Press Release

Construction 75 Percent Complete for December 2003 – Opening of National Air and Space Museum Companion Facility

By SpaceRef Editor
November 26, 2002
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Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey, director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and
Space Museum, announced today that construction to open the Steven F.
Udvar-Hazy Center was three-fourths complete heading toward the December
2003 launch of the museum’s companion facility in Northern Virginia.
The center at Washington Dulles International Airport will eventually
present to the public the 80 percent of the national collection not
currently displayed at the museum’s flagship building on the National Mall
in Washington or on loan to other organizations.

Construction of the initial phase of the Udvar-Hazy (pronounced OOD-var
HAH-zee) Center began in June 2001 with thrust blocks formed to support the
10-story arched trusses of the facility’s centerpiece aviation hangar. The
last of the 21 trusses was erected in May of this year; the outer surface
was fully in place by August; the huge hangar doors on the north and south
ends were installed in September; and the pouring of the concrete
floor-nearly three football fields in length-began a month later.

The first phase of the center also includes the James S. McDonnell Space
Hangar, named for the aerospace pioneer; the 164-foot-tall Donald D. Engen
Observation Tower, named for the museum’s late director; the Claude Moore
Education Center, named for the Virginia philanthropist; an IMAX® theater;
and a food court.

Foundation work for the McDonnell Space Hangar began in August 2002. The
tallest piece of steel at the center-for the top of the Engen tower-was
lifted into place on September 25. The theater roof was in place at the
beginning of October. With completion of the first phase of construction,
the facility will encompass 523,000 square feet of space.

A second phase of construction for the Udvar-Hazy Center-including a
restoration hangar, archives, conservation lab, collections processing
facilities and a study collections storage unit- is planned, with the start
date for construction dependent on fund-raising. The entire facility will be
approximately 760,000 square feet. No federal funds are being used to build
the Udvar-Hazy Center.

The architecture alone would draw crowds from all over,” Dailey said, “but
combine this facility with our unparalleled collection and you’ve got an
unbeatable attraction.” The flow of artifacts into the center will begin
early next year and continue beyond opening day in a complicated process of
arranging uniquely shaped and sized objects.

Most of the aircraft and spacecraft will be moved from the museum’s Paul E.
Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility in Suitland, Md. This
includes the museum’s Curtis P-40E Warhawk, the Lockheed 5C Vega Winnie Mae
and the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay. Other artifacts such as the
SR-71 Blackbird will be moved from hangars on the airport grounds. Because
of preparations for the Udvar-Hazy Center, tours of the Garber Facility will
end in March 2003. Reservations for remaining tours can be arranged by
calling (202) 357-1400. Garber opened to the public in 1977.

Two other well-known aircraft destined for the Udvar-Hazy Center-the Boeing
307 Stratoliner, the only surviving example of the first pressurized
commercial airplane, and the Dash Eighty, the original prototype for the 707
jetliner-will be flown to Dulles next summer from storage in Seattle. A
towpath linking a nearby runway to the center has already been paved.

The Udvar-Hazy Center will be the final destination for some 200 aircraft
and 135 large space artifacts. For the December 2003 opening, some 70
airplanes will be in place-more than on display now at the museum on the
Mall. The space shuttle Enterprise, stored at Dulles since 1985, will be
exhibited on opening day as the centerpiece of the McDonnell Space Hangar,
where it will later undergo refurbishment.

Next month at the museum on the Mall, visitors will be able to preview one
of 10 Udvar-Hazy exhibition stations that will provide broad historical
context for the center’s aircraft and large space artifacts. The exhibit
stations will present historic themes using large graphic panels and
customized cases containing uniforms, memorabilia and other smaller pieces
from the national collection. Feedback from previewing the “Pre-1920
Aircraft: When Wings Were New” station will help museum curators and
designers with planning for future center displays at the Udvar-Hazy Center.

The museum’s education office has already received some 400 applications for
volunteer docent positions at the Udvar-Hazy Center. Screening will begin
next February for candidates selected to give tours and welcome visitors.
High school and college students are also being recruited for the Udvar-Hazy
Explainers Program, which will conduct educational demonstrations in the
facility and Northern Virginia community. The education office is also
developing a “Teachers in Residence” pilot program, which will bring in
full-time teachers from local school districts to develop Udvar-Hazy Center
curriculum for classrooms and coordinate field trips to the facility.

The Udvar-Hazy Center is being built by Hensel Phelps Construction Co., an
employee-owned company with headquarters in Greeley, Colo., and its
Mid-Atlantic regional office located in Chantilly, Va. The Smithsonian
awarded the Udvar-Hazy contract to Hensel Phelps in April 2001.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is providing site infrastructure. The Virginia
Department of Transportation is overseeing contracts for site clearing,
roadways, utilities, paving and related work. In addition, VDOT transferred
funding for the project’s wetlands mitigation required by the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers. That work will be overseen by the Smithsonian
Institution at Manassas National Battlefield Park in an exchange for
conversion of wetland areas at the Udvar-Hazy site.

The December 2003 opening of the Udvar-Hazy Center will mark the 100th
anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first powered flight. Also to mark the
centennial of flight, the museum’s building on the Mall will feature a
special exhibition opening in October 2003 titled “The Wright Brothers & The
Invention of the Aerial Age.” For the gallery, the original 1903 Wright
Flyer will be displayed on the ground for the first time since it was
acquired by the Smithsonian in 1948.

The National Air and Space Museum, comprised of the Udvar-Hazy Center and
the museum’s flagship building on the Mall, will be the largest air and
space museum complex in the world. The flagship building is the most popular
museum in the world, attracting more than 9 million visitors each year.
Attendance at the Udvar-Hazy Center is projected at 3 million-4 million
people a year.

SpaceRef staff editor.