Fly­ing Lessons

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the Na­tional Air and Space Mu­seum is host­ing an ex­hibit un­like any that has ap­peared in the Mu­seum be­fore. De­vel­oped by Boe­ing and Ever­green Ex­hi­bi­tions, Above and Be­yond fea­tures 20 in­ter­ac­tive or dy­namic dis­plays that en­gage visi­tors in the many fields of aerospace, from de­sign­ing air­craft to trav­el­ing to Mars (see In the Mu­seum, p. 22). This is a gallery where there are not just things to see—although there are ar­ti­facts and many videos—but things to do. When you plan your visit, you’ll want to bud­get at least a cou­ple of hours in or­der to take in all that is of­fered here.

Be­sides its in­ter­ac­tiv­ity, Above and Be­yond is un­usual in another way. At the same time it teaches our visi­tors about aerospace, we hope it will teach us about our visi­tors. As we be­gin to ren­o­vate our other gal­leries—work we are un­der­tak­ing with a $30 mil­lion gift from Boe­ing—our cu­ra­tors and ex­hibit de­sign­ers are us­ing Above and Be­yond as a test lab to learn about the kinds of ac­tiv­i­ties that are most ef­fec­tive in hold­ing visi­tors’ in­ter­est.

Even as we up­date and trans­form our ex­hibit space, one hall­mark of the Na­tional Air and Space Mu­seum that will not change is the pro­tec­tion and dis­play of au­then­tic ar­ti­facts that played a sig­nif­i­cant role in aerospace history. One of those ar­ti­facts, the sub­ject of this is­sue’s cover story (p. 60), is the Vought F-8 Cru­sader, the first U.S. fighter to fly faster than 1,000 mph.

In 1966, I checked out in the F-8. There was no sim­u­la­tor, and there were no two-seaters. To get the feel of the air­plane, on your first hop, you lined up on the run­way, went into afterburner, and at 60 knots you came out of burner and tried to stop be­fore the end of the run­way.

Ev­ery F-8 pi­lot wanted to earn a thou­sand-mile-an-hour pin, but although the F-8 was an easy air­plane to fly, it wasn’t easy to get it to 1,000 mph. In the F-4, you can get your Mach 2 pin just by adding power and sit­ting there. In the F-8, you had to re­ally work, par­tic­u­larly in the older ones. You climbed to about 43,000 feet, then went into afterburner, which you could use for only five min­utes. Then you started down, ac­cel­er­at­ing, and when you got to 37,000 feet, you eased it back up to about 40,000 feet again. When you came back down the next time, you had to make it, be­cause by then you’d run out of burner time and prob­a­bly out of airspace.

In this is­sue’s fea­ture, you’ll see the patch the F-8 pilots made: “When you’re out of F-8s, you’re out of fight­ers.” A-4 Sky­hawk pilots de­vel­oped a dif­fer­ent patch. It said, “When you’re out of F-8s, it’s no big deal.” I’m glad I don’t have to mod­er­ate that de­bate, but I’m also glad we have an F-8 Cru­sader in the Na­tional Air and Space Mu­seum. You can learn a lot about fighter air­craft by study­ing that one.




Washington, DC Chan­tilly, VA

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