Smithsonian Air & Space Museum
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Smithsonian Air & Space Museum
Photo 219, May 2013
Smithsonian Air & Space Museum
Langley Aerodrome A
Samuel Langley's successful flights of his model Aerodromes
Number 5 and Number 6 in 1896 led to plans to build a full-sized,
human-carrying airplane. Langley's simple approach was merely to scale
up the unpiloted Aerodromes to human-carrying proportions. This would
prove to be a grave error, as the aerodynamics, structural design, and
control system of the smaller aircraft were not adaptable to a
full-sized version. Langley's primary focus was the power plant. The
completed engine, a water-cooled five-cylinder radial that generated a
remarkable 52.4 horsepower, was a great achievement for the time.
Despite the excellent engine, the Aerodrome A, as it was called, met
with disastrous results, crashing on takeoff on October 7, 1903, and
again on December 8. Langley blamed the launch mechanism. While this
was in some small measure true, there is no denying that the Aerodrome
A was an overly complex, structurally weak, aerodynamically unsound
aircraft. This second crash ended Langley's aeronautical work
1908 Wright Military Flyer (Reproduction)
The 1909 Wright Military Flyer is the world's first military
airplane. In 1908, the U.S. Army Signal Corps sought competitive bids
for a two-seat observation aircraft. Winning designs had to meet a
number specified performance standards. Flight trials with the
Wrights' entry began at Fort Myer, Virginia, on September 3, 1908.
After several days of successful flights, tragedy occurred on
September 17, when Orville Wright crashed with Lt. Thomas 0.
Selfridge, the Army's observer, as his passenger. Orville survived
with severe injuries, but Selfridge was killed, becoming the first
fatality in a powered airplane.
On June 3, 1909, the Wrights returned to Fort Myer with a new airplane
to complete the trials begun in 1908. Satisfying all requirements, the
Army purchased the airplane for $30,000, and conducted flight training
with it at nearby College Park, Maryland, and at Fort Sam Houston, in
San Antonio, Texas, in 1910. It was given to the Smithsonian in 1911.
1908 Wright Military Flyer (Reproduction)
The Farman FF 65 Sport was a French built light biplane, with a
single engine and tandem seats, intended for sport and touring. First
flown in 1919, it achieved modest sales at home and abroad in the
early 1920s. Two unusual modifications produced a biplane glider and a
low aspect ratio parasol wing machine.
In 1919, the H.& M. Farman Aeroplane Company of France produced the
Farman Sport two-place sport and light commercial biplane. In 1922,
C.T. Ludington and Wallace Kellett of Philadephia, Pennsylvania,
formed the Ludington Exhibition Company as agents for Farman aircraft,
and in 1923, they imported their first two Sports. Their pilot flew
this aircraft, serial number 15, C-72, in the 1924 "On to Dayton
Race," which included flying over the treacherous Allegheny Mountains.
After suffering severe damage in 1928, NC-72's airworthiness
certificate was revoked and it languished for years in Pennsylvania
and New Jersey until Ken Hyde of Warrenton, Virginia, restored it.
C.T. Ludington himself identified the aircraft, allowing Hyde to
reclaim the NC-72 registration. This is the last remaining Farman
Benoist-Korn Type XII
In the spring of 1912 Thomas Wesley Benoist announced the
completion of his firm's newest aircraft, the Type XII. It was a
two-place tractor biplane, powered by a Roberts six-cylinder,
75-horsepower engine. It was one of the first closed-fuselage tractor
airplanes to appear in the United States. Perhaps five Type XII
aircraft were produced by the Benoist factory during the next year.
The NASM Benoist Type XII was constructed in the Benoist shop in St.
Louis by its purchasers, Edward and Milton Korn. The Korn brothers
began work on their airplane in March 1912. It was completed on May
20, and it was flown soon thereafter at Anna, Illinois. During the
following year, the Korns performed numerous exhibitions with their
Benoist. Most American aircraft produced during this period were close
copies of Wright, Curtiss, or European machines. Benoist was one of
the very few U.S. firms building and selling original designs in the
Baldwin Red Devil
After making a reputation with lighter-than-air craft, Thomas
Scott Baldwin turned to heavier-than-air flying machines in 1909. By
1911 he had built several airplanes and had gained extensive
experience as an exhibition pilot. He began testing a new airplane in
the spring of 1911. It was similar to the basic Curtiss pusher design
that was becoming quite popular with builders by this time, but it was
innovative in that it was constructed of steel tubing. It was powered
by a 60-horsepower Hall-Scott V-8. Baldwin called his new machine the
Red Devil III, and thereafter each of his airplanes would be known as
a Baldwin Red Devil. Baldwin built approximately six Red Devils. Most
were powered by the Hall-Scott, but Curtiss engines were also
occasionally used. By mid-1911, Baldwin was training pilots, taking up
passengers, and performing regularly with Red Devil aircraft at air
meets. He advertised Red Devils for sale into 1913.
