With social distancing becoming a necessity more than a suggestion, people are bound to their homes amidst this pandemic. Airlines have cancelled various flights, and the ones that are running see very few passengers. For flight enthusiasts, virtual travel is the only way to be close to their interests. Thankfully, the Museum of Flight in Seattle has an impressive treasury of detailed airplanes (even a few spacecrafts!) online to browse through.
About the Museum
The largest independent air and space museum, the Museum of Flight boasts over 175 airplanes and spacecrafts. There are various aviation artefacts, photographs and exhibits available on-site. Additionally, a well-stocked library in the museum allows people to gain more information. The permanent location of the museum was inaugurated in 1983 by aviation enthusiasts as a tribute to the history and importance of the industry. They began their journey with smaller exhibits.
The museum ever since has added to its features—the Great Gallery (1987), the Library and Archives Building (2002), the J. Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing, and the Airpark (both in 2004). The museum’s vision is “to be the foremost educational air and space museum in the world”, as mentioned on their website, and inspire and educate others who are interested in the space.
The Virtual Tours
While there are onsite virtual tours as well, one can access their magnificent collection online as well on their website. Panorama images of the cockpit and interiors of the plane, clicked by professional photographer Lyle Jansma, gives the viewer a chance to “step inside” the airplanes.
What Can you View?
There is much to explore through these virtual tours. Some of the highlights include:
Boeing VC-137B “Air Force One”: The museum claims that it is the first Air Force One (presidential jet plane) pilot in the history of the United States of America. The high-speed jet was delivered in 1959, replacing then US President Eisenhower’s plane, the Super-Constellation. The flight contains sophisticated communication technology.
NASA Full Fuselage Trainer: This is a to-scale mock of the space shuttle orbiter. The same was utilised for extra-vehicular activity (EVA) and emergency egress under astronaut training. The spacecraft was located at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Tests to upgrade the shuttles were also done on these mockups.
Concorde: 20 concordes were produced under the collaboration of British and French aerospace companies from 1966 to 1979. They were known for their rapid yet luxurious experiences. The museum’s airplane is called “Alpha Golf”. It has logged over 5,600 takeoffs, and veen set a record from New York City to Seattle in 3 hours, 55 minutes and 12 seconds.
Antonov An-2 Colt: This plane holds the Guinness World Record for the longest production run for any aircraft—45 years. A multi-use durable plane, the Antonov An-2 Colt was originally produced in the then Soviet Union, later continuing production in Ukraine, Poland and China. The plane was donated to the museum by Shane Lundgreen who flew to the North Pole in a commemorative polar flight in 1998.
Boeing 247D: This plane brought upon a new era in the aviation industry. It was the first modern airline and easily exceeded its competitors. It was versatile, easy and economical to operate and manoeuver. The monopoly of these planes was held by United Air Lines, and ultimately pushed Douglas Aircraft to come up with a better aircraft—the Douglas DC-3 (also available for a virtual tour.