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The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is one of the most popular museums in the world, with over 9 million visitors a year.

I've split this photo tour into two parts, one "Air" and one "Space". The "Space" exhibits were diaried here: .  So here is a photo tour of the "Air" exhibits.


The atrium exhibit, "Milestones of Flight".


The Wright Flyer, 1903.


The "Gnome" rotary airplane engine. The first really practical power plant for airplanes.


The Bleriot XI, the first plane to fly across the English Channel.


Exhibit depicting the world's first commercial airline flights, in St Petersburg, Florida in 1914.
I did a diary on this here:


French Voisin Type 8 WW1 bomber.


Cutaway view of an FE-8, an early British fighter, showing the interal structure.


German Albatross DVa fighter, from the First World War. Although Manfred von Richthofen, the "Red Baron", is most closely identified with the Fokker Dr1 Triplane, he actually won most of his victories in Albatross fighters.


Spad 13 fighter. The US in WW1 had no combat airplanes of its own, and used French fighters like the Nieuport 28 and the Spad 13.


De Haviland DH4 bomber used for WW1 photo reconnaissance.


Pfalz D12 German fighter. This one was used by Hollywood after the war to film air combat movies.


British Sopwith Snipe. The replacement for the highly successful Sopwith Camel, the Snipe was introduced just a few weeks before WW1 ended.


German Fokker D7 fighter. The best fighter plane produced during World War One, but it came too late to win back air superiority for the Germans.


Ford Tri-Motor, 1925. One of the earliest commercial passenger planes.


The "Spirit of St Louis", used by Charles Lindbergh to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1927.


Pitcairn PA-5 Mailwing. In 1927, the US Government contracted with several companies to carry airmail, as a way of subsidizing the development of commercial aircraft.


Northrop Alpha. In 1931, the Alpha was used to fly one of the first transcontinental air passenger routes from New York to San Francisco, by the Transcontinental and Western Airline (TWA)


The "Winnie Mae", a Lockheed 5C Vega used by Wiley Post to fly around the world in 1931 and then fly around the world solo in 1933.


Northrop 2B Gamma "Polar Star", used for exploration in Antarctica in 1935.


Douglas DC-3. One of the most successful commercial airliners in history. During World War Two, it was also used as a troop transport under the name C-47.


Boeing 247-D. One of Boeing's early passenger airliners.


A Lockheed Vega 5B flown by Amelia Earhart. While flying a similar plane in an attempt to fly around the world, Earhart disappeared in 1937.


Boeing F4B fighter. US Navy carrier fighter during the 1930's.


Grumman F4F Wildcat, US Navy's carrier fighter at the outbreak of World War II.


SBD Dauntless US Navy WW2 dive bomber.


British Spitfire Mk VII.


Italian Macchi C202 Folgore, the best Italian fighter of WW2.


American P-51D Mustang fighter.


Japanese A6M5 Zero fighter.


German Messerschmitt BF-109G fighter.


The Me-262 from Germany, the first operational jet fighter.


P-80 Shooting Star, America's first operational jet fighter.


Bell X-1, used by Chuck Yeager to break the sound barrier and reach Mach 1, 1947.


Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket, the first plane to reach a speed of Mach 2.


An F-104 Starfighter in NASA configuration. The first operational fighter to reach Mach 2, NASA used it as a chase plane and research vehicle.


X-15 rocket plane, which reached the edge of space.


U-2 photo reconnaissance spy plane.


Douglas A4C Skyhawk, a carrier-based attack plane from the Vietnam War.


"Gossamer Albatross", the first human-powered airplane. Flew across the English Channel in 1979.


The Rutan Voyager, the first airplane to fly around the world nonstop, 1986.

Originally posted to Shutterbugs on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 06:22 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kossack Air Force, SciTech, and History for Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great museum and to avoid crowds, go during the (7+ / 0-)

    week, and get their early when it opens to avoid the school kid crowds.  My wife and I went last year and spent the entire day there.  The tours are excellent and anyone that visits should take one as the docents will give you history and stories about the static displays as well as great sidebar stories about other visitors, and their personal experiences.

    Great diary and photos!!

    “My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there." - Rumi

    by LamontCranston on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 06:33:09 AM PDT

  •  The picture of the Zero brings back a poignant (5+ / 0-)

    memory. I was at the A&S museum a number of years ago. See that mezzanine level balcony behind the plane?  There was a wizened elderly Japanese man and his wife standing by the railing closest to the plane.  He was talking to his wife in Japanese, pointing out various features of the plane. He was also doing "pilot talk," with his hands, showing her maneuvers.  

    There were tears running down his face. I started to get a picture, but had to turn away. It was too private a moment.