Prior to WWII
The Nieuport 28 (N.28C-1) was a French biplane fighter aircraft
flown during World War I, built by Nieuport and designed by Gustave
Delage. Owing its lineage to the successful line of sesquiplane
fighters that included the Nieuport 17, the Nieuport 28 continued a
similar design philosophy of a lightweight and highly maneuverable
Rejected by the Aéronautique Militaire in favor of the SPAD XIII - its
principal claim to fame is that it was the first aircraft to see
service with an American fighter squadron, equipping four squadrons of
the United States Air Service between March and August 1918.
Naval Aircraft Factory N3N Seaplane
The N3N was a United States two tandem-seat, open cockpit,
primary training biplane aircraft built by the Naval Aircraft Factory
(N.A.F.) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the 1930s.
Built to replace the Consolidated NY-2 and NY-3, the N3N was
successfully tested as both a conventional airplane and a seaplane.
The seaplane used a single float under the fuselage and floats under
the outer tips of the lower wing. The conventional airplane used a
fixed landing gear. The prototype XN3N-1 was powered by a radial
Wright designed Wright J-5 engine. An order for 179 production
aircraft was received. Near the end of the first production run the
engine was replaced with the Wright R-760-2 Whirlwind radial.
In 1934 the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia was tasked to
manufacture a new primary trainer for the U.S. Navy. Following
successful tests, this little biplane trainer was built in both land
and seaplane versions. The Navy initially ordered 179 N3N-1 models,
and the factory began producing more than 800 N3N-3 models in 1938.
U.S. Navy primary flight training schools used N3Ns extensively
throughout World War II. A few of the seaplane version were retained
for primary training at the U.S. Naval Academy. In 1961 they became
the last biplanes retired from U.S. military service.
This N3N-3 was transferred from Cherry Point to Annapolis in 1946,
where it served as a seaplane trainer. It was restored and displayed
at the Naval Academy Museum before being transferred here.
Naval Aircraft Factory N3N Seaplane
Naval Aircraft Factory N3N Seaplane
Loening OA-1A San Francisco
The historic Pan-American Goodwill Flight of 1926 and 1927
through Mexico and Central and South America was intended to improve
relations with Latin American countries, to encourage commercial
aviation, and to provide valuable training for Air Corps personnel.
The flight was made by ten pilots in five Loening OA-1A amphibian
aircraft. To stimulate public interest, each airplane was named after
a major U.S. city-the New York, the San Antonio, the San Francisco,
the Detroit, and the St. Louis.
The 22,000 mile flight began on December 21, 1926, from San
Antonio, Texas. The journey took 59 flying days, interspersed with 74
days for scheduled maintenance and diplomatic meetings and ceremonies.
The flight concluded at Bolling Field in Washington, D.C., on May 2,
1927. Within three weeks, however, the impressive achievement was
eclipsed by Lindbergh's solo trans-Atlantic flight in the Spirit of
The San Francisco was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution by
the War Department in December 1927. It was restored by the National
Air and Space Museum in 1964-1965.
The Curtiss N-9H was a seaplane version of the famous Curtiss
JN-4D trainer used by the U.S. Air Service during the First World War.
To make the conversion, a single large central pontoon was mounted
below the fuselage, with a small float fitted under each wingtip.
These changes required a 10-foot increase in wingspan to compensate
for the additional weight.
During the war, 2,500 Navy pilots were trained on the N-9H. In
addition to training a generation of Navy pilots, the N-9H was used to
develop tactics for ship-borne aircraft operations in 1916 and 1917,
using catapults mounted on armored cruisers. After the war, the
airplane was again employed to successfully demonstrate a compressed
air turntable catapult. In July 1917, several N-9Hs were acquired by
the Sperry Gyroscope Company and were used as test vehicles for aerial
torpedo experiments conducted for the Navy's Bureau of Ordnance. The
N-9H was withdrawn from the U.S. Navy inventory in 1927 after ten
years of exemplary service.
The 1917 French twin-engine Caudron G.4 has great significance as
an early light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. It was a principal
type used when these critical air power missions were being conceived
and pioneered in World War I. Although fighter aircraft frequently
gain greater attention, the most influential role of aviation in the
First World War was reconnaissance. The extensive deployment of the
Caudron G.4 in this role makes it an especially important early
military aircraft. Moreover, despite its speed and armament
limitations, the Caudron G.4 was quite reliable, had a good rate of
climb, and was pleasant to fly, all characteristics that made it a
good training aircraft after its combat effectiveness was reduced.
Many Allied pilots received their initial flight training on the
Caudron G.4. The NASM Caudron is among the oldest surviving bomber
aircraft in the world, and one of the very few remaining multi-engine
aircraft from this period.
