Usually suspended from the rafters of the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall at the National Air and Space Museum, safely away from the grubby hands of curious spectators, the trusty steed that delivered Lindberg across the Atlantic on his record breaking solo flight has been lowered for some much needed attention.
For the first time in more than 20 years, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum has lowered Charles Lindbergh's Ryan NYP "Spirit of St. Louis" to the floor. The famous aircraft will remain on the floor at eye level for visitors to see for approximately five months while it undergoes preservation work before being suspended once again. It is one of several major icons being prepared for an updated exhibition in the museum's central space, the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.
Experts at NASM are going to be carrying out conservation work on the fabric, and the engine, as well as assessing the condition of the Spirit of St. Louis is structurally to make sure that it will be able to preserved for future generations to enjoy. While it is on the ground visitors to the National Air and Space Museum will have a unique up close look at a one of a kind piece of aviation history. You'll be especially excited if you're a fan of steelies, since the Spirit will be rocking sweet trailer wheels while the originals are being restored.
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The "Spirit of St. Louis" is one of the museum's most popular artifacts and is showcased in the Milestones exhibition because of its impact to the world of aeronautics. On May 20, 1927, Lindbergh took off alone from New York and arrived in Paris 33 hours and 30 minutes later. He was greeted by a crowd of more than 100,000 eager to glimpse the 26-year-old who had just completed the first solo transatlantic flight. The plane was presented to the Smithsonian by Lindbergh in 1928, soon after the milestone-setting flight. It was initially on display in the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building and then came to the National Air and Space Museum when it opened in 1976.
The $30 million donation from Boeing will also include further extensive renovation of the museum's main hall exhibit 'Milestones of Flight,' which is the museum's central and largest space. Some of the objects, such as the Ryan NYP "Spirit of St. Louis," the Bell X-1 "Glamorous Glennis" and Mercury "Friendship 7," will be familiar to visitors because they already reside in the gallery. But other icons—the huge Apollo Lunar Module, for example, the Telstar satellite and the model of the "Starship Enterprise" used in the Star Trek television series—will be surprises.
Additionally, the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia is the companion facility to the Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The two huge hangars display thousands of aviation and space artifacts, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde, and the space shuttle Discovery. The Hazy Center is having their open house this coming Saturday. The restoration shops will be open to the public as well. This is the only day of the year that they do that is a fantastic opportunity to get a behind the scenes look into one of the world best collection of aviation artifacts.
Photo Credit: Michael Rennick
Chris is a pilot who loves airplanes and cars and his writing has been seen on Jalopnik. Contact him with questions or comments via twitter or email.