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There's Plenty for the Plane Buff in the
Planes galore, inside
and out, at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Read through this
eleven part series for full information on the attractions,
exhibits and rides you can expect to enjoy.
Built around the (relocated)
original red bard that was the first manufacturing building
belonging to Boeing, and now extending to more than 300,000 sq
ft of indoor exhibit space plus many airplanes parked around the
museum buildings outside as well over a 12 acre campus, the Seattle Museum of Flight
is one of the country's very best and most extensive aviation
They have almost 100 major
exhibits at their Seattle facility, as well as other models and
resources and substantial reference materials for professional
researchers. More items are stored off site or on loan to
Conveniently close to downtown
Seattle and accessible by bus, the Museum of Flight deserves to be
on every Seattle visitor's list of things to do.
The Many Different Aviation
Themed Attractions Around Seattle
Seattle is one of the
birthplaces of the US aviation/aerospace industry, along with
obvious other places such as Kitty Hawk and some not quite so
obvious places such as Wichita.
Whether for this reason or
purely by accidental chance, the greater Puget Sound region has
a treasure trove of aviation themed attractions and activities.
This eleven part series details many of them.
It is probably best that you arrange for the person who is least
interested in airplanes to drive you to the Museum of Flight.
The drive there is itself a fascinating experience, because the
museum is located alongside Boeing Field, an airport that is
surrounded by many large and sometimes mysterious Boeing
buildings for who knows what sorts of classified developmental
You're sure to see some military planes and a good number of
civilian planes too because Boeing tests many of its passenger
jets at Boeing Field before delivering them to customers all
around the world.
The last time I was there I not only had the inaugural flight of
the 747-8 which flew from Paine Field in Everett, around the
region for a while, and then landed at Boeing Field, but also
noticed at least half a dozen 787s impatiently awaiting
certification (but not as impatiently as their future airline
owners) and an RAAF 737 AEW&C plane - and that was what I managed to
observe while doing the driving myself.
When you turn into the entrance road to the museum, you are
confronted with three more planes by the side of the main museum
building, and then when you turn into the parking area, you see
more on the lawn.
The main gallery of the Museum of Flight
has a mixture of planes suspended from the
ceiling, as if in flight, as well as parked
on the ground.
The museum building is an open airy structure, with a vast main
gallery of planes, both parked on the floor and also suspended
from their ceiling as if in flight.
Another view of the main gallery,
including a view of the back of the SR-71
Blackbird (actually a rare M-21 variant with
a D-21 drone on top) and a Learfan 2100 in
the top right.
It is hard to know where to start looking - whether at a
recreation of the Wright Brothers' plane, or at futuristic
planes such as the Learfan 2100 and the amazing SR-71 which
still looks as 'state of the art' today, even though it is
almost 50 years old.
This is the plane, the restoration of
which started the Museum of Flight - a 1929
three engined, 18 passenger, Boeing 80A-1.
As well as the main gallery, there are several other areas.
One is themed with WW1 aviation, another with WW2 aviation, and
part of the former Boeing 'Red Barn' traces the history of
Boeing along with recreating some aspects of the original
In addition to planes, there are all sorts of other things too.
Popular with children are some amazing flight simulators which
can provide full 360 degree motion in all directions, making for
very realistic flight experiences (and giving those with
sensitive stomachs an excellent opportunity to, ahem, loose
Needless to say, these simulator rides cost extra.
Temporary Exhibits Give Everyone a Reason to Return
The museum has at least one temporary exhibit featured at any
given time - my last visit had one called 'Style in the Aisle'
and which featured the changing fashions worn by flight
attendants, together with some fascinating history of their
evolving role on flights.
The museum has various temporary feature
exhibitions, this one being 'Style in the
Aisle' and about flight attendants and their
In addition to special exhibits, the museum often hosts
special events as well, so it pays to check and see if there
might be anything special scheduled while you are in the area.
Mock Control Tower
Jutting out one side of the building is a mock control tower,
made all the more realistic because it looks out onto the main
runway of the moderately busy King County International Airport
(or as it is more colloquially known, 'Boeing Field').
Interesting displays and panels explain the way that modern air
traffic control and air traffic controllers work.
A mock air traffic control tower is a
new addition. The tower overlooks
Boeing Field just like a real tower would.
Still More Planes (and Space Shuttles)
A covered overhead walkway takes you over the busy wide main
road the museum is located on. On the other side is a new
15,000 sq ft building being constructed to house NASA's full
fuselage space shuttle simulator which you'll actually be able
to go inside and walk around.
Outside and unfortunately currently uncovered are some very
On the other side of the road is an open
area with several more planes on display,
including this lovely Concorde which you can
Many people might consider the Concorde to be the most
interesting of these planes. You can actually go inside
the plane and walk from the midships entrance up to the front,
look into the cockpit, and deplane through the forward doorway.
Everyone who gets to see inside a
Concorde is surprised how small the interior
is. This is looking aft from the mid
Other people might prefer to go through an earlier Air Foce
1 - in this case, a specially modified Boeing 707 which was the
first ever jet engined Air Force 1.
The first jet powered 'Air Force 1' - a
specially built 707-120, known as SAM-970.
It acted as Air Force 1 between 1959 - 1962,
and subsequently continued VIP transport
duties until 1996.
Most of us can only guess about what is inside the current
Air Force 1 (a converted 747-200B), and it is interesting to see
the doubtless very much less lavish interior of this very much
The main conference table inside
Who knows what secrets and what negotiations have passed
through the communications equipment on board this plane!
The then classified communications
center inside SAM-970 for secure
communications between the President and the
Other Museum Features
There is an excellent gift shop and a reasonably nice cafeteria
within the museum building.
There are movie theaters that show aviation themed films.
During the summer months, and mainly on weekends, there is often
a local airplane operator offering rides in historic planes from
immediately outside the museum entrance.
The museum is open daily (except for Thanksgiving and
Christmas). AAA members can get a discount off the
The museum is located at 9404 E Marginal Way S, Seattle WA
98108. There is free parking on the grounds of the museum.
If you don't have a car while you are in Seattle, you can take a
Metro bus on
route 124 to get from downtown to the museum (and back
again). It is about a 30 minute bus ride.
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25 March 2011, last update
21 Jul 2020
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.