The effective ground attack capabilities of the earlier
Halberstadt CL.II were realized late in 1917. With this successful
adaptation of the CL.II, design work began on an improved version,
specifically intended for the ground attack role. The Halberstadt
CL.IV was one of the best ground attack aircraft of World War I. It
performed well in combat as a low-level attack airplane, relying on
its good maneuverability to avoid ground fire. After supporting the
desperate late German offensives in 1918, Halberstadt CL.IVs were used
to disrupt advancing Allied offensives by striking at enemy troop
assembly points. When not on close support or ground attack missions,
it was used as a standard two-seat fighter for escort work. Towards
the end of the war, on bright, moonlit nights, CL.IV squadrons
attempted to intercept and destroy Allied bombers as they returned
from their missions. Night sorties against Allied airfields were also
made with the CL.IV.
Turner RT-14 Meteor
Following his first Thompson Trophy victory in 1934, famed racing
pilot Roscoe Turner contracted with the Lawrence W. Brown Aircraft
Company to build a new racing aircraft. Designed by Turner and
engineered by University of Minnesota professor Howard Barlow, the
Turner racer was completed in mid-1936. Following flight tests, Matty
Laird extensively redesigned the aircraft and added a larger wing and
Known as the Laird Turner LTR-14 and later the Turner RT-14, the
modified racer placed third in the 1937 Thompson Trophy event at the
National Air Races and won the 1938 and 1939 contests. With this
aircraft, Turner became the only three-time winner of the Thompson
Trophy. In 1939 the aircraft was sponsored by Champion Spark Plugs and
therefore carried the name "Miss Champion" on its fuselage.
WWII Era, Allies
Piper J-3 Cub
The Piper J-3 Cub is a small, simple, light aircraft that was
built between 1937 and 1947 by Piper Aircraft. With tandem (fore and
aft) seating, it was intended for flight training but became one of
the most popular and best-known light aircraft of all time. The Cub's
simplicity, affordability and popularity invokes comparisons to the
Ford Model T automobile.
The aircraft's standard chrome yellow paint has come to be known as
“Cub Yellow” or "Lock Haven Yellow"
United States Army Air Corps — Boeing P-26 Peashooter
The Boeing P-26A of the mid-to-late 1930s introduced the concept
of the high-performance, all-metal monoplane fighter design, which
would become standard during World War II. A radical departure from
wood-and-fabric biplanes, the Peashooter nonetheless retained an open
cockpit, fixed landing gear, and external wing bracing.
Most P-26As stationed overseas were eventually sold to the
Philippines or assigned to the Panama Canal Department Air Force, a
branch of the U.S. Army Air Corps. Several went to China and one to
Spain. This one was based at Selfridge Field in Michigan and Fairfield
Air Depot in Ohio between its acceptance by the U.S. Army Air Corps in
1934 and its transfer to the Canal Zone in 1938. It was given to
Guatemala in 1942 and flew in the Guatemalan air force until 1954.
Guatemala donated it to the Smithsonian in 1957.
The Westland Lysander was a British army co-operation and liaison
aircraft produced by Westland Aircraft used immediately before and
during the Second World War. After becoming obsolete in the army
co-operation role, the aircraft's exceptional short-field performance
enabled clandestine missions using small, unprepared airstrips behind
enemy lines to place or recover agents, particularly in occupied
France with the French Resistance help. Like other British army air
co-operation aircraft it was given the name of a mythical or legendary
leader, in this case the Spartan general Lysander.
Northrop N-1M Jeep
The Northrop N-1M was an early flying wing aircraft, predecessor
to the Northrop N-9M and Northrop YB-35.
This aircraft, the first true flying wing produced in the United
States, was developed during 1939 and 1940, and first flew on 3 July
1941 at Baker Dry Lake in California. Unstable and underpowered, but
basically sound, the N-1M paved the way for Northrop's later flying
The plane was donated to the United States Army Air Forces in 1945 and
was placed in the collection of the National Air Museum the following
year. It is now on public display at the National Air and Space
Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
Grumman F6F Hellcat
This Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat (BuNo. 41834) was delivered to the US
Navy in February 1943. It would go on to serve as an unmanned sampling
drone during the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests in 1946. After
a number of years spent outdoors at the USS Yorktown museum, the
aircraft was restored by Grumman volunteers in 1982 before being
returned to the Smithsonian in 1985. It was kept in storage at the
Garber Facility until being placed on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center
North American P-51C Mustang Excaliber III
This is Excalibur III, the war-surplus North American Aviation
(NAA) P-51C Mustang racer owned originally by Paul Mantz and then
Charles F. Blair, and flown by the likes of Mantz, Linton Carney,
Herman "Fish" Salmon, and Blair in a number of races and record
North American P-51C Mustang Excaliber III
Chance Vought F4U-1D Corsair
The Chance Vought F4U Corsair was a carrier-capable
fighter aircraft that saw service primarily in World
War II and the Korean War. The Corsair served in the
U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, Fleet Air Arm and the Royal
New Zealand Air Force, as well as the French Navy
Aéronavale and other, smaller, air forces until the
1960s. It quickly became the most capable carrier-based
fighter-bomber of World War II. Some Japanese pilots
regarded it as the most formidable American fighter of
World War II.
