- Press Release
- Nov 26, 2022
Space Hangar at New National Air and Space Museum Facility to Honor Aerospace Pioneer James S. McDonnell
The space hangar at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum companion
facility in Northern Virginia will be named for aerospace legend James S.
McDonnell, founder of the company that built America’s first manned
The naming of the space history exhibition hall at the museum’s Steven F.
Udvar-Hazy (pronounced OOD-var HAH-zee) Center, under construction at
Washington Dulles International Airport, is in recognition of a $10 million
gift from the JSM Charitable Trust, in conjunction with McDonnell’s sons,
James S. McDonnell III and John F. McDonnell.
The gift will be used to complete the hangar, which will house the space
shuttle Enterprise and some 135 other large space history artifacts plus
hundreds of smaller pieces. The Udvar-Hazy Center will open in December 2003
to mark the 100th anniversary of powered flight.
Museum director Gen. J.R. "Jack" Dailey says it is "an absolute privilege to
have the James S. McDonnell name as part of our new facility because the
gentleman known as ‘Mr. Mac’ helped write so much of the history we
preserve. His accomplishments illustrate the growth of flight in the 20th
Born in 1899, James Smith McDonnell went from an Arkansas boyhood delivering
newspapers by horseback to flying for the Army Air Service Reserve, earning
a degree in physics at Princeton and a graduate degree in aeronautical
engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After putting his
skills to work for several airplane manufacturers and an earlier attempt at
self-employment, he formed McDonnell Aircraft Corp. in St. Louis shortly
before World War II.
McDonnell’s innovations transformed military flight, creating the first U.S.
carrier-based jet fighter; the first twin-rotor, twin-engine helicopter; the
first ramjet helicopter; and the first convertiplane, which lifted
vertically by rotor and flew forward by pusher propeller. With reliable
designs like that of the supersonic F-4 Phantom II, McDonnell Aircraft
became the world’s leading producer of jet fighters.
In the race to put a human in space and eventually on the moon, NASA chose
McDonnell to build the Project Mercury spacecraft flown by America’s
original astronauts. After the first U.S. orbital mission, John Glenn told
the McDonnell team: "Your hearts were in this." Following the six solo
Mercury flights, McDonnell supplied the spacecraft used for the 10 two-man
missions of Project Gemini, which carried out America’s first spacewalks and
McDonnell Aircraft merged with Douglas Aircraft Corp. in 1967, bringing
together the largest employer in Missouri with the largest in California.
Under James McDonnell’s leadership, the McDonnell Douglas Corp. rolled out,
among other aircraft, the DC-10 jetliner and the F-15 and F-18 fighters. The
company also made the third stage of the Saturn V rocket that took men to
the moon, built Skylab, America’s first space station, and was a major
subcontractor for development of the Space Shuttle orbiter.
James S. McDonnell died in 1980. During his lifetime he received some of the
highest honors in the aerospace field, including the Robert Collier Trophy,
the Guggenheim Medal, the Founders Medal of the National Academy of
Engineering and the NASA Public Service Award.
The James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Udvar-Hazy Center will contain
53,067 square feet of floor space, as well as a mezzanine to provide a
close-up view of artifacts suspended from the 80-foot-high ceiling. In
addition to featuring the Enterprise, used for landing tests in the 1970s,
the hangar will house an unflown Mercury series spacecraft and the Gemini
VII spacecraft, flown by Frank Borman and James Lovell on their two-week
orbital endurance mission in 1965.
The space hangar will be adjacent to the center’s 10-story-high aviation
hanger, which will house a McDonnell F-4S Phantom II and a McDonnell XV-1
Convertiplane, along with more than 200 other aircraft.
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center will allow the public to see the 80 percent
of the Air and Space collection not displayed at the museum’s flagship
building on the National Mall in Washington or on loan. The facility will be
760,057 square feet situated on 176.5 acres.