Seattle: The Museum of Flight


The highlight of the day is the Museum of Flight. This is the third time we’re here but we’re never bored of this place. For one, I love museums and can spend an entire day checking the exhibits.

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The Museum of Flight is located just south of Seattle. I think this museum will interest just about everyone, whether you have any liking for planes or not. It is just so fascinating and they have a very wide range of exhibits. It is not just technical stuff and so it will definitely appeal to just about anyone.

The entrance is $14 for an adult. We used the Seattle CityPass for the entrance. The Seattle CityPass costs about $44 that includes entrances to four other popular tourist attractions.

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We got ourselves each an audio guide. It’s just a few bucks each but is an additional cost. Using this is easy … just punch in the number shown next to the exhibit.

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The Museum of Flight is divided into several galleries and exhibits. Some indoors and some outdoors — mostly indoors. The grandest gallery is aptly called The Great Gallery. This is a really spectacular sight — a six story high all glass and steel exhibition area with almost 40 full sized planes from all eras.

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One could spend two to three hours just going through all the exhibits here alone.

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Right in the centerpiece is the Lockheed M21 Blackbird — the fastest jet ever built. This all black, sleek jet can hit 3 Mach easily.

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The Kitty Hawk is the first contraption that flew. In many ways, this is what gave birth to aviation. This replica of the Kitty Hawk is one of only two in the world. It was over a period of a week that the Wright Brothers flew the Kitty Hawk several times. The first flight took to the air for 12 seconds only. The longest flight that was achieved was 59 seconds before a hard landing broke the plane.

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The Museum of Flight recently opened a new space exhibit: “Space: Exploring the New Frontier”, which traces the evolution of space flight.

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The picture above is the Sputnik which is a robotic space craft. As puny as it seems (just a mere 2 feet in diameter), this is the first object ever launched to space. With the launch of Sputnik into space by the Soviets, they shocked the mighty US space agency in the space race. It was immediately after the launch of Sputnik that the entire US space program was revamped which led to the creation of NASA.

Now, if I am not mistaken, the Soviets is still using the object above for returning astronauts from space. I thought I saw a news footage of this a few weeks ago when the last cosmonauts came back from the Space Station on one of these things. Seems very primitive to me.

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Space food … vacuum packed and dehydrated. The above is from the Apollo missions. The museum also showed the food from the Soviet program … they are mostly canned food. I’ll opt for canned food over these above.

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Sleeping quarters … because of weightlessness, the astronauts are basically strapped down here for their forty winks. I notice they did not have pillows … I can’t sleep without my own pillow.

I was looking out for their toilet but can’t see any. I was wondering how they did their business.

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The Personal Courage Wing was another exhibit which I enjoyed a lot — not so for the boys. It is an exhibit of WWI and WWII stories. I grew up reading a lot of British World War One comics, particularly Warlord. I would buy every issue each week with my pocket money when I was young.

So, I am pretty conversant with World War II planes. The above is the German Luftwaffe’s Messerschimdt (he he he … I still know how to spell that name) which was the backbone fighter of the Germans. They lost to the British Spitfires during the Battle of Britain.

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Just next to the Museum is the “Red Barn”. This is the original manufacturing plant of Boeing when it was just starting up. This is actually an historic site today.

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It was quite interesting going over how commercial planes were made in the early days.

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There are a few planes located across the street from the Museum of Flight. Two of the most popular is the Concorde and Air Force One.

The Concorde is built by the British and French governments. It was never a successful commercial jet and had not made money at all. It was fraught with problems from day one, the most problematic of which is the noise generated by the sonic boom.

This plane could cruise at 2 Mach (over 2,000 km per hour) and could zip one from Paris to New York in just 3.5 hrs. It was so fast that you could take off from Paris at 9AM and land at 7:30AM on the same day (if my math is correct!).

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The Concorde is now retired from service but it had a good 30 years run until a crash several years ago. The avionics on the plane had never been upgraded. So, you will see lots of old fashioned dials in the cockpit. Only about 20 of this plane was ever built.

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The Air Force One above is the first presidential aircraft built just for the President of the United States. I bet many of you know that the term “Air Force One” is just a call sign for ANY aircraft carrying the President of the United States. So, the plane above is not Air Force One if the President is not on board. Why … even a small Cessna is called the Air Force One if the president is on board.

OK, here’s some trivia … do you know that the limousine that the President travels in is call Cadillac One? and that the helicopter (operated by the Marines) that the President travels in is called Marine One?

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The area above is the conference room. The President gets to sit on the high chair while the entire cabinet sits around the sofa.

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The above is specially built for one of the most famous user of the Air Force One … Jackie Kennedy. The First Lady need a proper place to spruce up.

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The above is the private work area of the President which also doubles as his bedroom.

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It was a good trip. I thoroughly enjoyed this visit … the boys enjoyed about 66% of it and Suanne about 33% of this.

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