By V-J Day, September 2, 1945, Corsair pilots had amassed an 11:1
kill ratio against enemy aircraft. The aircraft's distinctive inverted
gull-wing design allowed ground clearance for the huge, three-bladed
Hamilton Standard Hydromatic propeller, which spanned more than 4
meters (13 feet). The Pratt and Whitney R-2800 radial engine and
Hydromatic propeller was the largest and one of the most powerful
engine-propeller combinations ever flown on a fighter aircraft.
Charles Lindbergh flew bombing missions in a Corsair with Marine
Air Group 31 against Japanese strongholds in the Pacific in 1944.
The United States Navy donated an F4U-1D to the National Air and
Space Museum in September 1960. Vought delivered this Corsair, Bureau
of Aeronautics serial number 50375, to the Navy on April 26, 1944. By
October, pilots of VF-10 were flying it but in November, the airplane
was transferred to VF-89 at Naval Air Station Atlantic City. It
remained there as the squadron moved to NAS Oceana and NAS Norfolk.
During February 1945, the Navy withdrew the airplane from active
service and transferred it to a pool of surplus aircraft stored at
Quantico, Virginia. In 1980, NASM craftsmen restored the F4U-1D in the
colors and markings of a Corsair named "Sun Setter," a fighter
assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron VMF-114 when that unit served
aboard the "USS Essex" in July 1944.
Curtiss P-40E Warhawk
The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk was an American
single-engine, single-seat, all-metal fighter and
ground attack aircraft that first flew in 1938. The
Warhawk was used by most Allied powers during World War
II, and remained in front line service until the end of
the war. It was the third most-produced American
Whether known as the Warhawk, Tomahawk, or Kittyhawk, the Curtiss P-40
proved to be a successful, versatile fighter during the first half of
World War II. The shark-mouthed Tomahawks that Gen. Claire Chennault's
"Flying Tigers" flew in China against the Japanese remain among the
most popular airplanes of the war. P-40E pilot Lt. Boyd D. Wagner
became the first American ace of World War II when he shot down six
Japanese aircraft in the Philippines in mid-December 1941.
Curtiss-Wright built this airplane as Model 87-A3 and delivered it to
Canada as a Kittyhawk I in 1941. It served until 1946 in No. 111
Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force. U.S. Air Force personnel at
Andrews Air Force Base restored it in 1975 to represent an aircraft of
the 75th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group, 14th Air Force.
Curtiss P-40E Warhawk
Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay
Boeing's B-29 Superfortress was the most sophisticated
propeller-driven bomber of World War II and the first bomber to house
its crew in pressurized compartments. Although designed to fight in
the European theater, the B-29 found its niche on the other side of
the globe. In the Pacific, B-29s delivered a variety of aerial
weapons: conventional bombs, incendiary bombs, mines, and two nuclear
On August 6, 1945, this Martin-built B-29-45-MO dropped the first
atomic weapon used in combat on Hiroshima, Japan
Northrop P-61C Black Widow
The P-61 Black Widow was the first U.S. aircraft designed to
locate and destroy enemy aircraft at night and in bad weather, a feat
made possible by the use of on-board radar. The prototype first flew
in 1942. P-61 combat operations began just after D-Day, June 6, 1944,
when Black Widows flew deep into German airspace, bombing and strafing
trains and road traffic. Operations in the Pacific began at about the
same time. By the end of World War II, Black Widows had seen combat in
every theater and had destroyed 127 enemy aircraft and 18 German V-1
The Museum’s Black Widow, a P-61C-1-NO, was delivered to the Army Air
Forces in July 1945. Used by NACA (National Advisory Committee for
Aeronautics) and the US Weather Service, it participated in
cold-weather tests, high-altitude drop tests, and in the National
Thunderstorm Project, for which the top turret was removed to make
room for thunderstorm monitoring equipment.
Lockheed P-38J Lightning
In the P-38 Lockheed engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson and his
team of designers created one of the most successful twin-engine
fighters ever flown by any nation. From 1942 to 1945, U. S. Army Air
Forces pilots flew P-38s over Europe, the Mediterranean, and the
Pacific, and from the frozen Aleutian Islands to the sun-baked deserts
of North Africa. Lightning pilots in the Pacific theater downed more
Japanese aircraft than pilots flying any other Allied warplane.
Maj. Richard I. Bong, America's leading fighter ace, flew this
P-38J-10-LO on April 16, 1945, at Wright Field, Ohio, to evaluate an
experimental method of interconnecting the movement of the throttle
and propeller control levers. However, his right engine exploded in
flight before he could conduct the experiment.
Lockheed P-38J Lightning
Hawker Hurricane IIC
Hawker Chief Designer Sydney Camm's Hurricane ranks with the most
important aircraft designs in military aviation history. Designed in
the late 1930s, when monoplanes were considered unstable and too
radical to be successful, the Hurricane was the first British
monoplane fighter and the first British fighter to exceed
300 miles per hour in level flight. Hurricane pilots
fought the Luftwaffe and helped win the Battle of Britain in the
summer of 1940.
