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Air and Space Museum Annex is on the Wing

August 6, 2002

<bt>The National Air and Space Museum Annex under construction in Chantilly will open in December 2003. "For aviators, this is Mecca," said Gen. John R. "Jack" Dailey, the museum's director. "This is the national collection, and it cannot be matched anywhere in the world."

Being built off Route 50 west, the $311 million annex is on a 176.5-acre site on the south side of Dulles International Airport. Main access will be via Barnsfield Road — a new, full-cloverleaf interchange just beginning construction from Route 28, just south of Dulles' gate 4.

Groundbreaking for the 760,000-square-foot annex was in October 2000, and site preparation began last June. It will be called the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, after the wealthy California businessman who pledged $65 million toward its construction.

It will display the historically significant aircraft that are currently too large to house and share with the viewing public. The "Enola Gay" will be the first to arrive; it will come in pieces in early 2003 and be reassembled.

Also among the 200 aircraft on display in the new facility will be a B-29 bomber, the "Enola Gay," the Hawker Hurricane, an F-4 Phantom jet, the B-17 "Swoose," a Lockheed Lightning, a Grumman Hellcat, Skylab modules, the space shuttle "Enterprise," a B-25 fighter plane, a C-130 Hercules and the SR-71 Blackbird Super Constellation.

Meanwhile, construction is moving right along. Hensel Phelps of Chantilly won the $125 million contract to build the museum’s 421,590-square-foot first phase. It consists of the aviation hangar, plus a space hangar with 117 space artifacts, the Claude Moore Education Center, large-screen IMAX theater, food court, museum stores, visitor-orientation area and observation tower.

When finished, the 10-story aviation hangar will be 300 yards long — the length of three football fields, 240 feet wide and will reach an outside height of 126 feet. Free of columns, it will feature three viewing levels; aircraft will sit on the floor of the main hangar deck and will hang on two other levels.

A four-story walkway will give visitors the sensation of soaring among the aircraft which will be suspended inside the hangar from steel trusses. Interactive devices, videos and 20 flight simulators will further enhance the experience.

The hangar should be totally covered this summer, with doors installed in the fall. The first artifacts should arrive in February 2003. "It's a magnificent facility," said Dailey. "This will be the largest air and space facility in the world."

The tallest structure on the site will be an observation tower. Also planned is an air-traffic control layout. And the education center, below the second-floor entryway, will enable 120 students at a time to study aviation- or technology-related subjects. It will be a classroom/lab complex accessible to 12 million other students via the Internet.