"'Spirit of Tuskegee' Arrives at the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar -- Part II." Curator Dik Daso describes highlights from his flight on the "Spirit of Tuskegee," a PT-13 Stearman recently donated to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and soon to be on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
This post is a follow up to Tuskegee Bird Flies North. ...So I was on the phone Monday evening and my wife asked me, "Well, what did you do today?" With subtle nonchalance I said, "Well, I strapped into the front seat of Matt's Stearman, ya know, the one that was flown by the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, and flew over Appomattox Court House, ya know, where Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army to Gen.
During the past two years, it has been my privilege to work closely with the curatorial staff of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) to locate an aircraft with a lineage tied directly to the Tuskegee Airmen. We were fortunate enough to accomplish the mission that will culminate in the acquisition of a PT-13 Stearman that flew at Moton Field, Alabama, during WW II—the home of the Tuskegee Airmen.
When I arrived at the National Air and Space Museum, Astro, as we called our department, consisted of just four curator/subject matter specialists and two support staff, shoe-horned into the northeast tower of the Arts and Industries Building, with a splendid view of the dumpster in the parking lot of the building.
Early in June, staff of the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility slowly and carefully moved the center section of the Horten H IX V3 all-wing jet fighter from storage into the restoration and preservation shop.
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.