This Mark IIC was built at the Langley factory, near what is now
Heathrow Airport, early in 1944. It served as a training aircraft
during the World War II in the Royal Air Force's 41 OTU.
During the late 1960s, the Smithsonian arranged to trade a stock
Hawker Typhoon to the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon in exchange for
Hawker Hurricane LF686. An RAF transport hauled the fighter to the U.
S. in 1969. Specialists at the Garber Facility began restoring the
airplane in 1989 and finished the project eleven years later. The
fighter is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
Hawker Hurricane IIC
Boeing 307 Stratoliner Clipper Flying Cloud
The Clipper Flying Cloud was delivered to Pan American Airways
(PAA) with two others in 1940. The aircraft carried 33 passengers and
a crew of five. The Pan American Airways airplane was reconfigured to
seat 45 passengers. Stratoliners included space for berths for
overnight travel; paneling in the cabin and lavatory; wall fabric
featuring the Pan Am logo, world map and exotic animals; and eight
The Clipper Flying Cloud began service flying Caribbean routes
for two years. During World War II, it flew in South America under the
direction of the U.S. Army Air Forces. In 1946, it made daily runs
between New York and Bermuda. Throughout the next two decades it
passed through the hands of several owners, and once served as a
presidential plane for the notorious Haitian leader "Papa Doc"
Duvalier. After its Haitian sojourn, the Clipper Flying Cloud landed
The Smithsonian subsequently acquired the aircraft and later made
arrangements with the Boeing Company for the restoration, dubbed
"Operation Flying Cloud," at the Seattle plant where the Stratoliner
was originally built.
On March 28, 2002 this particular aircraft ditched into Elliott
Bay in Seattle, Wash., on what was to be its last flight before
heading to the Smithsonian. Despite the incident, it was again
restored, flew to the Smithsonian and is now on display
WWII Era, German
Arado Ar 234 B Blitz
The Arado Ar 234 B Blitz (Lightning) was the world's
first operational jet bomber and reconnaissance
aircraft. The first Ar 234 combat mission, a
reconnaissance flight over the Allied beachhead in
Normandy, took place August 2, 1944. With a maximum
speed of 735 kilometers (459 miles) per hour, the Blitz
easily eluded Allied piston engine fighters. While less
famous than the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters, the
Ar 234s that reached Luftwaffe units provided excellent
service, especially as reconnaissance aircraft.
This Ar 234 B-2 served with bomber unit KG 76 from
December 1944 until May 1945, when British forces
captured it in Norway. Turned over to the United
States, it was brought to Wright Field, Ohio, in 1946
for flight testing. In 1949 it was transferred to the
Smithsonian, which restored it in 1984-89. This Arado
is the sole survivor of its type.
Dornier Do 335 A Pfiel
Only one Do 335 survives today. The aircraft was the
second preproduction Do 335A-0, designated A-02, with
construction number (Werknummer) 240102, and factory
radio code registration, or Stammkennzeichen, of VG+PH.
The aircraft was assembled at Dornier's plant in
Oberpfaffenhofen (southern Germany) on 16 April 1945.
It was captured by allied forces at the plant on 22
April 1945. The aircraft was test flown from a grass
runway at Oberwiesenfeld, near Munich, to Cherbourg,
France while escorted by two P-51s. The Do 335 was
easily able to out distance the escorting Mustangs and
arrived at Cherbourg 45 minutes before the P-51s. VG+PH
was one of two Do 335s to be shipped to the United
States aboard the Royal Navy ship HMS Reaper, along
with other captured German aircraft, to be used for
testing and evaluation under a USAAF program called
"Operation Sea Horse".
In October 1974, VG+PH was
returned to the Dornier plant in Oberpfaffenhofen,
Germany (then building the Alpha Jet) for a complete
restoration. In 1975, the aircraft was restored by
Dornier employees, many of whom had worked on the
airplane originally. They were amazed to find that the
explosive charges built into the aircraft to blow off
the tail fin and rear propeller in the event of an
emergency were still on the aircraft and active 30
Following restoration the completed Do
335 was displayed at the Hanover, Germany Airshow from
1 May to 9 May 1976. After the air show, the aircraft
was lent to the Deutsches Museum in Munich where it was
on display, without a swastika on the dorsal vertical
tail in accordance with German law until 1986, when it
was shipped back to Silver Hill, Maryland. VG+PH can be
seen today in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the
National Air & Space Museum
The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet, designed by Alexander
Lippisch, was a German rocket-powered fighter aircraft. It is the only
rocket-powered fighter aircraft ever to have been operational. Its
design was revolutionary, and the Me 163 was capable of performance
unrivaled at the time. Messerschmitt test pilot Rudy Opitz in 1944
reached 698 mph. Over 300 aircraft
were built; however, the Komet proved ineffective as a fighter,
having been responsible for the destruction of only about nine Allied
Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet
Walter Rocket Engine
Powered German Me 163
After WWII, Allies
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
No reconnaissance aircraft in history has operated in more
hostile airspace or with such complete impunity than the SR-71
Blackbird. It is the fastest aircraft propelled by air-breathing
On March 6, 1990, the service career of one Lockheed SR-71A
Blackbird ended with a record-setting flight. This special airplane
bore Air Force serial number 64-17972. Lt. Col. Ed Yeilding and his
RSO, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Vida, flew this aircraft from Los
Angeles to Washington D.C. in 1 hour, 4 minutes, and 20 seconds,
averaging a speed of 3,418 kph (2,124 mph). At the conclusion of the
flight, '972 landed at Dulles International Airport and taxied into
the custody of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
ST-71, engine exhaust
North American F-86A Sabre
America's first swept-wing jet fighter, the F-86 Sabre joined the
ranks of great fighter aircraft during combat operations high above
the Yalu River in Korea. Even though they could not pursue the enemy
across the Chinese border, Sabre pilots established an impressive
shoot-down advantage against enemy MiGs. Sabre designers capitalized
on captured German aerodynamic data, which showed that swept wings
delayed air compressibility effects encountered at high subsonic
airspeeds. Swept-wing aircraft could therefore be controlled at much
higher speeds than similar straight-wing aircraft.
