I had to hold back my emotions as I photographed the blue and gold F/A-18C Hornet aircraft approaching the Udvar-Hazy Center on November 18, 2020, by the realization that my photography career had, in some way, just come full circle. My journey began back in 1973 when I had the good fortune of being assigned as the photographer for the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team.
The Museum is fortunate that among our corps of docents, or guides, are people with direct experience flying or flying in a number of our aircraft. Among those docents are Buz Carpenter and Phil Soucy who know what its like to sit inside one of the world's fastest aircrafts, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.
Today in 1976, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird broke the world’s record for sustained altitude in horizontal flight at 25,929 meters (85,069 feet). The same day another SR-71 set an absolute speed record of 3,529.6 kilometers per hour (2,193.2 miles per hour), approximately Mach 3.3. As the fastest jet aircraft in the world, the SR-71 has an impressive collection of records and history of service. The Blackbird’s owes its success to the continuum of aircraft that came before it.
Unless you live in a coastal area, or on one of the nation’s waterways, the U.S. Coast Guard is usually out of sight, out of mind, unless something very wrong happens. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that they are overlooked in their significance to our national welfare and security as well as in terms of their own historical legacy and contributions to aerospace.
You may be surprised to know that in addition to the largest collection of authentic aviation- and space-related artifacts in the world, our Museum also has an impressive model collection. Our model collection contains more than 5,700 models of aircraft, balloons, and more. Nearly 1,100 of those models are on display at our Museum and the rest are in storage. Approximately 800 of those models share space with our staff on the third floor of the Museum in Washington, DC. But not for much longer. Last June, we began the time-consuming process of relocating the models from the third floor to storage at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The move was brought on by a multi-year project at the Museum in DC to upgrade the exterior of the building and the interior mechanical systems. Before construction begins, the models need to be moved. How do you relocate more than 800 delicate models?
I recently attended a screening of Bridge of Spies, a new movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks. Purportedly, Bridge of Spies was inspired by events surrounding the 1962 exchange of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and graduate student Frederick Pryor for Soviet spy Rudolph Abel. The movie event was sponsored by Virginia’s Cold War Museum which was co-founded by Francis Gary Powers, Jr., who was also in attendance and served on a Q&A panel after the film.
The Museum’s annual Air & Scare event is taking place this Saturday at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. In the spirit of disguises, costumes, and just plain scary stuff, I thought I would share some examples from the history of military aviation where things were not as they seemed.