A staff post by a member of the Vast Hogewash Research Organization, this is a review and personal commentary inspired by a visit to The Museum of Flight in Seattle.
A Hundred Years
In case you were wondering where all of those amazing Hubble Telescope and Lander photographs came from …
Not so long ago, there were men and women who built things and flew things. They were creators and problem solvers. They were pioneers of a sort. Soon others came after, who built better things and flew better things. And then more came, who sent flying things out into space. Many of them are gone now, but their story is more than a hundred years old. And those pictures are but one tiny part of their massive legacy. (Left: Wright Brothers)
History, and Then Some
Nestled in an unassumming location near the Seattle International Airport, The Museum of Flight takes you back to the very beginning, where flying machines were made of wood and computers were not yet inklings of the imagination. Its prized historical building, The Red Barn, is the starting point of the Museum’s exhibits, where patrons can learn about the birth of flight. Did you know that the Wright brothers had a sister, who not only financed and promoted their planes, but flew with them as well? (Right: The Red Barn)
Next, you can actually lay eyes on the Caproni, the world’s first fighter plane. As you walk the halls of the Personal Courage Wing, an unparalleled collection of WWI and WWII planes are on display. Guiding you through history, this section of the museum lays out in detail the historical contribution that flight and man have made to those two war efforts and to society as a whole. (Below: Caproni Ca.20)
As you enter into The Great Gallery, you are greeted with a feast for your eyes. Various aircraft are suspended from the rafters as if in flight. The rest are parked on the gallery floor for the patron to view up close. The fastest plane ever built, The Blackbird, resides in this section of the building. Don’t miss it. The Lear Gallery, which houses part of the space exhibition is located just off the side of this unbelievable room. (Below: SR-71 Blackbird)
The Memorial Bridge takes you across the street to the modern-day; and to the second part of the Museum of Flight where you can view more of the space exhibition as well as the Air Park. The Air Park allows you to board the museum’s Air Force One (SAM 970). It also houses one of the retired Concordes along with various other modern commercial aircraft, many of which can be toured. The Museum of Flight also has several in-house theaters, cockpits to sit in and working flight simulators.
Out in the World
As we consider the impact flight has had on our world, few young people remember during the first Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein blackened the sky by setting fire to the oil wells in Kuwait. It took almost a year to finally cap the last of more than 600 rigs. In what became a rather popular “method” of putting out the burning oil wells, a Hungarian team mounted two MIG-21 jet turbine engines onto a tank and injected water through them. While somewhat unorthodox, it emphasizes the wide-ranging applications the aerospace industry has on real-world conditions. That “method” is now an accepted technique for firefighters.
Another little known fact about the aerospace industry, involves automotive racing. High performance vehicles are built differently than the average car in order to deal with the stress of high speeds. Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS), or space transports, are built differently as well, to deal with the stress of space. Interestingly, this technology can translate to the high performance automotive industry.
Aerospace advancements have also affected areas such as information technology, medicine, fuel conservation, environmental remediation, nanotechnology, and composite manufacturing. The list of historical contributions that flight and aerospace have made to the world goes on and on.
The Privatization of Space
And yet, government funding for space exploration is drying up. Fortunately, the private sector has grabbed the ring. Organizations like Boeing and Lockheed Martin are still the leaders in the military and commercial flight market. However, it’s the smaller, start-up companies like SpaceX and XCOR who are picking up the mantle for space transport and exploration. In the end, what’s good for XCOR and SpaceX will ultimately be good for everyone, including Boeing and Lockheed. Perhaps, this is the way it should be. In truth, the only material difference between the founders of XCOR and the Wright family is altitude. Pioneers, all of them. (Left: McDonnell Mercury Capsule)
The Patterico Prioritas
Patrick Frey of Patterico’s Pontifications, recently suggested that we reconsider some of our financial choices. Stop purchasing products that don’t serve us and invest that money in things that do. I hope that you consider The Museum of Flight as a candidate. If you can’t go in person, then take yourself or your kids to the site and peruse the collections of aircraft. Learn about them and their relationship to our history. If you’re so inclined, spend your newspaper or coffee money there instead.
Because, while our children are looking into their iPads, consider why, as a society, we aren’t encouraging them to look into aerospace engineering. As far-reaching as the implications this field has upon future technology in so many areas, we can little afford to ignore it any longer.
It’s time to remember, once these things were made of wood. Because, somewhere inside us all, is a rocket scientist and that spark begins at air shows. That flame is lit in buildings located in unassuming places like The Museum of Flight. You see, it isn’t just about preserving gliders and jets. It’s about inspiring the next generation of creators and problem solvers. It’s about finding that next generation of pioneers … of a sort.
Surely that’s worth an hour with the kids and the price of coffee.
*All photographs with the exception of the Wright Brothers, courtesy of The Museum of Flight.