The Museum of Flight

On Labor Day I went from the Bellevue Botanical Gardens to the Museum of Flight in Seattle. I don’t consider myself a flight buff, but I love history. I spent about four hours wandering around before the museum closed; I did not spend a night at the museum.

The William E. Boeing Red Barn® [1] is set up at the original office and production site. Many of the desks and tools are still there. Some of the displays featured recreations of prototypes and machines. I loved the blueprints. The detail is just astounding. It takes a special person to not only grasp the aerodynamics involved but also turn the ideas into sharply rendered drawings.

An impressive blueprint.

In the T.A. Wilson Great Gallery there is a collection of planes. I thought the feature plane was an SR-71. I was very confident of this. But I think I was wrong. If I am understanding the gallery key correctly it is the only M-21 Blackbird still existing (which is pretty cool).

The only surviving M-21 Blackbird.

I liked the variety of planes in the gallery. Everything from biplanes to Pipers to fighter jets.

A Northrop-YF-5A Freedom Fighter.

I walked over the T. Evans Wycoff Memorial Bridge to the outdoor Airpark. I’ve got to admit I was pretty excited about this part of the museum because there is a Concorde and an Air Force One that visitors can go through. I started with the Concorde.

A Concorde!

The Concorde is a good I-remember-when story for the future, for I recall when it was flying. Now I can say I was on one, though it stayed anchored on the ground. I really enjoyed seeing the cockpit.

The Concorde cockpit.

The next stop was Air Force One. This particular plane was used by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. It gave me chills to stand in the doorway of the plane and look outside and know that JFK likely did the very same thing.

Air Force One!

Inside the plane I was surprised at the simplicity in design. I did like the old school microwave (I didn’t realize microwaves were that old, it must have been cutting edge technology). I liked President Johnson’s hat rack. All the seats were either covered by plastic cases or had signs that said “Please Do Not Sit Here.” I understand why, but I really wanted to sit in the President’s conference chair. I really wanted to. Like really wanted to. But I didn’t.

The President's conference chair on Air Force One.

I looked at the other large jets on display. After exploring underneath one I walked in close to the jet engines. A little sign warned me that no people were allowed here (this was a sign from when the plane was functional). If the engine had been turned on it that would have been the end of me (since the jet was no longer functional, and the engines were not even fully assembled, there was no risk involved).

No people allowed.

After crossing the bridge again I went to the J. Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing [2], which features a World War I Gallery and a Word War II Gallery. This reminded me how connected advances in flight are to warfare. It was amazing to see the balloons and flimsy biplanes used early in WWI compared to the planes used in WWII. First flying seemed like a good source of intelligence. From high in the air the enemy could be observed. Then the concept of fighting in the air kicked in. The earliest aerial warfare involved bricks and chains, it would be comical if it weren’t so sad. Soon planes became a fighting and bombing force. Sidewinder missiles are far from a brick.

The J. Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing.

I spent a couple of hours reading information in the displays. The area with recruitment posters caught my eye. The classic Uncle Sam poster was there. I noticed a common theme of going with friends, making the war sound like a hike or social event.

The museum had flight simulators, though I did not try any of them. There were also flying simulators that were computer based.

I enjoyed the museum. It offered a nice mix of information and memorabilia. My favorite part was touring Air Force One, but the uniforms and weapons of WWI and WWII pilots were excellent, and seeing the M-21 Blackbird up close was great.

Flying still amazes me and it always will.

[1] This registered trademark really makes me curious. Why is it registered? I guess to prevent the masses longing to use the name William E. Boeing Red Barn from doing so without compensation.

[2] I appreciate that the Museum of Flight has a wing. It is only fitting.

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