Things such as the Hope Diamond, the Star Spangled Banner, the Lansdowne portrait of George Washington, and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis airplane are good examples—one-of-a-kind items, familiar to all, and widely known to reside at the Smithsonian. Also in this subset of signature objects is one of the most significant in the entire Smithsonian collection—the Wright Flyer, the world’s first airplane.
As we begin to take occupancy of our new home in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center’s new wing, and begin the process of outfitting the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, we are faced with the daunting task of moving all of our equipment into the new spaces and setting up an environment which will be favorable to the preservation and restoration of our priceless artifacts for decades to come. This is likely to be a lengthy process but we have begun to deliver selected artifacts so that when the viewing area becomes accessible, visitors will be able to see examples of our gems in the rough. Each of these aircraft has been in storage at the Paul E. Garber Facility in Suitland, Maryland for years, where the Museum's restoration work had taken place for decades. These aircraft are seldom seen by the public, and are all in need of preservation or restoration treatments.
On December 23, 1986, nine days, three minutes, and 44 seconds after taking off, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager touched down at Edwards Air Force Base, CA, in the Rutan Voyager aircraft to finish the first flight around the world made without landing or refueling.
This week, the Museum moved its first aircraft into the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hanger in the new wing of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. The aircraft is the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, the same type of aircraft flown by former Museum director, Don Engen during World War II.
Built in 1918, the Aircraft Building housed most of the Museum's aviation collection for decades. Taken in 1938, this photo also shows a tank and artillery piece displayed by the front door.
Featured in National Air and Space Museum: An Autobiography
In the years following WWII the United States and her Allies conducted engineering and flight tests of many different types of captured or surrendered Axis aircraft, primarily from Germany and Japan. Many of these aircraft were acquired by Allied and US technical intelligence collection teams. It was ordered that at least one of each type of enemy aircraft be captured and evaluated by these teams, and that each aircraft type be maintained in flyable condition for a minimum of one year. To make this possible all technical data and support materiel available (such as tool kits, parts, etc.) had to also be captured to meet this requirement.
To American industrial designers of the 1930s airplanes were not simply machines of transport, but emblems of technological innovation and progress. The National Air and Space Museum’s newly redone Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery includes a unit devoted to “The Airplane and Streamlined Design,” which demonstrates how industrial designers appropriated the imagery of the modern airliner for their products.
On October 14, 1947, Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound in his Bell X-1, which he named Glamorous Glennis, in tribute to his wife. He reached a speed of 1,127 kilometers (700 miles) per hour, or Mach 1.06, at an altitude of 13,000 meters (43,000 feet).