Explore Seattle’s Museum of Flight

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At 11:30am on 8 July 2011, astronaut Sandra Magnus was onboard the space shuttle Atlantis. She and her crewmates, Rex Walheim, Doug Hurley, and Chris Ferguson, were in the final minutes of preparing to fly to the International Space Station. This wasn’t her first trip – Magnus had previously lived on the space station for four and a half months – but this trip was different, and it was bittersweet. This would be the last flight of the Atlantis, and the end of the space shuttle program.

Magnus – like her crewmates on this flight, and the 351 astronauts who had flown on a space shuttle before – trained for this using the NASA Full Fuselage Trainer, a full scale mock-up of the space shuttle. The trainer, which used to be located at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at Johnson Space Center in Houston, now lives at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Visitors to the museum can not only see the trainer but, can even go inside. You can stand in the same space that hundreds of astronauts have stood in before, see the scuff marks where they practiced climbing in and out of the hatch at the top of the flight deck, and even spot the signatures that Magnus and her crewmates, the last team to use the trainer, left in the front wheel well.

Exploring the Fuselage Trainer is a pretty amazing experience. And it’s just one of the things you can see and do at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

The museum, which has a footprint of about 20 acres, is the largest non-profit air and space museum in the world. It has an incredible collection of spacecraft, aircraft, artifacts, and exhibits which trace the history of humankind taking flight.

Ted Huetter, Public Relations Manager at the Museum of Flight, talks about the museum and what kind of aircraft you can find there.

In the museum’s lobby, you can find a 1/10 scale model of the hot air balloon used in the first non-tethered human flight in 1783, as well as the arched, bat-like glider that allowed Otto Lilienthal to fly in 1983, and a replica of the Wright Brothers’ 1902 glider.

The Museum of Flight’s Aviation Pavilion is a 3 acre display that maps the dramatic development of large aircraft and commercial airliners from the 1930s to the present. The exhibit includes:

  • The world’s only presentation of the first Boeing 727, 737 and 747 jets
  • The first jet Air Force One
  • The extremely rare Boeing 247D and Douglas DC-2 airliners from the 1930s
  • The only Concorde on the West Coast
  • The B-17F Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress from WWII
  • The Cold War’s B-47 Stratojet
  • Jet fighters spanning the wars from Korea to the Persian Gulf.

The Red Barn, the birthplace of the Boeing Airplane Company, is also part of the Museum of Flight. The Barn has been restored and houses an exhibition focusing on the life of William E. Boeing and the first two decades of the Boeing Airplane Co.

The Red Barn, the Aviation Pavilion, and the Space Gallery are just three of the six galleries found in this enormous museum. The other galleries include the Great Gallery, which explores the first century of human flight; the Lear Gallery, which currently houses the exhibit Space: Exploring the New Frontier; and the Personal Courage Wing, which highlights the stories of those involved in fighter aviation in World War I and World War II.

The Museum of Flight – this enormous, extensive homage to pioneers in flight – is one Seattle attraction you won’t want to miss.

General admission tickets, as well as tickets for the interactive tours and experiences – including the shuttle trainer tour –  can be purchased at a discount on the museum’s website: museumofflight.org. Tickets can also be purchased at the museum.

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