Broadcast: January 7, 2004
This is Faith Lapidus. And this is Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.
Last month, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum opened its new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy (OOD-var HAH-zee) Center in Virginia, near Washington, DC. Today we tell about this new museum for famous aircraft.The new Udvar-Hazy Center has been open for a little more than three weeks. However, it has already proven to be extremely popular. On December twenty-sixth, the road leading to the new museum was blocked with vehicles. Local television stations showed pictures of thousands of automobiles waiting their turn to enter the museum's parking area. Some vehicles were turned away. There was not enough room. The parking area was full. The new center may prove to be as popular as the main Air and Space Museum in Washington.
The National Air and Space Museum is perhaps the most visited museum in the world. Almost ten-million people visit the museum ever year to see famous aircraft. They can see the Wright Brothers famous flyer. It was the first controllable aircraft to fly with an engine. It flew for the first time on December Seventeenth, nineteen-oh-three.
Visitors to the National Air and Space Museum can also see Charles Lindbergh's airplane, "The Spirit of Saint Louis." He became the first pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean alone and without stopping, from the United States to France. That flight took place in May of nineteen-twenty-seven.
Near the famous plane is an orange rocket plane that became the first aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound. Pilot Chuck Yeager made that flight in nineteen-forty-seven. Visitors to the museum can even touch a small piece of the moon. It was brought back to Earth by American astronauts who walked on the moon.The main job of a museum is to keep and protect important objects from the past so they can be studied, examined and enjoyed in the future. Displaying these collected objects helps the public understand the importance of a museum's work.
Finding room to keep a collection of aircraft has always been a problem for the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. This museum only holds about ten percent of the aircraft it has collected over the years.
Another ten percent of the aircraft have been loaned to other museums. The other eighty percent have been kept in storage buildings for safekeeping. Some of them have been stored for as long as fifty years.
The opening of the Museum's new Udvar-Hazy Center has changed this. As many as three-hundred aircraft will be placed on display in the new museum. More than eighty of them have already been placed in the building for the public to see.
The new center was named for Steven Udvar-Hazy. He came to the United States from Hungary. He became very successful in the aircraft industry. He became so successful that he gave the National Air and Space Museum sixty-five-million dollars to help build the new center.
Mr. Udvar-Hazy said he wanted to give something to America for the opportunities he found here. He also wanted to pass on his love of aviation to the people of the future.
Mr. Udvar-Hazy's gift helped build the center. It did not pay the total cost. That is expected to be more than three-hundred-million dollars. This includes the design, construction and cost of moving the aircraft into the new center.
The largest of the new center's several buildings is huge. It is thirty-one meters high, almost seventy-six meters wide, and three-hundred meters long.
Visitors can see and walk near the aircraft on three levels in the main building. They can walk near the largest aircraft on the museum's floor. Smaller aircraft are hung from the ceiling. Visitors can examine them from several walkways that are about fifteen meters above the floor. They can see other aircraft that are hung near the ceiling. They can do this from walkways that are near the top of the building.
Computers at small information centers show close-up photographs of the aircraft. These photographs include pictures taken inside the aircraft. Visitors can use the computers to see the pilot's controls, passenger areas and other parts of the inside of the aircraft. In the future, these pictures will be on the new museum's computer link with the Internet.
All of the aircraft that will be on display are important to the history of flight. Some are huge. The largest aircraft in the collection was given to the museum only a few months ago. It is the Air France Concorde.
The plane landed at nearby Dulles International Airport on its last flight. It was pulled by a special vehicle to the museum.
The Concorde was one of the few passenger airplanes that could fly faster than the speed of sound. A Concorde flight from Paris, France to Washington, D-C usually took less than four hours.
The new center also has very small aircraft in the collection. One is the Boeing P-Twenty-Six-A Peashooter. The little Peashooter could hide under the wing of the Concorde. In fact, several of them could hide there.
The Peashooter was a military fighter plane. It was built in the early nineteen-thirties. It is also one of the most beautiful aircraft in the new center. Most military aircraft are not painted with bright colors. But the Peashooter has wings painted yellow-gold. The body is painted black with white strips down its side. The front is painted a shiny white.
The new Udvar-Hazy Center also holds the fastest aircraft every built. It is the Lockheed S-R-Seventy-One Blackbird. It looks like a rocket plane, but it is not. It has an aircraft jet engine, not a rocket engine. The military used the Blackbird to gather intelligence. It carried cameras, not guns. It used its great speed to fly away from danger.
The Blackbird is a large aircraft. It is painted with a dull black paint and looks like a bullet. In fact it is faster than many bullets. It could travel at three times the speed of sound.
That is about three-thousand-five-hundred-forty kilometers an hour. The last time a Blackbird flew was from Los Angeles, California to Dulles International Airport near the museum.
The United States Air Force flew it for the last time to deliver it to the Udvar-Hazy Center. That flight from California to Virginia took only one hour, four minutes and twenty seconds.
Many of the aircraft in the collection were built for military use. However, the museum is not a just a collection of military aircraft. Aviation experts say new flight technology has often been used first in the design of military aircraft. For example, the first jet was a military airplane. Civilian aircraft designers quickly used jet technology because jets are faster and cheaper.
An aircraft called the Dash-Eighty is a good example of military technology being used for civilian purposes. The Boeing Company built the aircraft. Its real name is the Boeing Three-Six-Seven—dash—Eighty.
It was designed as the first modern jet passenger aircraft. It first flew in July of nineteen-fifty-four. It does not look much different from aircraft used today by airlines around the world. Later, a similar aircraft was given the numbers Seven-Oh-Seven. The Seven-Oh-Seven was the first extremely successful passenger jet aircraft. It served as the first jet aircraft for many of the world's passenger airlines. The Dash-Eighty looks very new, not fifty years old.National Air and Space Museum officials say they expect about three-million visitors a year to the new center. Many of these visitors will be school children. The center includes schoolrooms and will provide teachers with teaching materials.
One of the center's goals will be to educate the children of the future about the importance of aviation.
Smithsonian officials recognize that it is difficult for many people to visit either of these two flight museums. In the near future, they hope to display photographs and information about all the aircraft on the Internet.
You can already visit the museum if you have a computer that can link with the Internet. The Internet address is www.nasm.si.edu. Or have your computer search for the letters N-A-S-M.This program was written by Paul Thompson and produced by Mario Ritter. This is Steve Ember. And this is Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS, a program in Special English on the Voice of America.