If you plan to visit the Museum of Flight, please allot yourself plenty of time to see this
museum. It will be worth your time.
The Museum of Flight is a private non-profit air and space museum at King County International Airport (Boeing Field), in the city of Tukwila, south of downtown Seattle, Washington. It was established in 1965 and is fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. As the largest private air and space museum in the world, with over 150 aircraft, it also hosts the largest K-12 educational programs in the world.
The museum attracts over 400,000 visitors every year. The museum serves more than 140,000 students yearly through both its onsite programs: a Challenger Learning Center, an Aviation Learning Center, and a summer camp (ACE), as well as outreach programs that travel throughout Washington and Oregon.
The Museum of Flight can trace its roots back to the Pacific Northwest Aviation Historical Foundation, which was founded in 1965 to recover and restore a 1929 Boeing 80A-1, which had been discovered in a landfill in Anchorage, Alaska. The restoration took place over a 16 year period, and after completion, was put on display as a centerpiece for the museum. In 1968, the name "Museum of Flight" first appeared in use in a 10,000-square-foot facility, rented at the Seattle Center. Planning began at this time for a more permanent structure, and preliminary concepts were drafted.
In 1975, The William E. Boeing Red Barn was acquired for one dollar from the Port of Seattle, which had taken possession of it after Boeing abandoned it during World War II. The 1909 all-wooden Red Barn, the original home of the company, was barged two miles up the Duwamish River to its current location at the southwestern end of Boeing Field. After restoration, the two-story Red Barn was opened to the public in 1983. Through photographs, film, oral histories, and restoration of work stations the exhibits in the Red Barn illustrate how wooden aircraft structure with fabric overlays were manufactured in the early years of aviation and provides a history of aviation development through 1958.
That year a funding campaign was launched, so capital could be raised for construction of the T.A. Wilson Great Gallery. In 1987, then-Vice President George H. W. Bush cut the ribbon to open the facility, with an expansive volume of 3,000,000 cubic feet. The gallery's structure is built in a space frame lattice structure and holds more than 20 hanging aircraft, including a Douglas DC-3 weighing more than nine tons.
The museum's education programs grew significantly with the building of a Challenger Learning Center in 1992. This interactive exhibit allows students to experience a Space Shuttle mission. It includes a mock-up NASA mission control, and experiments from all areas of space research.
Completed in 1994, the 132-seat Wings Cafe and the 250-seat Skyline multipurpose banquet and meeting room increased the museum's footprint to 185,000 square feet. At the same time, one of the museum's most widely recognized and popular artifacts, the Lockheed M-21, a modified Lockheed A-12 Oxcart designed to carry the Lockheed D-21 reconnaissance drones, was placed on the floor at the center of the Great Gallery, after being fully restored.
The first jet-powered Air Force One (1959-62, SAM 970), a Boeing VC-137B, was flown to Boeing Field in 1996. Retired from active service earlier that year, it is on loan from the Air Force Museum. Originally parked on the east side of the museum, it was driven across East Marginal Way and now resides in the museum's Airpark, where it is open to public walkthroughs.
In 1997, the museum opened the first full scale, interactive Air Traffic Control tower exhibit. The tower overlooks the Boeing Field runways, home to one of the thirty busiest airports in the country. The exhibit offers a glimpse into what it is like to be an air traffic controller.
The next major expansion was opened in 2004, with the addition of the J. Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing. North of the Red Barn, the wing has 88,000 square feet of exhibit space on two floors, with more than 25 World War I and World War II aircraft. It also has large collection of model aircraft, including every plane from both wars. Many of these aircraft were from the collection of the Champlin Fighter Museum, formerly in Mesa, Arizona, which closed in 2003.
In June 2007 the Museum opened a new space exhibit: "Space: Exploring the New Frontier", which traces the evolution of space flight from the times of Dr. Robert Goddard to the present and into future commercial spaceflight.
In June 2010, the museum broke ground on a $12 million new building to house a Space Shuttle it hoped to receive from NASA, named the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery. The new building includes multisensory exhibits that emphasize stories from the visionaries, designers, pilots, and crews of the Space Shuttle and other space related missions. The gallery opened to the public in April 2012.
Though the museum did not receive one of the three remaining shuttles, it did receive the Full Fuselage Trainer (FFT), a shuttle mockup that was used to train all Space Shuttle astronauts. Because it is a trainer and not an actual shuttle, certain groups will be allowed to tour its interior. The FFT began arriving in various pieces beginning in 2012. The cockpit and two sections of the payload bay arrived via NASA's Super Guppy.
On its grounds is the Personal Courage Wing (PCW) with 28 World War I and World War II aircraft from several countries including Germany, Russia, and Japan.
The museum maintains a restoration facility at Paine Field in Everett with about 39 ongoing projects including a de Havilland Comet 4 jet airliner, a Jetstar, the Boeing 2707 mockup, an FM-2 Wildcat, among many. A previous project, the only flyable Boeing 247 in existence, is based from the airfield at the restoration center. A restored B-17, currently the only flyable B-17F variant of the B-17 and a B-29 in progress are currently hangared at Boeing Field. The B-17 is displayed seasonally in the summer, on the grass next to the B-47, in front of the Museum's entrance.
Founded in 1985 and open to the public, the museum's library is dedicated to aviation. As of 2011 it contains 66,000 books and subscribes to 100 periodicals. It specializes in aerospace and aviation. Its special collection includes the G S Williams photographic collection, the Peter Bowers photo collection, the DD Hatfield Aviation History collection, the E B Jeppesen Aviation History and Navigation collection, the Fighter Aces Association Archives, the Lear Archives, the Wright Airplane Company Collection, and the Dalhberg military aviation collection.
In September, 2013 Raisbeck Aviation High School (formerly Aviation High School) opened in a new facility directly north of the Museum's Airpark. The school operated by Highline Public Schools as a STEM school with a focus on aviation. The school operates in partnership with the Museum (which owns the land), Boeing, and other members of the local aviation industry. The facility will also be used for the museum's summer education programs when school is not in session.
There are also plans to enclose the Airpark with a roof, covering the currently exposed aircraft from the weather. The roof will span the gap between the high school and the newly built Space Gallery. The cover will also allow aircraft which are seasonally brought out, such as the Museum's B-17 and B-29, to be put permanently on display.
If you visit the Museum, remember to ask about their generous discounts.
10am to 5pm Every Day
Museum of Flight
9404 East Marginal Way S