    Several years later, my wife needed some outpatient surgery. The day before the surgery, we had an appointment with the anesthesiologist in his office. Beside his medical degrees and diplomas, there were a number of photos of MiG-15s. He was Polish and had been a Polish Air Force pilot in the 1950s.  We started talking airplanes when he finished getting my wife's medical history.  I told him about the old Japanese fighter pilot I had seen. After a moment lost in thought, he confessed he had the same reaction at an airshow recently when a MiG-15 had been on display.  

    Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength. - Eric Hoffer

    by Otteray Scribe on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 06:49:51 AM PDT

    •  many years ago, there happened to be an (4+ / 0-)

      elderly German ex-Luftwaffe pilot giving a talk in front of the Smithsonian's BF-109.

      He talked about all the things other wartime pilots talk about---his victories (he had two), seeing his buddies getting killed regularly, what life was like on the airbase . . . .

      The experience of war is, at core, the same for everyone.  It doesn't matter what era one fought in or which side one was on. War is the same for everyone.  It's fear and death and boredom and grief.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 08:26:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I recall when the Air and Space Museum (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joy of Fishes, xaxnar

    I went thru it and the out-lying hangars many times.

    Dad was into aviation and it sorta rubbed off on me. He was one of the founders of the EAA. He ended up being Chief of Air Worthiness for the FAA.

    It was a tough life to grow up under a guy that took no bs from any quarter.

    It's a gift to have grown up under a guy that...

    Suddenly, it dawns on me, Earnest T. Bass is the intellectual and philosophical inspiration of the TeaParty.

    by Nebraska68847Dem on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 07:10:26 AM PDT

    •  I remember visiting as a little kid (0+ / 0-)

      back at the time when the various rockets were setting out on the Mall and the building itself hadn't been built yet. I particularly remember climbing a small set of steps in a shedlike building to look inside a space capsule (I don't know now if it was a Gemini or an Apollo -- this was in 1967 or so, when I was around 6 or 7).

      Every time I'd go to DC for a rally or protest demonstration, I always set aside a few hours to wander through the Air and Space Museum and/or the Natural History Museum.

      They are both still some of my favorite places.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 08:29:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I remember visiting as a little kid (0+ / 0-)

      in around 1967 or so (I was 6 or 7 years old at the time). The building hadn't been constructed yet, and there were various rockets sitting out in the open on the Mall, and a number of shedlike buildings out in the grass. I remember a little set of steps put there so the kids could look inside one of the space capsules (I don't know now whether it was a Mercury or Gemini).

      For decades afterwards, anytime I was in DC for a demonstration or protest rally, I always set aside a few hours for the Air and Space and/or the Natural History Museums.

      They are still two of my favorite places to be.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 08:34:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  sorry for the double post--the site has been (0+ / 0-)

        acting up a bit for me, and I thought my first comment had disappeared into the Great Beyond (the little "posting comment" thingie just kept spinning and spinning and spinning . . . )

        In the end, reality always wins.

        by Lenny Flank on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 09:13:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  the earliest airplanes (0+ / 0-)

    ... endlessly fascinating -- they look so fragile.

    "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

    by klompendanser on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 08:00:44 AM PDT

  •  Love those early "streamline" fuselage designs (0+ / 0-)

    from the thirties. Hard to imagine being a passenger right behind the engine in the Northrop Alpha. But New York to San Francisco in only 23 hours! Must have caused quite a sensation.

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
    he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

    by jjohnjj on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 08:21:58 AM PDT

  •  that Macchi C.202 btw has beautiful lines (0+ / 0-)

    It'd have been a great fighter plane if it had been built with a better engine (some of them did use German Daimler engines) and better armament (it had only two machine guns).

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 10:22:54 AM PDT

  •  Awesome. Love the jet and rocket planes. (0+ / 0-)

    I'm hoping for hypersonic airliners in the future...but, it'll probably be a while.

    Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

    by tekno2600 on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 02:07:21 PM PDT

    •  the military will get them first . . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They;'ve wanted for decades now a way to put troops anywhere on earth within an hour (other than having military bases every thirty miles all over the entire planet--which seems to be their Plan B).

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 02:32:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Caption Corrrection (Sorry) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Lockheed Vega 5B flown by Amelia Earhart. While flying a similar plane in an attempt to fly around the world, Earhart disappeared in 1937.
    In 1932, flying the Lockheed Vega 5B, Earhart became the first women to fly solo across the Atlantic. She also used the plane to fly from Hawaii to California and from Mexico to New York in 1935.

    Her world flight attempt was made in 1937 using a twin engine Lockheed 10E Electra.

    "A famous person once said, 'You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.' But as I once said, "If you don't teach them to read, you can fool them whenever you like." – Max Headroom

    by midnight lurker on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 02:24:56 PM PDT

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