Washington DC (yes, again)

JetBlue had a sale on airfare, so we figured, “Why not?” Saturday morning we got on a plane and headed for DC, this time flying into Dulles instead of the more convenient Reagan. We decided that since we were so far out of town already, we might as well visit the Udvar-Hazy and check out all the huge planes. One tip if you go: there’s a shuttle that runs between the UH and Dulles for fifty cents per person, but it doesn’t start running until 11am. We thought we were very smart, arriving at 9:30am, eating a little breakfast at the airport (Yen is now officially a Potbelly Sandwiches fan), and then arriving at UH for opening. Not so fast! We had to take a cab instead, which ran us $14. The plan worked at the end of the day, though we missed the shuttle we intended to catch because apparently the drive is very punctual. So my advice is plan carefully and watch the clock.

Anyway, on to the gratuitous plane photos.

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There are a few super star attractions here. One is the SR-71, the Blackbird. It’s one of the first things you see when you walk through the front door. And you’re constantly reminded that it’s there because all tour groups meet at its tail. All day long, “A free lecture on eating in space will begin in ten minutes. Meet at the tail of the Blackbird.”

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In addition to all of the planes, there’s a nice section of engines. I think they’re really interesting to look at.

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This curious view is standing right in front of the SR-71. See how thin and sleek it is?

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Here’s Yen playing the part of scale for once!

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I just loved this plane. I declared that if elves ever invented planes, this is what they would look like. Yes, I’m rereading LOTR.

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Ok, now I’m back in my role of Scale again. Note the little Skunkworks badge on the tail of the SR-71.

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Yen, as you can see, was entranced. This museum is absolutely the place for him. We got there about 10:30 and ended up staying until about 4:30. He was completely excited and engaged the entire time. Someday I’ll take him to Wright-Patterson and really knock his socks off.

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And now, for the supreme star attraction, the space shuttle¬†Discovery. I have to say I was pretty blown away seeing it in person. I kept looking at it and thinking, “This was in space!” It was also interesting to see all of the little tiles that cover it, the feature that caused so many problems on other models.

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Here’s the back of it, and I am scale.

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Yen is a sleeker, more futuristic scale than I could ever be.

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There’s a neat collection of satellites up above it.

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Here I am looking out into the area where they rehabilitate planes that will one day make it onto the floor.

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This guy is a Komet. It has a rocket engine, and it would scoot up a rail and into the air. Then it had just enough fuel to do a couple of dive-glides at the enemy before it came sailing down again. Hence its neat little wings.

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This is the view from the catwalk above the SR-17.

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Enola Gay. We attended one of the aforementioned lectures (which met at the tail of the Blackbird) about this plane. Very interesting stuff about Project Silverplate, the day of the attack, and so forth. I just love old guys who like to tell stories.

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This is the nose of the Concorde.

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I love this – it’s a personal helicopter. You could strap in after just eight hours of training and buzz around on this thing. The idea is that it’s collapsable and small enough that you and it could drop into enemy territory, then zip around to wherever you’re investigating.

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So many great inventions during the Cold War! This is a flying platform. You would stand on it and it would hover up, staying perfectly flat and stable. To steer and move, you just leaned in the direction you wanted to go while keeping your hands free to man your rifle.

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This is a Horten Flying Wing – or what’s left of it. Yen was awfully excited to see it.

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After we missed our intended shuttle back to Dulles (because we were in a flight simulator…), we headed up to the observation tower to kill some time. I was frankly not too interested in watching planes land after an entire day of looking at planes. But as we started to get on the elevator, one of the volunteers said that an A380 would be arriving from Paris shortly, and we’d be able to see it. Then I was excited.

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For what it’s worth, you’re not supposed to stand on the thing I’m standing on. I feel bad about that.

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There it is! We were just about to give up and wait for the shuttle when it finally appeared. This thing is HUGE!

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After all that, we took the shuttle to Dulles, then a bus to Rosslyn, where our hotel was. Rested up and got ready to meet Yen’s friends for dinner. The last shot of the day is watching a train go in the other direction while we wait.

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