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Jul
10

New Smithsonian Center is a “Must See”

GlassPilotDestinations

Flying Destination: Smithsonian Air & Space Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
Airports: KHEF - Manassas, VA, KJYO – Leesburg, VA, KIAD – Dulles International
Activities: Simply the most amazing Aviation Museum
Comments: A must see destination for all aviators with fun for the whole family.

Many pilots are familiar with the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum at the main Smithsonian museum on the Washington DC mall. However, I find that many pilots are not yet aware of or have not been to the massive new expansion to this amazing museum that was added.

In December of 2003 the Smithsonian opened the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport as a major new addition to their Air & Space Museum on the Washington DC mall. This new facility is nothing short of astounding and if you are one of us that is smitten with aviation it is simply a must see destination.

Smithsonian Air & Space Udvar-Hazy Center

The location of the new center is just south west of the final approach for runway 1R at Dulles. This adds to the entertainment of the center as large jets are typically landing overhead as you park your car and head in to the modern entrance.

Once inside you’ll simply be amazed. It is not just the volume of aircraft included but the scope that covers literally almost every famous aircraft from the J3 Cub to the SR71 Blackbird, SST and Space Shuttle and everything in between.

Entrance to the center is only $12 per car load. There is an IMAX theater that also is showing interesting and impressive films. Each time I’ve been I’ve not passed up the chance to enjoy an IMAX experience and I’ve never been disappointed by one yet. There are full motion simulators of several varieties you can fly and a control tower with air traffic control education exhibits.

Since the center is located about 20 miles from Leesburg airport to the north or 18 miles to Manassas Airport to the south, pilots have excellent choices for the type of airport they’d like to use and how they’d like to organize their visit. It’s very easy to land at either of these GA friendly airports, grab a car and be to the center in about a half hour.

If you are happy operating into the KIAD environment then that is an option. Make sure you check landing fees at KIAD as part of your planning. Neither Leesburg or Manassas has landing fees and access is quite easy. Manassas also has an Amtrak station that can take you into downtown DC if you want to add that to your trip but don’t want to drive into downtown. You can check schedules and prices at the Amtrak site. Station IDs are: Manassas (MSS) and Washington DC (WAS). If you’ve got the whole family along it will likely be less expensive to get the rental car and drive in the about 40 miles headed east on Route 66.

So, whether you make it a day trip to fly in and visit just the new Udvar-Hazy Center or an extended weekend that includes a run into DC, you’ll be glad you put this on your must see list. You can of course spend all day in the Center but if you are on the day trip plan I would suggest you reserve at least 4 hours for the visit to do it the minimum justice it deserves!

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