Seattle’s Museum of Flight is nirvana for plane and history enthusiasts. My daughter Mallory and I spent about five hours there during my recent trip to the Northwest. It’s easy to do. In some cases, I could see people spending the entire day there.
Visitors get a look into the history of flight, as well as a look into the future of space exploration. As soon as you enter the museum, you are greeted by replicas of gliders and early attempts at flying. Then, to top that off, check out the 3D movie highlighting the history of the space shuttle program and the plans for travel to Mars. The film was about 45 minutes long and well worth watching.
The Museum of Flight has an outstanding space exploration section. Early space flights are highlighted by the Soviet Union’s Vostock mission and the United States’ Mercury program. The Soviet capsule looked like the Death Star from the “Star Wars” movie series.
Models of a lunar rover (used on the surface of the moon by American astronauts) and a lunar landing module are on display. It’s pretty neat to know that equipment like this was used to explore the moon. I remember watching the news about the Apollo missions as a kid, so it has always been a big deal to me when I see the equipment as an adult. Nostalgia and pride in the accomplishments our nation has achieved through the decades.
A small simulator for the international space station is also on exhibit. You can walk through the attraction. A replica of watching the earth from the station is available for guests. Mallory and I both liked the treadmill that was attached to the ceiling. Nothing says zero gravity like an upside down run in space.
A second building houses the space shuttle simulator. While nice to view, I thought the attraction and the exhibits surrounding it were more for young kids as interactive learning opportunities. I thought Seattle should have been one of the locations to be awarded one of the space shuttles for display when they were mothballed.
Getting back on track with the airplane section, I loved the main floor exhibit that housed a variety of planes – from early planes, mail planes, passenger planes, military planes and jets, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs/drones).
The SR-71, as I have mentioned in previous posts, is one of my all-time favorite planes. The one on display in Seattle is front and center among the main exhibit. Briefings are held to advise visitors of the history and mission of the Blackbird. It was the fastest plane in the world. Pilots had to wear astronaut gear because they flew so high and fast. The SR-71’s mission was replaced by satellites.
Mallory liked an old newspaper airplane – “Newsie.” It was used by the journalist for transportation and to deliver newspapers. The doors had doorknobs.
Seeing an F-4 Phantom brought back memories of my days at Spangdahlem Air Base in the old West Germany (during the Cold War). Mallory seemed somewhat interested when I told her that it was the first plane I guarded as a young Security Policeman (now Security Forces).
Mallory also liked the close-up view of a Navy Blue Angel jet.
The museum had a few Soviet MiG fighters on display. They included ones used by the Chinese, North Koreans and Vietnamese militaries.
We got a kick out of the Fiat “Flying Car.” The car actually had wings and a tail section that could be removed and kept in a trailer, hauled by the small car.
The Museum of Flight is laid out well. It has a few buildings that visitors can move in and out of easily. You can check out a mini air control tower.
The history of Boeing is told in the Red Barn. Part of the first floor represents the factory shop of the early days of flight. It includes models of men working on a lathe and saw. Wooden models and blueprints are available for viewing. Another section includes the biographies of some of the key men in developing air travel.[bctt tweet=”Explore all things flight at @MuseumofFlight in @VisitSeattle ” username=”walkingtourists”]
We enjoyed checking out an original Air Force One plane. The Boeing VC-137B was used as the presidential travel plane from the Dwight Eisenhower administration to the Richard M. Nixon presidency. Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office on the plane. The plane’s key rooms, such as a very small conference room and president’s office, are enclosed behind Plexiglass.
The museum’s outdoor Airpark is also home to a Concorde jet. It was once the fastest passenger plane in the world. Entertainer Phil Collins performed in Europe for a charity concert, then flew to the United States and a few hours later performed at another concert.
A couple of cool attractions in the main building included planes form the World War I and World War II eras. They were displayed in the war they served.
The World War I exhibit included a model of the plane used by the infamous German pilot, the Red Baron. Manfred von Richthofen was hailed as the greatest fighter ace during the war, with 80 air-to-air combat victories.
World War I planes were recognized by their wings – single wing, bi-plane or tri-plane.
Mallory and I tried our luck at a simulator landing planes and taking off. I crashed and burned each time. Mallory ended up with a 100% chance of crashing during take-off, but a 50-50 shot on landing. Go figure. It was fun, anyway.
The World War II section consisted of planes used by each of the major nations. From a German Messerschmitt to an American Mustang, this section identified each plane used.
We had a great father-daughter outing, which added to a great visit. The Museum of Flight has been a fun visit during both my trips to Seattle. I can see making it a regular visit when we visit Mallory. If you haven’t been to it, I recommend you include it on a future Seattle itinerary.
For more information on the Seattle Museum of Flight, please visit www.museumofflight.org.