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:: Visit photos ::
» Aeroseum, Gothenburg
» Glider soaring, Ridali
» Tartu aviation museum
» Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
» Smithsonian's National Air and Space museum, Washington DC
» London Science Museum
» Riga aviation museum
» RAF Waddington Air Show 2008
» Goodwood Festival of Speed, United Kingdom
» Duxford IWM, United Kingdom
» Flying Legends air show 2008, United Kingdom
» London Imperial War Museum, United Kingdom
» Prague Kbely, Czech Republic
» Old Aeroplane Company, Australia
» Ansett Transport Museum, Australia
» War Memorial, Australia
» Canberra NASA Deep Space Communication Complex, Australia

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:: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Washington International Dulles Airport ::

While on the way to vacationing in Central America, I had to change planes in New York. A connection immediately popped into my mind. This was a chance to see the SR-71 Blackbird.

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space museum (an aircraft carrier converted into a museum and docked to Manhattan's Pier 86 in New York) was unfortunately shut down for repairs and would not open until November 11, 2008 - a full half a year after my trip. Not easily deterred from this opportunity, I booked Washington as a two day 390 km detour on the trip.

Washington DC has the Smithsonian Air & Space museum. It never had the space to display the SR-71, but thanks to a generous donation, they've opened the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center as an extension to it. It's next to the Dulles airport, a half an hour bus ride away from the city center of Washington DC. The Smithsonian Air & Space museum (in downtown Washington DC) info desk gives out sheets with information on how to get to the center.

So one morning we stepped onto the 5A bus to Dulles Airport, changed buses half an hour later at Dulles airport, where there is a connecting bus a few minutes after the 5A arrives and were at our destination a further 10 minutes later. The buses do cost something - I don't remember how much, but I do remember that you needed exact change and it was cash only. The museum itself, like all Smithsonian museums are free.

You have to go through security when entering the museum. The only thing that bothered them was my camera tripod. You are forbidden to use tripods almost everywhere in Washington DC unless you have a special permit. They either wanted me to check it in or keep it in my bag at all times. It did put me in something of a tight spot - there isn't a lot to do with a camera in a place lit the way it was, but I did manage to get some shots when leaning against something.

The first sight from inside the museum was the SR-71 Blackbird. It was as sleek as I knew it to be, but it was smaller than I pictured in my head. The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center features many iconic pieces of history. I don't know where they were kept before it opened nor what else they might have hidden away in storage facilities. But I'm sure glad they are all on display in addition to the things on show in the Air and Space Museum already.

For example, looking over the distinct shape of the Blackbird, you see the Space Shuttle in the background. Look left and you see the Concorde. Elsewhere, you have the chance to see the Enola Gay, F-14, Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, X-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Northrop N-1, history of rockets, Langley's aerodrome, a range of jet engines and many-many more planes as well as helicopters.

While I was happy to see all of that, my major goal was to see the SR-71, as said in the beginning. I first became interested due to the vast leap of technology it represented and that it still has not been superseded. An interest that was positively galvanized after reading the book "Skunk Works" by Ben Rich, after which it started to represent an admiration for the Kelly Johnson management and development philosophy (it reminds me of the Chief Technical Officer I used to have at Skype) as well as the embodiment of aspiration towards engineering excellence. A truly brilliant book and excellent hotbed of development.

Whenever you have a chance to visit the Udvar-Hazy center, make sure you also visit the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum.

Tips:
- To get to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, take the 5A bus from the corner of 7th St SW and Maryland Av, right next to a metro stop (you can get printed instructions from the National Air & Space Museum). Change buses at Dulles Airport (the connection bus leaves 5 meters from the 5A stop just a few minutes after the 5A arrives). Bring cash for the bus trip.
- No need to bring your camera tripod unless you have a special permit.
- The museum is free of charge.
- The cinema at the museum is not free of charge.

Further information:
- My Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center photos
- Smithsonian's National Air and Space museum
- My Air and Space museum photos
- Wikipedia: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Washington Dulles International Airport
- Official Smithsonian Institute page about the 'Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center'


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