NASM’s New General Aviation Gallery Moves to Installation Mode

The new Thomas W. Haas “We All Fly” gallery promotes general aviation. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space Museum is undergoing a massive multi-year renovation project that will see all 23 exhibitions being completely reimagined and the addition of new presentation spaces and attractions.

The magnitude of the NASM project, started in 2018, is revealed in this detailed Flickr photo gallery.

The NASM said the transformation of the museum “represents an unprecedented moment in the conservation and preservation of thousands of artifacts, as well as a remarkable evolution of the museum’s immersive experience, with 23 galleries and spaces being reimagined for immersive learning.”

In all, there will be 1,400 new objects on display and more than 5,200 artifacts moved and preserved when galleries start to open in 2022.

‘We All Fly’

One of the most exciting additions to the NASM will be the Thomas W. Haas “We All Fly” gallery, a new exhibit space devoted to general aviation.

“We have moved into installation mode in the new Haas GA gallery,” said Dorothy Cochrane, NASM’s curator, general aviation/aeronautics department. “And one of the first airplanes to be suspended was Jerrie Mock’s 1953 Cessna 180, N1538C, or just ‘Charlie’ to people who know the story about her historic solo around-the-world flight in 1964. This aircraft is, of course, just one small but integral part of the discussion on general aviation, what it is, and how it affects our daily lives. We want people to know that general aviation supports rescue, firefighting, food supply, environmental work, health, local economies, as well as private and business transportation.”

Cochrane said the new Haas GA gallery will include artifacts from sport, private, business, humanitarian, and utility aviation. “With the Haas Gallery,” Cochran said, “we are encouraging people to understand general aviation and join in either as casual airshow audiences, as pilots, or in a variety of professions and activities.”

Seven aircraft support this education opportunity, including:

  • The oldest existing Lear Jet
  • Sean D. Tucker’s Challenger III
  • A Cirrus SR22

“Besides Jerrie Mock, I talk about Jerrie Cobb, the Orbis Flying Eye Hospital, golfer and pilot Arnold Palmer, and much more,” Cochrane said. “There will be audio/visual elements and computer interactives that engage people to learn about and join in GA.”

A new exhibit space tells the Wright Brothers story and features the Wright Flyer. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Another addition coming to the NASM through the renovation project is a new Wright Brothers exhibition that will provide visitors with unprecedented access to the iconic 1903 Wright Flyer.

Wall panels will detail the Wright Brothers’ story of invention and innovation and the exhibit will feature bronze statues of the brothers. Visitors will step beyond the panels for the “reveal” of the Wright Flyer at the center of the space, giving them a much closer look at what many consider to be the most important aviation artifact in the NASM collection.

The renovation project has been partially funded by $250 million raised from business leaders and the aerospace industry, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who donated $200 million. A portion of the Bezos gift—$70 million—is earmarked for the renovation project, with the remaining $130 million to be used to launch a new education center at the NASM.

Other donors include:

  • Textron Aviation
  • The Thomas W. Haas Foundation
  • The Boeing Company
  • Raytheon Technologies
  • Kenneth C. Griffin
  • The Hillside Foundation
  • Kislak Family Foundation
  • Plus several major airlines and additional donors.

The NASM is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. in Washington, D.C., while the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Virginia, near Washington Dulles International Airport.

For more information about how the museum is transforming all of its exhibitions and revitalizing the building visit the NASM website.

Dan Pimentel is an instrument-rated private pilot and former airplane owner who has been flying since 1996. As an aviation journalist and photographer, he has covered all aspects of the general and business aviation communities for a long list of major aviation magazines, newspapers and websites. He has never met a flying machine that he didn’t like, and has written about his love of aviation for years on his Airplanista blog. For 10 years until 2019, he hosted the popular ‘Oshbash’ social media meetup events at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

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