Ten years ago on December 15 the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center opened in Chantilly, Virginia, near the Washington Dulles International Airport. It coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight. Festivities leading up to the public opening day included a "Salute to Military Aviation Veterans," an opening celebration gala, and the dedication.
Part of the National Air and Space Museum, it serves as the companion facility to the museum on the Mall. Its two hangars, the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar and the Boeing Aviation Hangar, amounts to 760,000 square feet. While the museum on the Mall can only display about 10 percent of the collections at a time, the immense Udvar-Hazy Center allows 80 percent of the collection to be on view.
These two facilities present the largest collection of aviation and space artifacts in the world. Exhibition areas feature such topics from general aviation to modern military aviation to human spaceflight. It also has classrooms, an IMAX theater, and observation tower. Various artifacts include the space shuttle Discovery, a Concorde, and the restored Enola Gay.
The Center is named after donor Steven Udvar-Hazy, now chief executive officer of Air Lease Corp., who had pledged a total of $65 million for the project. Udvar-Hazy came to the United States with his family in 1958 as they fled Soviet-occupied Hungary. He would go on to co-found International Lease Finance Corp. while a student at UCLA. The successful aviation business leader wanted to give back to America with his donation to the Smithsonian. Congress had mandated that only non-federal funds be used for the construction.
"I'm thrilled to have the National Air and Space Museum's companion facility named in my honor. I know this new museum will impart to millions of children the same love for aviation that I have, and it will inspire future generations," Udvar-Hazy said in 2000.
The architectural firm HKO (formerly Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum) designed the National Air and Space Museum on the Mall, and it also was selected to create the new facility. Built in two phases the cost was estimated at $311 million to complete.
This seems like a fitting time to share some of the digital files that we have in the Archives about the opening of this facility. This includes documentation leading up to the opening, plans for the objects and construction issues, as well as images of the dedication and opening ceremonies.
- Udvar-Hazy Center, National Air and Space Museum
- Press release - National Air and Space Museum Opens the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on December 15, 2003, National Air and Space Museum
- Accession 07-183 - National Air and Space Museum, National Air and Space Society, Event Records, 1996-2006, Smithsonian Institution Archives