This F-86A saw combat against MiG-15s during the Korean War. It flew
most of its missions from Kimpo Air Base near Seoul and bears the
markings of the 4th Fighter Wing, the first F-86 unit in Korea.
McDonnell F-45 Phantom II "Sageburner"
Some aircraft are remembered for the large number produced,
others for their length of time in service, and others for their
ability to perform their mission. When one aircraft is known to be one
of the leaders in all three categories, it stands out among others.
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is such an aircraft.
During the period 1959 to 1969, the F4H and its derivatives
established many altitude and speed records. Like the F-4B, the F-4C
had no built-in gun but carried Sparrow missiles as its primary attack
weapon. The F-4J was the last fighter version to be placed in quantity
production for the US Navy and Marine Corps.
In 1968 the Navy chose the F-4J for its "Blue Angels" flight
demonstration team and in 1969 the USAF chose the F-4E for its
"Thunderbird" team. England, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Australia,
Israel, Japan, Greece, Turkey, and West Germany have purchased the
F-4. The F-4E was the model preferred by overseas air forces.
In 1961, as part of the commemoration of 50 years of Naval Aviation,
the Navy sponsored a project known as Sageburner. This project was
designed to set new speed records at low altitudes flying F-4A
Phantoms (F4H-1). On May 18, the initial attempt ended in tragedy when
Commander J. L. Felsman was killed when pitch dampener failure led to
pilot-induced oscillations (PIO), causing his Phantom to break up in
flight and explode. The second attempt to set a new low-altitude speed
record succeeded on August 28, 1961, when Lt. Huntington Hardisty
(pilot) and Lt. Earl De Esch (RIO) flew F4H-1F BuNo 145307 at an
average speed of 902.760 mph over a 3 km low-altitude course at the
White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The maximum altitude reached
during this flight was only 125 feet, fully living up to the name of
the project-Sageburner. The F-4A (BuNo 145307) was later turned over
to the National Air and Space Museum and is preserved in storage at
the Paul Garber Restoration Facility at Suitland, Maryland.
Vought F-8G Crusader
The F8U Crusader was the first carrier-based jet fighter to
exceed 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) per hour. Its variable-incidence
wing, which could elevate up to seven degrees in the front while
rotating about its rear spar, helped improve the aircraft's flight
characteristics at slow speeds and increase pilot visibility for
takeoff and landing. Its folding outer wing tips facilitated storage
on aircraft carriers. Improvements were made to the engines and radar,
and ventral fins were added under the tail for increased directional
stability. Of the 1,261 Crusaders built, 73 were modified as RF-8G
This RF-8G was the last operational Navy F-8. Delivered as an
F8U-1P, it spent its first seven years with the Marine Corps and flew
400 combat hours in Southeast Asia. Its career total of 7,475.2 flight
hours is the most of any U.S. Navy Crusader built.
Locheed Martin X-35B Joint Strike Fighter
This aircraft is the first X-35 ever built. It was originally the
X-35A and was modified to include the lift-fan engine for testing of
the STOVL concept. Among its many test records, this aircraft was the
first in history to achieve a short takeoff, level supersonic dash,
and vertical landing in a single flight. It is also the first aircraft
to fly using a shaft-driven lift-fan propulsion system. The X-35B
flight test program was one of the shortest, most effective in
history, lasting from June 23, 2001 to August 6, 2001.
Locheed Martin X-35B STOVL Propulsion System
Grumman F-14D(R) Tomcat
The National Air and Space Museum's Tomcat (BuNo. 159610) was
built as an F-14A-85-GR and was one of the few Tomcats that was
modified as an F-14D(R) in the early 1990s. It is credited with one
MiG kill which was earned on January 4, 1989, near the coast of Libya.
