Udvar-Hazy Center Lands $15 Million for New Wing
A surprise $15 million gift will enable the National Air and Space Museum to add a new wing where visitors can watch the delicate process of bringing historic airplanes back to life.
The hangar will be at the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia.
The money comes from the son of Donald D. Engen. The senior Engen was a decorated Navy flier and test pilot who later headed the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air and Space Museum. The restoration building has been on the drawing boards for years but was postponed when fundraising stalled.
D. Travis Engen, the former president of Alcan, the global aluminum and packaging company, said yesterday the passion of both his parents for the museum and for aviation inspired him and his wife to give the money.
“My father had a life in aviation,” Engen said. “This is something he really enjoyed. My mother was always there, always quite engaged, and when he passed away, her activities become more out-front. She then joined the Air and Space board. This is something I’m doing to give back.”
Donald Engen died in 1999 in a glider crash near Lake Tahoe, Nev. He was 75. The hangar will be named for his wife, Mary Baker Engen, who died in 2006. A tower at the Udvar-Hazy Center already carries the aviator’s name.
As director of Air and Space, Engen worked to restore stability after a debacle over the display of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima at the
end of World War II. Veterans’ groups were outraged over what they saw as a negative interpretation of the bombing mission in early versions of the exhibit’s script.
One of Engen’s other efforts was the development of the Northern Virginia annex. The facility near Dulles opened in December 2003 and was named after its principal benefactor, airline executive Steven F. Udvar-Hazy, who gave $66 million to the center. From the start, officials said they wanted to include a place where the public could watch technicians restoring old aircraft.
Travis Engen said that last fall he was checking on the restoration of a Helldiver, a plane his father flew in World War II, and learned of the hardships with fundraising.
Gen. John R. “Jack” Dailey, the current Air and Space director, said Engen was told the plane couldn’t be restored until the hangar was completed. “He called back and said: We are interested. This was almost like a bolt out of the blue,” Dailey said.
With this gift, the museum has now raised $54.5 million for the expansion that includes the hangar. The total price tag is $74 million, but the Engen gift allows the construction planning to begin. Air and Space hopes to start work in the fall.
The restoration hangar will be connected to the main building at the Udvar-Hazy Center. It will be part of a wing that will include archives, a conservation laboratory and a storage facility. Previous donations for the project include $15 million from Boeing in 2006, $3 million from John and Adrienne Mars in 2003 and $3 million from the Daniels Fund in 2005.
The Udvar-Hazy Center, shown on opening day, will add a hangar where visitors can watch aircraft restoration.
Travis Engen says the passion of his late parents, Mary and Donald, above, for aviation and the Air and Space Museum inspired his $15 million gift.