Virginia's golden highlight is definitely the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. It is actually located in Chantilly, near the border between Virginia and Washington, DC. So if you are visiting the USA's capital, this museum is close to you! It is the perfect place for any airplane lover!
Upon entering the museum, you are greeted with some historic airplanes used during the second world war. These ones were similar to the P51 Mustang.
When you go downstairs, the main exhibits start. The one in the center, easily being the highlight of the entire museum, is the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. It is the single fastest airplane ever, and it has very interesting history surrounding it. It was used on reconnaissance missions, and the aircraft held two people. One person would pilot the airplane, while the other would be responsible for doing reconnaissance work. Having a top speed of 2,200 miles per hour made it virtually undetectable. Walking around the entire Blackbird puts its size into perspective, since it is actually over 107 feet long.
The museum also showcased the legendary Concorde airplane, which was the fastest passenger airplane ever. It could cruise at twice the speed of sound, or 1,354 miles per hour. It was introduced in 1976 and it was retired in 2003, mainly due to economical reasons. The delta wing design was fascinating, and the technology is truly mind blowing. Imagine flying to the other side of the globe in only half the time! Unfortunately, I was only 8 months old when the Concorde was retired, so I Never got a chance to fly on a supersonic airplane. Hopefully Boom will bring back commercial passenger supersonic airplanes, however that may be a challenge due to supersonic flight being banned above ground in the USA and many other countries.
Another historic airplane featured in the museum is the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. It featured groundbreaking technology, being the first bomber to have a pressurized cabin.
The B-29 used a variety of different weapons, such as mines, conventional bombs, and more! This airplane is actually responsible for dropping the first atomic bomb used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan.
The museum also showcased the fascinating Hiller HOE-1 Hornet (HJ-1). The two pilots sat out in the open, since this aircraft had a semi-open cabin. This aircraft could be assembled in a matter of minutes, and it was used as surveillance when towed by submarines. It gave the pilots a great field of view, and the pilot's findings would be reported to the submarine crew. This came at a cost though, since stealthy submarines immediately had their positions given away upon using this aircraft.
The museum isn't just limited to aircraft. It also features a space exhibit, featuring model rockets, and even the actual Discovery Space Shuttle.
This spaceship was responsible for launching the Hubble Space Telescope, named after astronomer Edwin Hubble. This exhibit was fascinating, and I loved being able to observe all of the wonderful spacecraft.
Prior to the gift shop, my final experience at the museum was a simulator ride. You go inside a red capsule, which can move in all directions, and also turn on all three axes. Inside the capsule there is a giant screen, which plays a movie about the history of flight. In the movie, you are always flying, whether it's in a squad of planes, or just by yourself. The simulator also moves in ways that mimic movements of an airplane, making you feel as if you are in the movie flying. It was truly a fascinating experience. The museum also provides you with a VR space ride and another simulator ride, but I didn't try those.
Please keep in mind that I only scratched the surface of what the museum has to offer. The museum has many hundreds, if not, thousands of different airplanes and other aircraft. I simply could not describe all of them, even though they are all equally historical. There is even an actual engine from the Boeing B-777 airplane with the cover taken off, allowing you to see inside.
I am an avid museum goer and used to buy Groupons beforehand to get discounted admission. Or print out coupons for free admission. But, thankfully Udvar Hazy offers free admission. No coupons required. I highly recommend that you donate to this great museum though.
Or please get some personalized gifts from the Smithsonian Store at the Udvar Hazy center. All proceeds go to museum directly.