Museum of Flight

Coordinates: 47°31′08″N 122°18′00″W / 47.519°N 122.3°W / 47.519; -122.3

The Museum of Flight is a private non-profit air and space museum at King County International Airport/Boeing Field in Tukwila, Washington, south of downtown Seattle. It was established in 1965 and is fully accredited by the American Association of Museums. As the largest private air and space museum in the world, it also hosts the largest K-12 educational programs in the world. The Museum attracts about 500,000 visitors every year. In 2006 it served nearly 120,000 students through both its onsite programs A Challenger Learning Center, an Aviation Learning Center and a summer camp (ACE) and 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 an Anchorage, Alaska landfill. The restoration took place over a 16 year period, and after being completed, 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 from 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 from the Port of Seattle for $1, after they had taken possession of it after Boeing abandoned it in World War II. The Red Barn was barged up the Duwamish River 2 miles, to it's current location at Boeing Field. After restoration, the Red Barn was opened to the public in 1983.

That same 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 on the 3-million-cubic-foot facility. The gallery's structure is build in a space frame lattice structure, which holds more than 20 hanging aircraft, including a Douglas DC-3, which weighs more than nine tons.

The museum's education grew significantly with the building of a Challenger Learning Center in 1992. This interactive exhibit allows student's 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 ambitious new 132 seat Wings Cafe, a 250 seat Skyline multipurpose banquet and meeting room was built, increasing 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 SR-71 Blackbird 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 Air Force One, a Boeing VC-137B was flown to Boeing Field in 1996, after being retired from presidential service that same year, and loaned to the Museum from the U.S. Air Force. It was driven across East Marginal Way, and now resides in the Museum's Airpark, where it is open to public walkthroughs.

A year later, 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 one of an Air Traffic Controller.

Another major expansion was finished in 2004, with the J. Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing. The wing is a 88,000-square-foot building located adjacent to the Great Gallery and Red Barn. It contains more than 25 World War I and World War II aircraft, along with a large collection of model aircraft, containing every plane in both wars .

In June 2010 the museum broke ground on a $12 million new building to house a Space Shuttle it hoped to receive from NASA. The new building will include multisensory exhibits that emphasize stories from the visionaries, designers, pilots, and crews of the Space Shuttle. Though the museum did not receive the shuttle, it did receive a shuttle mockup that was used to train astronauts. Because it is a trainer and not an actual shuttle, people may be able to go inside the shuttle. The new gallery is slated to open in April of 2012.

Aircraft on display

The Museum of Flight has more than 80 aircraft, including:

  • City of Everett, the first flight-worthy Boeing 747 airliner. Its registration number is N7470, and it was named after the city of Everett, Washington. Its first flight was on February 9, 1969.
  • the first presidential jet, VC-137B SAM 970, which served in the presidential fleet from 1959 to 1996 (open for walkthrough)
  • British Airways Concorde number 214, registration G-BOAG, the only Concorde west of the Appalachians (open for walkthrough).
  • a Caproni Ca.20, the world's first fighter plane from World War I. The one on display at the Museum of Flight was the only one ever built.
  • Lockheed D-21 unmanned reconnaissance drone, atop the only surviving M-21 a variant of the Lockheed A-12.
  • the prototype Boeing 737.
  • the second Lockheed Martin/Boeing DarkStar Tier III unmanned vehicle prototype
  • the Gossamer Albatross II human-powered aircraft.
  • one of five Aerocars, automobiles with detachable wings and propeller
  • LearAvia Lear Fan prototype N626BL
  • one of only two remaining airworthy Douglas DC-2s.
  • the only surviving Boeing 80A, flown by Bob Reeve in Alaska.
  • An American Airlines Boeing 727.
  • An ex-Trans-Canada Air Lines Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation located originally at the Toronto Pearson International Airport which was purchased in a controversial transaction in 2005. It is currently on display at the airpark.
  • The Lamson L-106 Alcor, the world's first pressurized sailplane.
Exhibits and Facilities

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.

There is also the "Red Barn", a registered historic site also known as Building No. 105. Built in 1909, the building was used during the early 1900s asBoeing's original manufacturing plant. 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.

In June of 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.

Restoration facility

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, a 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.

Other facilities

The Museum has a library dedicated to aviation that is open to the public. The library contains the Dalhberg military aviation collection and the Jeppesen collection. The library also accepts research requests from the general public.


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