An important attraction to consider on your next class trip to Washington DC is the Udvar Hazy Center.
Steven Udvar Hazy is the owner of Air Lease Finance Corporation and made a $65,000,000 contribution to create the Air and Space Annexe Museum at Dulles airport possible.
His company is one of the largest lessor of aircrafts in the world – his company purchases every other aircraft coming off the line at AirBus and Boeing.
A former pilot and aircraft enthusiast as most pilots are he spearheaded the project to allow the extensive collection of aircraft owned by the Smithsonian to be made public.
There are significant and important civil and military aircraft and spacecrafts to space and aviation history.
Notably the last Concorde (Air France) to fly is located here. Able to fly from NY to London in less than 3 hours it was given to the museum and would be the last to fly and land at Dulles in 2003.
The last space shuttle to fly in Space, Discovery, can be found in the Boeing hangar.
Enola Gay, previously on display at the downtown wing of the NASM, is now in full display here. Her history is significant as it was the aircraft that carried the first atomic bomb to be used in battle in Hiroshima, piloted by Paul Tibbetts.
Then one of the highlights is the SR-71 Black bird (SR for Strategic Reconnaissance) spy plane. Built by the Lockheed ‘Skunkworks’ with 1960’s technology it was and still is one of the fastest aircraft to have flown. It’s incredible tothink it was built without computers!
It flew at speeds of 3 times the speed of sound and heights of 80,000 ft (or more, it was top secret) and could out race surface to air missiles and no other aircraft could catch it.
It’s missions were simple – to take high level photography over the Soviet Union and their allies during the cold war.
It looks and is special in every way. This one holds a very special record: It took a running start over the West Coast of the USA near Long Beach and flew over Washington DC in 64 minutes.
Speeds of Mach 3 create tremendous amounts of friction and this friction can cause the metals of the fuselages to expand due to the heat. For this aircraft to achieve these speeds it needs a metal able to resist this heat and titanium alloys were needed. Titanium is a rare metal and some of the largest reserves are located in the former Soviet Union, Russia today.
To get the titanium needed, the CIA created shell companies over the world to buy this titanium, unbeknownst, from the Soviet Union to build aircrafts to spy on them!
Read more about the SR-71 here.
The Udvar Hazy wing is a great opportunity to see first hand for yourself these great marvels of engineering.