With Memorial Day weekend here, I thought it would be neat to share an experience we had during our visit to Seattle a couple of years ago.
We visited The Museum of Flight. Thinking it would be a nice way to burn a couple of hours, we started our tour. After 5 hours at the museum, we had to force ourselves to leave to continue our tour of the area for that day.
The museum has everything – from the early days of flight to man’s landing on the moon to the space shuttle – a person needs to see to understand and enjoy the history of flight. It begins with a lobby at the entrance highlighting man’s early attempts at flight – gliders and the Wright brothers’ flying contraptions.
The thing I really enjoyed about the museum was the set-up. Planes were displayed in wars they were flown in, as well as grouped in a large general area.
One of my all-time favorite planes is the SR-71. The Blackbird flew an average 80,000 feet above ground – roughly 15 miles. The crew wore astronaut gear. It could survey 100,000 square miles at a time. It traveled mach 3 (3 times the speed of sound). Just an amazing plane. For more information on the bird, see http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=395.
It was an even greater experience because we met two retired Air Force pilots, who flew the bird. They shared stories of what they pushed the plane to do, and the fun they had in taunting American enemies at the time.
Moving along, we checked out the other planes. They had an F-4 Phantom jet. The jet was used during the Vietnam conflict, and later in Europe during the Cold War. I had the “privilege” of guarding it a young pup in the Air Force.
We also viewed the B-52 Stratosphere. This behemoth of a bomber brought back memories of my days at Grand Forks Air Force Base. When watching them take off in flight, you always wondered if the plane would make it off the ground.
We checked out the World War I display. It was a nice set-up. The planes were positioned as though they were fighting in the sky. They had German, British and American planes set up. A Sopwith Camel replica is on display.
World War II planes featured some vintage aircraft. A German Messerschmitt is featured. A Japanese Nakajima Hi-43-IIIa Hayabusa “Oscar” reproduction is on display. The American P-51 Mustang is on exhibit.
[bctt tweet=”Taking wings at Seattle’s @museumofflight ” username=”walkingtourists”]
We checked out the space collection and were wowed! The museum has an area that shows the moon missions. Among the items on display: Apollo command module, Apollo 17 lunar module, and a lunar rover.
Other space exhibits include a mock-up of the international space station’s lab. Visitors walk through and get a visual of how it would look while working in the lab.
The museum’s collection is so large that there are planes located outside in a fenced area, as well as displayed outside the building.
One plane on display outside is a Boeing VC-137B, which was used as Air Force One. The plane was on loan from the National Museum. This plane was the one used when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX. The spot where Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president is enclosed.
A Concorde sits nearby in the Airpark. Once the fastest plane in the world, the French airliner was retired in 2003. It once flew from New York to Seattle in 3 hours, 55 minutes and 12 seconds.
I know there are air and space museums scattered around the country, including a nice one near Omaha. But, the Seattle Museum of Flight was the largest I’ve encountered. Future plans include a trip to the Smithsonian museum on flight when we make it back to Washington, DC.
So, if you have time during this holiday, or even during the summer, check out the air, space, or military museums nearby. They should give you a sense of history and pride in our nation’s achievements on land, air and even the sea.