Aviation Museum Review: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center - National Air & Space Museum

  • Feb 7, 2014 2:07am GMT

So I found myself at a conference in Washington D.C. a few weeks ago... Having not visited D.C. in several years I was disappointed that my schedule did not allow me some time to get lost in a museum or monument. I heard amazing reviews from friends that visited the Hazy Center during the grand opening back in December of 2003. Being the aviation enthusiast that I am and, having spent several weekends at the Air and Space Museum on the mall back in D.C. I knew I needed to make the effort to visit the new site.

Naturally, I waited until the last minute and, on the day I was to fly home, I decided to whet my appetite and run through before my flight out of Dulles. I got in just after the 10:00 AM opening and still (just barely) made my 12:30 PM flight to California.

As a kid who had all types of model aircraft suspended from my ceiling, I was in awe of the amount of aviation history that literally hangs from the roof of the aviation hangar. Let's be honest too, as cool as it is walk underneath airplanes resting on their landing gear, the drama and excitement of flight really occurs when they're "cleaned up" supported by Bernoulli.

Coming through the Hazy Center's main entrance from the parking lot you are immediately welcomed to the museum by Betty Skelton's inverted Pitts S-1C hanging in the entrance hall to the Boeing Aviation Hangar. A few more steps inside the cavernous main hangar and you come face-to-face with the ultimate Cold War aviation exhibit: Kelly Johnson's SR-71 Blackbird. Flown by none other than... wait for it...Jim Halsell, our fellow Featured Contributor here on All Things Aero.

Turning right and walking down the ramp to the north you descend upon war planes and equipment spanning more than 60 years of military aviation. Airplanes like the F-105 Thunderchief, F-4 Phantom, the F-100 Super Sabre, and the A-6 Intruder("-saurus"). Truly, the workhorses of the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps in the Vietnam war. Nestled right in with some of the most famous jets of American aviation history is possibly the most iconic aircraft from the Vietnam War: a Bell UH-1H Iroquois - The "Huey". You can also get up close on the Lockheed-Martin's X-35B. This aircraft is the STOVL test variant of the newly fielded U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (aka. "Lightning II"). Last, but not least, in the Cold War aviation section is the airplane that made Tom Cruise famous. This F-14D(R) (BuNo 159610), while assigned to Fighter Squadron 32 (VF-32), shot down one of the two hostile Libyan MiG-23 FLOGGERs during the second Gulf of Sidra incident.

No Korean / Vietnam war aviation tribute would be complete without showing our adversary's equipment and so you can also view the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 and MiG-21 - probably, the most iconic Soviet jet of the 20th century. Certainly more than the "MiG 28". Lastly, one of the scarier pieces of Cold War gear (albeit 'trailered') and in a "rather be lucky than good" orientation, relative to the Phantom and the Thud, rests the Mach 3+, S-75 "Dvina" surface-to-air missile (NATO designation: SA-2 GUIDELINE). Possibly the most recognizable and successful Soviet SAM in history.