Peter Golkin, 202-633-2374, email@example.com
Walton Ferrell, 202-633-2373, firstname.lastname@example.org
The XV-15, which made its maiden flight in 1977, was the first successful example of an aircraft that can take off, land and hover like a helicopter with its rotors in the straight up position and tilt them perpendicular to the wing to fly like a conventional airplane at nearly two times the speed of a helicopter. The museum is acquiring the sole surviving XV-15 of the two built by Bell Helicopter and tested by NASA, the military services, the U.S. Coast Guard and Bell.
The aircraft will be displayed at the Udvar-Hazy (pronounced OOD-var HAH-zee) Center as part of the Smithsonian Institution's unparalleled vertical flight collection, which includes the oldest surviving helicopter (a 1924 Berliner), the first helicopter to enter production (Sikorsky XR-4), the first helicopter powered by a turbine engine (Kaman K-225) and the first helicopter to carry a president of the United States (Bell UH-13J, which carried President Eisenhower).
Museum Director Gen. J.R. "Jack" Dailey, who has test flown the XV-15 for the U.S. Marine Corps, says the aircraft "represents the kind of innovative milestone that makes our museum about more than just history. Visitors to the Udvar-Hazy Center may be seeing the XV-15 for the first time but its technology will become a familiar sight in years ahead."
The center's aviation hangar, 10 stories high and the length of three football fields, will ultimately house 200 aircraft. On opening day, some 80 will be in place at ground-level and suspended at two different levels.
Construction work continues on the center's McDonnell Space Hangar, which will house America's first space shuttle, Enterprise. The space hangar will be completed by opening day with the Enterprise installed and visible; however, the structure will not be accessible to the public until 2004 as Enterprise undergoes restoration. Sixty-five large space artifacts will be previewed in the aviation hangar beginning opening day.
Thousands of smaller objects from the museum's collection will also be displayed throughout the Udvar-Hazy Center in customized cases, many adjacent to exhibit stations that will provide historical context through graphics and text.
The Udvar-Hazy Center is the ultimate home for the 80 percent of the national air and space collection not currently housed at the museum's flagship building on the National Mall or on loan.
The XV-15 has been the most successful of NASA's rotary wing research programs and its technology inspired the V-22 Osprey adapted by the Marine Corps as the primary means of the "vertical envelopment" concept in warfare. The world's first civil tilt rotor is now under development and slated for delivery in 2007.
When the XV-15 performs the functions of a helicopter, it can do so with much greater range and at no reduction in payload. The aircraft is featured in the Air and Space Museum's IMAX film "Straight Up! Helicopters in Action," where it demonstrates a complete conversion from helicopter to airplane mode.
The National Air and Space Museum, comprised of the Udvar-Hazy Center and the museum's flagship building on the National Mall, will be the largest air and space museum complex in the world. The Mall building is the most popular museum in the world, attracting more than 9 million visitors each year. Attendance at the Udvar-Hazy Center is projected at 3 million people a year.