National Air and Space Museum Opens the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on Dec. 15, 2003

Press Release
Friday December 5, 2003
Media Only:
Claire Brown 202-633-2371
Public information: 202-633-1000
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National Air and Space Museum


The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy (OOD-var HAH-zee) Center, a companion facility to the National Air and Space Museum's flagship building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., celebrates its public grand opening on Monday, Dec. 15. Located on the property of Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Va., the Udvar-Hazy Center provides a second location for the display of the Air and Space Museum's unparalleled collection.

Together, the two facilities will eventually house almost all of the museum's aircraft and large space objects. Until now, many rare and historic artifacts have been in storage because the Mall building was unable to accommodate massive flight icons such as the space shuttle Enterprise and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, as well as numerous collections of smaller artifacts.

The Dec. 15 opening date was selected as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first powered flights by the Wright brothers (Dec. 17, 1903), and to mark the next century of air and space exploration. The facility will open at 10 a.m. and close at 5:30 p.m., its normal operating hours. The day will feature performances by local high school bands, free docent-led tours and a number of hands-on educational programs. On Saturday, Dec. 20, the center will host its first Family Day, featuring the theme "Become an Aerospace All-Star" and including curator talks, kite flying demonstrations and special storytime activities for children.

The new center is named for its most generous individual donor, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy, who pledged a total of $65 million for the project. He is president and chief executive officer of International Lease Finance Corp., a worldwide commercial aircraft-leasing company.

The total cost for the project--for design, site infrastructure, construction, move-in and start-up--is approximately $311 million. Congress mandated that only non-federal funds be used for the center's construction. The museum needs to raise $90 million to build the second phase of the center--including a restoration hangar and archive and storage space--and to cover all outstanding notes.

The center will ultimately contain 760,000 square feet of space.

Unlike traditional museum galleries, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center displays artifacts in an open, hangar-like setting. At the opening, visitors will have access to some 80 aircraft, some 60 large space artifacts, dozens of aircraft engines and other artifacts displayed in thematic groupings. Adjacent free-standing exhibit stations encourage visitors to explore the artifacts' historic context through text and images.

The aviation hangar contains three levels of aircraft--two levels suspended from the building's huge trusses and a third on the floor. The suspended aircraft have been hung in their typical flight maneuvers. Visitors will see an aerobatic airplane hot-dogging upside down, a World War II fighter angling for a victory and a small two-seater flying level. Walkways rising about four stories above the floor provide nose-to-nose views of aircraft in suspended flight.

Visitors heading toward the aviation hangar from the center's entrance will first encounter the diminutive Pitts Special S-1C Little Stinker, an aerobatic championship aircraft, hanging upside-down overhead. A few steps to the west puts visitors at the hangar overlook facing the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and the Vought Corsair hanging at dramatic angles. Other aerobatic, general aviation, commercial and World War II aircraft are located to the south. To the north, visitors see the post-World War II military aircraft collection; and straight ahead in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar is a spectacular view of the space shuttle Enterprise. Between the Enterprise and the overlook is the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest jet ever built.

(Because the Enterprise requires refurbishment that could not be performed while it was in storage for many years, the space hangar will not be accessible to the public until next year. Until that hangar is opened, some 60 large space artifacts will be displayed temporarily in the aviation hangar.)

Many engines, rockets, satellites, gliders, helicopters, airliners, ultra-lights and experimental flying machines will be displayed for the first time. Visitors will see a Concorde, the SR-71, the Dash--80the original prototype of the Boeing 707, an F-4 Phantom fighter, the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay and the de Havilland Chipmunk aerobatic airplane.

Ultimately, when the entire Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is completed, more than 200 aircraft and 135 large space artifacts will be exhibited, roughly 80 percent of the national collection.

In addition, small artifacts are on view in cases throughout the facility. Many of the small artifact collections have never been seen by the public, such as newly donated Lindbergh memorabilia and an array of aerial cameras.

The center has a 479-seat IMAX theater and offers flight simulator rides for a fee. There is food service and a museum store.

The Udvar-Hazy Center features the 164-foot Donald D. Engen Observation Tower, from which visitors can watch air traffic leaving from and arriving to Washington Dulles International Airport. It is one of the finest perches in the world for watching airplanes do their work. The tower houses displays on air traffic control with equipment replicating those used in an airport control tower.

As visitors approach the Udvar-Hazy Center, they will pass through the Wall of Honor, which lines both sides of the walkway from the parking lot to the entrance of the center. The Wall of Honor is a permanent and expanding tribute featuring the names of tens of thousands of people who have contributed to aviation and space exploration.

Also near the center's entrance is the dramatic 70-foot-tall sculpture "Ascent" by John Safer of McLean, Va. The work commemorates the human journey of flight, echoing the sweeping grandeur of the museum's collection.

Express Bus Service and Public Parking
Round-trip express bus service is available between the museum's building on the Mall and the Udvar-Hazy Center. Round-trip tickets are $7 per person or $5 each for people traveling in groups of 10 or more. The center's parking lot accommodates 2,000 automobiles. There is a daily parking fee of $12 per vehicle. Free parking is available for up to 40 buses.

The prominent St. Louis-based architectural firm Helmuth, Obata + Kassabaum, which also designed the museum's Mall building, was chosen to design the Udvar-Hazy Center. In April 2001 the contract to build the facility was awarded to Hensel Phelps Construction Co., of Greeley, Colo. Construction preparations began immediately.

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is an impressive 21st-century concept in museum design. The center is a series of connected hangar-like structures. Twenty-one steel trusses arching 10-stories high are a signature architectural feature of the central aviation hangar. The arches that support the roof have an additional role--bearing the weight of aircraft that hang from them. Each arch is designed to support more than 20,000 pounds, spread equally between the two halves of each arch.

Lighting and paint schemes in the aviation hangar create the feel of outdoor daylight, while the adjacent James S. McDonnell Space Hangar, which will open next year, is designed to evoke a darker, space-like quality.

Even before the opening of the museum's building on the Mall in 1976, museum officials knew a companion facility would eventually be needed. Although the Mall building is home to many of history's most famous icons of flight, there is only enough room in the galleries for
about 10 percent of the Smithsonian's flight collection. And for decades, the museum's Paul E. Garber Restoration, Preservation and Storage Facility was also running out of storage space.

In 1980, the Smithsonian's Board of Regents proposed that the museum establish a new facility to display these stored artifacts. Ten years later the Regents officially chose a 176.5-acre site south of the main terminal at Dulles airport, near the intersections of Routes 28 and 50. In 1998, the museum signed a formal lease for the property with the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority.

The Dulles airport site was chosen after an exhaustive study as it best met the museum's needs for buildings and parking, access to an active runway, a guarantee of permanence, room for future expansion and support of the local community. The Commonwealth of Virginia generously supported construction of the facility's infrastructure.

The National Air and Space Museum is an educational institution that captivates and inspires everyone from toddlers to senior citizens. Attendance at the Udvar-Hazy Center is projected at 3 million people a year. More than 9 million people on average visit the museum's flagship building on the National Mall each year.

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