Like many parts of the state of Virginia, Fairfax County is rich in historical culture and the town of Centreville is no exception with many visitors flocking to its museums and related tourist attractions every year. As well as monuments and battle sites relating to the Civil War and those pre-dating the American War of Independence, there is also the Cold War Museum which focuses on a more recent period in history and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Centre which is dedicated to the country’s aviation and space exploration developments over the decades. This is part of Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and can be found not far from the town in Chantilly, close to Dulles international Airport.
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Centre is a magnificent architectural structure that was designed by Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum – the same architects who designed the National Air and Space Museum building – and the building took fifteen years to complete. This facility’s creation was thanks to a US$65 million gift to the Smithsonian Institution from Hungarian immigrant Steven F. Udvar-Hazy who was also the co-founder of a major aircraft leasing corporation. It now covers over 760,000 square feet, with exhibition areas encompass two large hangars, the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower which provides an aerial view onto the adjacent runways at the airport – the museum has a connecting taxiway that runs between the two – and an IMAX theatre. Visitors to the museum will find an abundant collection of aviation and spacecraft artifacts, including the Gemini VII space capsule, a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft, an Air France Concorde supersonic airliner, a Redstone Rocket and the only Bell XV-15 experimental tilt rotor craft that is still in existence. Phase II of the project, began in 2008 and was due for completion in 2013. All large exhibits that could not fit in the existing National Air and Space Museum’s building on the National Mall, such as the controversial Enola Gay, Boeing B-29 – that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan – can be found here at the Udvar-Hazy Centre.
Centreville is only around 20 miles from Washington D.C so if this subject is of interest to you it is worth paying a visit to the National Air and Space Museum in the capitol itself. This is home to the world’s largest collection of aircraft and spacecraft that have made history throughout the 20th century, since it was first established in 1946 as the National Air Museum. Since 1976 however, the main building – which comprises of a vast exhibition floor space covering161,145 square feet – is now the main attraction for visitors. This is a great day out for families as adults and children of all ages will find a fascinating insight into the history of aviation and spaceflight, that is both interesting and educational as this museum is also a research center for geophysics, terrestrial geology and planetary science too. The nation’s capitol is also home to a many other museums covering a wide range of subjects including several dedicated to the arts, the Marian Koshland Science Museum, the National Geographic Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian.