Visiting the Museum of Flight

When you
first walk into the museum and turn left into the Great Gallery, you are
greeted by a Boeing Model 40B on your right, and to your left you come
face-to-face with an MD-21 Blackbird. There is so much to see it’s hard to know
where to look first.

This museum
is unique in many ways. It has five main sections, and each is beautifully
choreographed to tell the history of a particular decade in aviation. What
makes this museum even more special is the story the individual airplanes tell.

Start with
the 1929 Boeing Model 80A-1, the first airplane to be acquired by the museum.

“There was a Boeing engineer visiting Anchorage, and he drives by the city dump and this plane was in the dump, literally thrown away,” said Ted Huetter, public relations manager of the Museum of Flight. “But he knew that this was unique, probably the last one of its kind, and it turned out to be the last one of its kind. He got together a few of his friends in Seattle, and they decided ‘we’re going to save this thing.’ So, they boxed it up, brought it down here, and rebuilt it. And this became our first airplane on exhibit.”

While you’re
in the Great Gallery taking a look at the Boeing Model 80A-1, make a point to
stop and see the 1935 Lockheed Model 10-E Electra, modeled after Amelia
Earhart’s Model 10.

“It is as
close to Earhart’s Model 10 as possible,” Ted said. “It had the internal gas
tanks, so it doesn’t have the regular interior anymore. It’s got the right
engines. It’s got virtually everything. The only thing added to it to modernize
it is a little bit of modern or 1990s navigation equipment, but it’s just a
beautiful, beautiful airplane that’s rare in its own right, and with the
modifications, it tells a great story about Amelia Earhart and that whole

A glass
display case sitting next to the aircraft is what really makes this a must-see
stop on your checklist. Sitting next to the dog tag of Dan Stringer is the only known surviving piece of the Lockheed Electra
aircraft that Earhart flew on her attempted flight around the world in 1937.

On March 20, 1937, the landing gear of Amelia Earhart’s Electra
collapsed while taking off from Luke Field, Hawaii, for the second leg of her
around-the-world flight.

The placard reads, “Dan W. Stringer was a member of the Army Air Corp,
50th Observation Squadron, based at Luke Field when the crash happened.
Stringer picked up this small piece of the Lockheed Electra as a souvenir and
mailed it to his mother ….”

The first fighter aircraft also lives at this museum, located on the second floor inside the Personal Courage Wing. The 1914 all-original Caproni Ca.20 will take your breath away as you make your way around it.

“This plane stayed on their estate in Italy for 80 years until somehow our curator became friends, and they decided that this should be the permanent home for it,” Ted said. “It’s the oldest plane in our collection, it’s all original, and it still has all the original coverings.”

Similar to EAA’s own museum, the Museum of Flight features many aircraft that had undergone several hours of restoration work by hardworking volunteers. An example of this is the museum’s General Motors FM-2 Wildcat.

“It flew in
the war but after the war, after it was retired, it kind of got knocked around
different displays at a base, and there were halfhearted attempts to restore it
by military groups,” Ted said. “And at one point it was in a playground in a
community around here called White Center, and it was just something for the
kids to crawl around on.”

“When we
finally got it, it was in pretty bad shape,” Ted said. “Really wasn’t an awful
lot of the original airplane left, and about 20 years later we’ve got an
airplane that is just a beautiful restoration and as close to the original
factory airplane as possible. But it took a lot of work from a lot of people,
you know, fabricating new parts, replicating parts that were too far gone to
replace otherwise. And quite a few planes that we have on display have a
similar sort of story. It takes many, many years, a little bit at a time, and a
lot of dedicated people that like working on these things and like building
them and making them.”

Walking into
the Aviation Pavilion, you are immediately met with a 1978 Concorde, “Alpha
Golf.” This is another must-see stop on your tour. Why? On its way to the Museum
of Flight, Alpha Golf set a New York City-to-Seattle speed record of 3 hours,
55 minutes, and 12 seconds. During this flight, it flew supersonic for 1 hour,
34 minutes, and 4 seconds.

beyond the Concorde, you will see an impressive display of a Boeing 707, 787,
and the prototypes of the Boeing 727, 737, and 747.

The Boeing
747 on display at the museum is the first 747 built. It first flew in 1969 and
later served as a test bed for 747 systems and new engine developments for the
Boeing 777 engine program.

Ted said
working at the Museum of Flight is rewarding because he gets to share his
passion of aviation with other like-minded individuals.

“Aside from
the collection, which I never get tired of, it’s quite an experience for the
people that I meet here,” Ted said. “This museum draws a who’s who in the aviation
and space world. Sooner or later they come here. If they’re around, they’ll
show up here. And I oftentimes have the privilege of meeting them or spending
time with them or just having a chat or something. And that’s really special,
because if I were just on my own back at the airfield back home, I might bump
into someone every now and then, but not like this. If it’s in your blood, you’re
going to love it here. There’s just no doubt about it.”

To learn more
about the Museum of Flight, visit

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