Monday, February 9, 2009

Beautiful Blackbird

A couple of days prior to the Superbowl, a colleague sent me a wonderful Flash movie on the Blackbird plane. Knowing that this beautiful flying machine was only a few miles from where I live, I decided to visit the Air & Space Museum and see this fabulous flying machine first hand. I had visited a few years ago but with so many visitors present and my naivety of airplanes, it had not really made an impression.

I went on the afternoon of the Superbowl and was delighted to find that the museum had hardly any visitors; everybody was traveling to destinations for the evening's big game or grocery shopping to stock up on snacks for five hours of 'stuck-to-the-sofa syndrome. There were few people strolling around the vast hanger, a photographer's dream of not having to stand waiting for the crowds to disperse so the perfect angle could be captured. I headed immediately towards the Blackbird, craning my neck to catch my first glimpse. She had prime position on the floor and I leaned on the railings just absorbing her magnificence before bothering to uncase my camera. It was not difficult to believe this bird with her smooth titanium contours could fly at Mach 3, about 35 miles per minute.

Because there were so few people present, I was able to walk all the way around the plane and take some unusual angles. In the first frontal shot above, the tip, an optical bar camera, was only about 2 feet from my outstretched arms. I spent about half an hour just walking around and observing, fervently wishing I could climb inside. Eventually I decided that I should actually check out the rest of this museum and moved onto other planes.

I had to take a photo of this as I experienced acute disappointment when I read the title. Since my teenage years, I've been a fan of Monty Python and had often laughed aloud on hearing the term, Wankel Rotary Engine, in one of their sketches. On seeing this sign, I had to accept that this wonderful turn of phrase had not been coined by those kings of comedians after all. My shoulders slumped...

The space shuttle Enterprise was a huge looming beast which demanded closer inspection. It was strange to be so close to an aircraft designed for space flights and a closer look gave me the impression of a build-by-numbers model. The materials used looked like those on a dollar store toy, chunky and cheap looking, but obviously with my ignorance, I have no concept of the materials required to cope with extreme, changing temperatures and speeds.

The immense size of the shuttle was impressive and knowing it would be transported on top of a shuttle carrier made me wonder how big that plane would be to carry such a load.

I loved the neatness of this Spitfire plane with its simple profile and tidy wheel storage.

I hadn't been expecting to see art in a plane museum but the uniform design of this engine really caught my eye.

The Concorde in the background rests below smaller planes suspended in rolling flight.

This vintage Globe Swift was very popular during the 40's and 50's because of it's handling and design. It has an Art Deco style instrument panel which unfortunately wasn't on show.

The Flying Cloud was fully restored to its current gleaming condition by Boeing. Only ten of these Stratoliners were built, the first four engined commercial passenger plane and the first fully pressurized.

This 'aircraft' is the spaceship used in 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', made of model train parts and other kits. The model makers incorporated other pieces as an inside joke, such as a VW bus, a U.S. mailbox and R2D2 from Star Wars, (see inserted image above).
After four hours of gazing in wonder at these spectacular titans, I headed to the exit, but not before paying my respects again to the best bird of all, the Blackbird Sr-71. Wish I'd taken this photo!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's not a Spitfire. It's a Curtiss P-40.