On January 4, 1989, near the Libyan coast, Two VF-32 F-14As flying CAP
from the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) are alerted to a pair of Libyan
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 Floggers. The MiG-23s had taken off from Al
Bumbaw Airfield near Tobruk. The F-14s locked the MiGs with their
powerful AWG-9 radar. Normally such a radar lock resulted in the MiGs
retreating back to Libya--not this tme. The Tomcats were threatened by
the AA-7 Apex missile-carrying Floggers and were cleared to engage the
MiGs. During a lengthy six- to eight-minute air battle, the MiGs
continued to threaten the Tomcats and finally, after several attempts
to evade the MiG radar threat, the incoming pair of MiG-23s were
declared hostile and the F-14 crews were cleared to engage. The crew
of the lead F-14A, AC202 fired an AIM-7 Sparrow missile which did not
stike its target, while the second F-14A's, AC207 (BuNo. 159610) AIM-7
found its target destroying one of the MiG-23s. The lead F-14
re-engaged the remaining MiG-23 firing an AIM-9 Sidewinder
heat-seeking missile which detonated in the tailpipe of the Flogger.
Both MiG pilots ejected safely from their destroyed aircraft.
North American F-100D Super Sabre
The F-100D was widely used in Vietnam. A typical mission found
the F-100D approaching the target at very low altitude at
approximately 500 mph. The pilot would then elevate the nose of the
aircraft by using a 4G pull up. Partway into the "toss" maneuver, the
computer would automatically release the bomb.
The F-100D was equipped with a Minneapolis-Honeywell MB-3
automatic pilot. This device provided the capability to allow the
pilot to work with both hands on maps reading or weapons arming while
the F-100D flew itself to the target. While flying in formation with
other aircraft, the autopilot was not used. By the early 'sixties, the
F-100D had been subjected to so many in-service modifications to
correct its obvious deficiencies that no two F-100Ds were identical.
Over five hundred were lost in accidents between mid-1956 and
mid-1970, far more than were lost in combat in Vietnam.
Republic F-105D Thunderchief
The F-105 was designed as a supersonic, single-seat,
fighter-bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons or heavy bomb loads
at supersonic speeds. The F-105D variant was an all-weather
fighter-bomber version, fitted with mono-pulse and Doppler radar for
night or bad weather operations. The original weapons bay, designed
for nuclear stores, was sealed and fitted with additional fuel tanks.
Bombs were carried on multiple weapons racks on the centerline of the
fuselage, and on wing pylons. The aircraft was fitted with a
retractable in-flight refueling probe. The first F-105D flew on 9 June
1959 and 610 F-105Ds were eventually built.
This aircraft has served in several F-105 units around the world and
is restored to its 1967 Vietnam-era 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, 421st
Tactical Fighter Squadron camouflage as it flew during its assignment
to Korat RTAB, Thailand. This jet also was briefly assigned to the 355
TFW located at Takhli RTAB in 1968. After this "Thud" finished its
combat tour-which certainly included missions supporting Operation
"Rolling Thunder," "Steel Tiger," and "Barrel Roll"-it returned
stateside and began more than a decade assigned to the District of
Columbia Air National Guard and was transferred to the Air and Space
Museum in late 1981.
After WWII, Russian
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15bis "Fagot B"
Arch rival to the U.S. F-86 in Korea, the MiG-15 shocked the West
with its capabilities. The Soviets designed the aircraft in 1946 to
answer an urgent need for a high-altitude day interceptor. It first
flew in late 1947. The MiG-15 was the first Soviet jet to benefit from
the British sale to Russia of the new Rolls Royce Nene and Derwent jet
engines, which the Soviets immediately copied and refined. The
resulting RD-500, Klimov RD-45, and modified VK-1 engines gave a
powerful boost to Soviet jet technology.
The MiG-15 featured the first production swept wing, pressurized
cockpit, and ejection seat on a Soviet aircraft. Although Mikoyan and
Gurevich were aware of German turbojet and swept-wing work, this
design was wholly Russian, except for the engine. This MiG-15bis is a
Chinese Ji-2 modification. The Smithsonian acquired it in 1985.
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21F "Fishbed C"
The MiG-21 was the Soviet Union's first truly modern,
second-generation jet fighter. Testing began in 1956, and the first
version entered service in 1960 as the MiG-21F-13. Soviet designers
developed a unique "tailed delta" configuration with a very thin delta
wing, which gave the aircraft maneuverability, high speed, good
medium-altitude performance, and adequate takeoff and landing
The MiG-21 became the standard Soviet clear-air interceptor. With
the addition of radar, more powerful engines, and other modifications,
it became a multi-role fighter. More than 6,000 MiG-21s of 12 types
were flown by over three dozen nations. This MiG-21F-13 was displayed
in a Soviet military hardware exhibit at Bolling Air Force Base,
Maryland, as part of a "Soviet Awareness" training program. Its
service history remains unknown.
