The Models of National Air & Space Museum
All photos copyrighted by RJ Marczak.

National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport, Chantilly, VA, USA.
October, 2009 and January, 2010
Southern Modelers Express Machine (well, just me, your editor, again)


Everybody knows the NASM. It is an almost mandatory visit to aviation buffs in the Washington DC area. More than a great aviation & space museum, it is one with a fantastic collection, including rarities found in no other museum in the world. Now under a different administration, much of what the NASM's collection is today is result of Robert Mikesh's curatorial work for almost 30 years. During three decades, the NASM staff practically created the rules for conservation/restoration of aircraft for museum display in effect worldwide today.

The NASM is actually divided in three major areas. The first is the well known building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. , concentrating historic aircraft and space ships. The second is the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport, at Chantilly VA, about 25 minutes from the first by car. The Udvar-Hazy Center is very new, big, and displays mostly military aircraft from WWI to Desert Storm. The third area is the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility, where most restorations are carried out, and no longer open to the public. If you have the chance to visit NASM, you should.

I had the chance to visit both NASM-Washington during October, 2009 and the Udvar-Hazy in January 2010. Of course I took hundreds of pictures, and in both cases I couldn't visit all areas during a whole day of visit. I'll publish galleries and walkarounds once I find time to sort everything out. Meanwhile, I going to show you a glimpse of the many models displayed in both museums. As in any other museum, display models are absolutely necessary to bring to the public an idea of artifacts which have not survived to our days, or are historically significant but not part of the collection. With a few exceptions, these are big models (1/16, 1/24 or 1/32 scales, in general), and almost all are scratchbuilt by master modelers - some well known like Arlo Schroeder, John Alcorn, Herbert Hartwick, Ron Lowery, Robert Mikesh and others. Some models are pretty old - and survived well in invironment-controlled displays, but it is not difficult to imagine that many of our ordinary models will not live that long... Materials, that is the key for long living models.

The photos were taken behind protective glasses using low intensity flash, so many of them leave some to be considered good pics. The pics are loosely grouped, but I didn't bothered to take notes of where each one of them was displayed. Anyway, they are all extreme examples of our hobby and can give an idea of what you can find inside NASM, besides the 1:1 things.

WWI and Early Age of Aviation

Several beautiful models, like this  DH-4...

and, in the WWI room, this giant diorama against a black background caught my eye (I think it is 1/32). Note the Camel behind:

NACA/NASA Research Aircraft

This is and interesting section showing many of the aircraft used by NASA during its history. The star of this display is this fantastic O-47, scratchbuilt in 1/32 scale by Ronald Lowery:

The Golden Age of Air Races

I finally could check some of John Alcorn's models, after reading his book on scratchbuilt models.

Early Army and Navy Military Aircraft

Showing aircraft models from one of my favorite eras, these displays made me think why such beautiful models wouldn't sell well if injected by a mainstream manufacturer... Look this A-12:

In the US Navy room, the 1/72 USS Enterprise was impressive as well.


Arlo Schroeder's 1/24 Avenger

This huge TBF-1C Avenger was built by master modeler Arlo Schroeder. Another star of Alcorn's book, it was built for NASM along with two others in 1/32, one of them given to former US president George H. W. Bush, in the markings of the aircraft he flew during WWII, and presented to him in a White House cerimony. The model has fully working landing gear and folding wings, but it was a bit of a deception to me, as it seems to have taken its share of dust somehow.


Douglas World Cruiser 1/72 Diorama

I reserved this one for the last. Unfortunately I do not remember the names of the modelers who made this fantastic diorama displaying all Douglas World Cruisers in a lake harbor. Photos of this diorama were published a number of times in several magazines, but to see it alive, with a real surviving World Cruiser under restoration a few meters behind was something. I still have my William Bros. model, and one day I will reproduce part of this diorama:

This was a trip through the ultimate aviation plastic modeling. I hope these pics can inspire you somehow in your next project. It worked with me.

Rato Marczak © 2010