Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center – Chantilly, Virginia - Atlas Obscura

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Chantilly, Virginia

At Washington's Dulles Airport is a satellite museum (no pun intended) with three quarters of a million square feet of aircraft history. 


At Dulles International Airport is the satellite annex of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. It may be 30 miles away from the Museum’s home in Washington, DC, but the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center holds its own as a collection of some of the museum’s historic air- and spacecraft, like the “Enola Gay” B-29, the Discovery space shuttle, Boeing’s 707 prototype, and the Apollo 11 Mobile Quarantine Facility.

At first glance the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center looks like an air traffic control center, as there is actually an observation deck with views of the Dulles runways and the surrounding countryside. The museum itself is made up of giant hangars with small, medium, large and extra-large aircraft hanging from the ceiling, and elevated walkways to get better views. Thanks to such close proximity to the displays, you get a true sense of just how big some of these craft are.

Not everything in the center can fly on its own, including the Mobile Quarantine Facility. Converted from an Airstream trailer, the “MQF” held the Apollo 11 astronauts in quarantine for three weeks after their return from the Moon to make sure they didn’t bring back any lunar pathogens. The MQF was big enough to also accommodate a doctor and someone to do the cooking for the three space travelers.

The flight milestones that are marked at the Udvar-Hazy Center range from early days of ballooning to the Enola Gay (the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima), from a piece of fabric salvaged from the Hindenburg disaster to an Air France Concorde SST. Add in a World War I Cauldron, a Gemini space capsule, and the Close Encounters of the Third Kind mothership model (to name only a few), and they’ve got the history of flight pretty well covered. 

Know Before You Go

Just south of Dulles Airport off Sully Rd (Rt. 28), exit for "Air and Space Parkway."

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