Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Artifact Display and Assembly
Hanging Aircraft at the New Udvar-Hazy Center
You have probably hung model aircraft from the
ceiling of your room, or you have a friend who thinks models make
great decorations. But how do you hang lots of aircraft?
What if "lots" means 73, and what if they are all real?
That is the challenge
facing the engineers, architects, and museum staff members who are
designing the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
|Aircraft Will Be Suspended
from the Arches that Support the Large Aviation Hangar
©1999 Smithsonian Institution
|Al Bachmeier, museum specialist at the Paul E. Garber Preservation,
Restoration, and Storage Facility, is one of several team members
responsible for seeing that the aircraft are suspended in a
manner that protects the public, the artifacts, and the building
while ensuring that museum goers have the best possible views
of these priceless items. Al recently discussed the work that
has and will be done before the Udvar-Hazy Center opens to the
public in 2003.
The Udvar-Hazy Center
building will be a series of connected hangar-like structures. The
arches that support the roof of the aviation hangar will have an
additional role: holding the cables from which aircraft will be
hung. Each arch is designed to support 9,000 kilograms (20,000 pounds),
spread equally between the two halves of each arch. This will accommodate
aircraft at least as heavy as single-seat World War II fighters.
Diagrams courtesy HOK
|Triangular Trusses Have Hangers for
Each arch will be built
from a number of triangular trusses, and each triangle will have
built-in "artifact hangers," to which cables can be attached.
All cables will hang vertically to properly distribute the loads
on the arches.
Special brackets are being constructed for each
artifact so that the cables can be attached without damage to the
artifact. The brackets will be subjected to extensive non-destructive
testing, such as magnafluxing for cracks.
Sometimes the shape of an artifact will require
the construction of a special frame. The plane will be hung from
the frame, and the frame will be hung from an arch.
The cables and brackets have been designed to
handle five times the anticipated loads. The engineers had to consider
that, in addition to the static load of the weight of the artifacts,
there are dynamic loads if they move slightly in the air flow created
by the air conditioning system. The architect will provide diagrams
of the airflow throughout the building to assist the staff in placing
artifacts in the best locations.
The aircraft will be hung with the viewer in
- Curators may want the aircraft to be in
specific attitudes that would be expected in flight.
- Although there will be two levels of hanging
aircraft (the first at 8 meters (25 feet) above the floor, and
the second at 13 meters (42 feet)), the viewers will see them
from many different levels, directions, and distances.
- Binoculars should not be needed.
- After the hanging plan is complete, additional
lighting will be designed to highlight artifacts.
There are other considerations for suspending
- Very high-lift "cherry pickers"
will be used for cleaning, and there must be room for them to
- The order of hanging is also important.
There must always be room for moving in the next aircraft scheduled
in the hanging plan.
Al Bachmeier says that the next four years will
be very busy for NASM's collections management, restoration, and
curatorial staff. Aircraft that have been in storage in Suitland,
Maryland will be cleaned and inspected. They must be disassembled
for movement on the highways between Suitland and Dulles Airport.
A rigging contractor must be selected to assist the museum staff
with hanging them in their new home. Each step has it challenges,
but the result will be a spectacular display of priceless flying
machines that have made aviation history.
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