger, chairman of the museum’s board.

For more information about how the museum is transforming all of the exhibitions and revitalizing the building, visit

The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Va., 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 $15 fee for parking at the Udvar-Hazy Center.

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Alison Wood