Thursday, July 2, 2015

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Annex - A Father and Son Story

US Space Shuttle Enterprise, OV-101
I remember very clearly a trip that my Father and I took in 1977. We headed North from Los Angeles to Edwards Air Force Base. Here we would witness the Space Shuttle Enterprise land for the first time. It was an exciting time and one of the many memories that I have of my Father.  We arrived very early in the morning to find a good viewing spot. We got lucky and found a place to park the car in the front row, about as close as any spectators were going to be allowed. My Father had brought his ever present thermos of hot coffee, 2 sets of binoculars, some lunch and plenty of water.  I can still feel the excitement that was in the air, thousands of people, all there to witness history in the making.

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
That day lives on in my memory and is one that I wanted to share with my son Joseph. As luck would have it, the Space Shuttle Enterprise was located about a 20 minute drive from our home in Virginia.  So, one cold winter day, we loaded up in our car and drove out the the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Annex called the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport. 
This I believe is the gem of the Smithsonian museums.  It is tucked away at the Washington Dulles International Airport. This is where the Smithsonian keeps its really big aircraft, the ones that can't be put on display at the National Air and Space Museum at the National Mall in Washington DC.

 Walking into the center you feel small in the vast space that houses aircraft large and small.  As you enter the center you are on the second floor. At the end of the entrance is an open deck that looks down on the first floor of the Boing Aviation Hanger . One of the first historic aircraft you will find is the SR-71 Blackbird. She sits alongside another, older aircraft, one that changed the way war is fought. Here you will find and old B-29 Super Fortress  Enola Gay. She was the first aircraft to drop a nuclear bomb in wartime (the other B-29, the  Bockscar" which dropped the second bomb, is at the The National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton Ohio).
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B-29 Super Fortress "Enola Gay"
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B-29 Super Fortress "Bockscar"

To me the most important aircraft was located in the James S. McDonnell Space Hanger. Here the Enterprise sat in all her glory the center piece of the hanger.  Joseph and I spent countless hours over the last few years we lived in Virginia. We explored every nook and cranny of the museum and took plenty of photos. My favorite is one of Joseph in my arms, standing in front of her.  Every time we went there, I would think of my father and wish that he were still here, to enjoy this special moment with me and his grandson.

Should you find yourself in Washington, DC on vacation you should make time at the end of your trip to see this museum.  Get to the airport early (about 8 hours before your flight) and catch the shuttle over the the museum.  It will be a great way to end your vacation.

The Udvar-Hazy Center is Father approved and a must see.
James S. Mcdonnell Space Hanger

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