This is the companion museum to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in downtown Washington DC. I saw companion, but it's a humongous hangar attached to IAD airport, and it contains the huge unique collection of air and space vehicles they have that would never fit in the original museum (also being just next to the runway makes getting a space shuttle or a concorde in, a lot easier).
We showed up at 10:30, a little late (opens at 10:00) because we spent more time than expected visiting the Cathedral in Washington, and we arrived just in time for a volunteer led tour that was absolutely fantastic. He spent 3h45 with us to show us just a portion of their amazing collection, and he really knew space stuff since he worked at NASA before retiring.
We started with a collection of very early planes, including one before the Wright Flyers' which never managed to fly: the Langley Aerodrome A.
look at this plane. It never flew but sure looked cool.
gunner station, bad ass!
many early French planes
Then, we went to see other pieces of the collection:
Enola Gay was the superfortress that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima
They also had rare Japanese and German planes:
dual prop plane with pusher prop
A japanese cruise missile that was actually piloted by a kamikaze
Finally we went to the space hangar and our volunteer talked to us about the space shuttle. They have discovery, the last one that flew.
Messerschmitt Komet plane with a propellor to run a generator
The tracking and data relay satellite that allowed coms with the space shuttle
And we looked at more space artifacts and satellites
Vega Solar System Probe
A concept of gliding wing to land capsules on ground instead of sea
That was a whole 3H45. By then, our guide parted ways with us, with many thanks for his excellent tour. Next, I went to check out the missile and rocket section:
an early drone (KD2C-2 Skeet Target)
OMG, this looks weird
And more things, still, the main hangar is huge:
An F35 with its engine, very cool
but wait, there's more...
I also went to the watch tower where you can see planes landing at IAD:
And that was it. Many pictures on this page, but only a small sample of the 500+ pictures I took there. I barely got to see everything in a day, and quite frankly to visit carefully, you really need 2 days.
This place is one of a kind, it totally deserves a stop in IAD when you're flying by washington, it's that good. Also, you may get plane fatigue after a while, because of how many artifacts they have. Either way, it's a do not miss.