The Sukhoi Design Bureau, makers of Soviet and Russian military
aircraft, designed the Su-26 in 1983 for unlimited aerobatic
competition. The Su-26M is made of more than 50 percent composite
materials and has a special symmetrical wing section and arched
cantilever titanium landing gear. It was designed to handle loads from
+12 Gs to -10 Gs and is a superior aircraft for the most highly
skilled pilot. It can perform spectacular gyroscopic maneuvers and
quick, multiple snap rolls, and can nearly hover from its propeller.
Soviet pilots flew Su 26Ms to multiple aerobatic titles.
This Su-26M was built in 1990 and was originally painted in the
unique "Russian purple" color. The Soviet National Aerobatic team flew
222 flights in the aircraft in 1990 and 1991. U.S. aerobatic pilot
Gerry Molidor bought it in 1998 and flew it in advanced and unlimited
competition until 2001.
Loon Missile JB-2
The Loon, also called the JB-2 or KUW-1, was an American copy of
the German pulsejet-powered V-1 or "Buzz Bomb" of World War II. It was
designed to carry a 2,200-pound high explosive warhead to a range of
150 miles and could be launched from the ground, ships, or aircraft.
The air-breathing pulsejet motor is the long tube at the rear.
The development of the Loon came too late for use in World War II, and
it was not used in combat. However, it provided invaluable experience
to U.S. Navy and Army Air Force (and later, Air Force) personnel in
the handling of missiles. The Loon was cancelled in 1950. This object
was donated to the Smithsonian in 1965 by the U.S. Naval Supply
AGM-86A Cruise Missile
This is the AGM-86A, the first version of the U.S. Air Force's
air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) and built by Boeing. Launched from
B-52 bombers, the missile had a nuclear warhead, a turbofan jet
engine, a range of approximately 2,400 km (1,500 miles), and two
navigation systems that enabled it to fly close to the ground making
it difficult for enemy radars to pick up. First deployed in 1982, some
of the missiles began to be converted in 1986 to the AGM-86C with a
conventional warhead and a Global Positioning System-aided navigation
system. This missile was the second flight model tested and was
transferred to NASM by the U.S. Air Force in 1982.
This is the Styx, a surface-to-surface, anti-ship missile that
became operational with the former Soviet Navy in 1958. A solid-fuel
booster (not shown here) launched the missile, and a built-in rocket
engine sustained its flight. It had a range of about 26 miles.
The Soviet Union supplied its allies with Styx missiles. An
Egyptian Styx sank the Israeli destroyer Eilat during the Six-Day War
in 1967. They were also used during the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars
and during conflicts between India and Pakistan. The People's Republic
of China produced its own versions of the Styx. This object was
donated to the Smithsonian in 1995 by the U.S. Air Force.
This is the Atoll, an air-to-air missile of the former Soviet
Union. Atoll is the NATO code name for the Soviet K-13, a copy of the
U.S. Sidewinder air-to-air, heat-seeking missile. Atoll originated in
1958, when a Sidewinder fired from a Taiwanese F-86 fighter in the
Taiwan Strait lodged in an aircraft of the People's Republic of China
but did not detonate.
China recovered the missile intact and turned it over to the
Soviet Union, which copied the design, mass-produced the missile, and
exported Atolls to its client states. The Atoll has the same basic
dimensions as the Sidewinder but has been modified over the years and
is still in use. This object was donated to the Smithsonian in 1993 by
the U.S. Air Force.
This is a Sidewinder air-to-air missile, also designated AIM-9E.
The blue stripe indicates it was a training model. The Sidewinder has
been one of the most successful short-range, air-to-air missiles and
was the first heat-seeking guided missile to become operational.
Many models have been produced since the mid-1950s. A variety of
aircraft have carried Sidewinders, and variants have been adopted by
about 40 countries. They have been used extensively in combat,
including the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. This object was donated
to the Smithsonian in 2003 by the U.S. Air Force Museum.
Space Shuttle Discovery
Space Shuttle Discovery
Space Shuttle Discovery
Space Shuttle Discovery
Space Shuttle Discovery
Apollo Boilerplate Command Module
As part of the Apollo program, a number of so-called
"boilerplate" (BP) command modules were constructed to undergo various
tests and to serve as training vehicles for astronauts and other
mission crew members. BP 1102A is constructed of aluminum, with its
sidewalls painted with a bronze epoxy paint to simulate the look of a
real Apollo Command module after splashdown. It was fitted with an
actual Command Module hatch. The initial use of BP1102A was as the
water egress trainer for all Apollo flights, including by the crew of
Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission. As such, it was fitted
with actual or mock-up interior components and used by astronauts to
practice routine and emergency exits from the spacecraft.
Subsequently, the interior was set up to be configured either as
Apollo/Soyuz or a five-man rescue vehicle as once proposed for Skylab
so that astronauts could train for those missions. It was finally
transferred from NASA to the Smithsonian in 1977 and is displayed now
at the Hazy Center with the flotation collar and bags that were
attached to Columbia at the end of its historic mission.