47°31′05″N 122°17′49″W / 47.518°N 122.297°W / 47.518; -122.297

Museum of Flight
The museum's Great Gallery in 2005
Former name
Pacific Museum of Flight[1]
Established1965; 58 years ago (1965)
LocationKing County International Airport (Boeing Field)
9404 E. Marginal Way
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Coordinates47°31′05″N 122°17′49″W / 47.518°N 122.297°W / 47.518; -122.297
TypeAviation museum
Visitors500,000+ per year[2]
PresidentMatthew B. Hayes[3]
CuratorMatthew Burchette[4]
The Boeing Model 80A-1

The Museum of Flight is a private non-profit air and space museum in the Seattle metropolitan area. It is located at the southern end of King County International Airport (Boeing Field) in the city of Tukwila, immediately south of Seattle.[5] It was established in 1965 and is fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. As the largest private air and space museum in the world, it also hosts large K–12 educational programs.[6]

The museum attracts over 500,000 visitors every year,[2] and also serves more than 140,000 students annually through its onsite programs: a Challenger Learning Center, an Aviation Learning Center, and a summer camp (ACE), as well as outreach programs that travel throughout Washington and Oregon.[7]


The Museum of Flight can trace its roots back to the Pacific Northwest Aviation Historical Foundation, which was founded in 1965 to recover and restore a 1929 Boeing 80A-1, which had been discovered in Anchorage, Alaska. The restoration took place over a 16-year period, and after completion, was put on display as a centerpiece for the museum. In 1968, the name "Museum of Flight" first appeared in use in a 10,000-square-foot facility, rented at the Seattle Center. Planning began at this time for a more permanent structure, and preliminary concepts were drafted.[8]

In 1975, The William E. Boeing Red Barn was acquired for one dollar from the Port of Seattle, which had taken possession of it after Boeing abandoned it during World War II. The 1909 all-wooden Red Barn, the original home of the company, was barged two miles (3 km) up the Duwamish River to its current location at the southwestern end of Boeing Field.[9][10] Fundraising was slow in the late 1970s,[11] and after restoration, the two-story Red Barn was opened to the public in 1983.[12]

That year a funding campaign was launched, so capital could be raised for construction of the T.A. Wilson Great Gallery. In 1987, Vice President George Bush, joined by four Mercury astronauts, cut the ribbon to open the facility on July 10,[12][13][14] with an expansive volume of 3,000,000 cubic feet (85,000 m3). The gallery's structure is built in a space frame lattice structure and holds more than 20 hanging aircraft, including a Douglas DC-3 weighing more than nine tons.[8]

The museum's education programs grew significantly with the building of a Challenger Learning Center in 1992. This interactive exhibit allows students to experience a Space Shuttle mission. It includes a mock-up NASA mission control, and experiments from all areas of space research.

Completed in 1994, the 132-seat Wings Cafe and the 250-seat Skyline multipurpose banquet and meeting room increased the museum's footprint to 185,000 square feet (17,200 m2). At the same time, one of the museum's most widely recognized and popular artifacts, the Lockheed M-21, a modified Lockheed A-12 Oxcart designed to carry the Lockheed D-21 reconnaissance drones,[15] was placed on the floor at the center of the Great Gallery, after being fully restored.[16]

The first jet-powered Air Force One (1959–1962, SAM 970), a Boeing VC-137B, was flown to Boeing Field in 1996; it arrived in June and was opened to visitors in October.[17][18] Retired from active service earlier that year,[17] it is on loan from the Air Force Museum. Originally parked on the east side of the museum, it was driven across East Marginal Way and now resides in the museum's Airpark, where it is open to public walkthroughs.

In 1997, the museum opened the first full scale, interactive Air Traffic Control tower exhibit. The tower overlooks the Boeing Field runways, home to one of the thirty busiest general aviation airports in the country. The exhibit offers a glimpse into what it is like to be an air traffic controller.

The next major expansion was opened in 2004, with the addition of the J. Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing, named after J. Elroy McCaw, an area businessman, entrepreneur and World War II veteran.[19][20][21] North of the Red Barn, the wing has 88,000 square feet (8,200 m2) of exhibit space on two floors, with more than 25 World War I and World War II aircraft. It also has large collection of model aircraft, including every plane from both wars.[22] Many of these aircraft were from the collection of the Champlin Fighter Museum, formerly in Mesa, Arizona,[19][23] which closed in 2003. The wing opened on June 6, the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day.[21]

In June 2010, the museum broke ground on a $12 million new building to house a Space Shuttle it hoped to receive from NASA, named the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery.[24][25] The new building includes multisensory exhibits that emphasize stories from the visionaries, designers, pilots, and crews of the Space Shuttle and other space related missions. The gallery opened to the public in November 2012.[26][27]

Though the museum did not receive one of the four remaining Shuttles, it did receive the Full Fuselage Trainer (FFT), a Shuttle mockup that was used to train all Space Shuttle astronauts.[26] Because it is a trainer and not an actual Shuttle, small group (no more than six persons, minimum age 10, maximum height 6' 4") guided tours of the interior are available, for an extra charge. The FFT began arriving in various pieces beginning in 2012. The cockpit and two sections of the payload bay arrived via NASA's Super Guppy.[28][29]

During the 50th anniversary celebrations for Apollo 11 in 2019, the Museum of Flight hosted a traveling Smithsonian exhibit with the Apollo Command module Columbia, which was used during the first Moon landing.[30]

Aircraft on display

The Museum of Flight has more than 150 aircraft in its collection, including:

The City of Everett at the museum
Lockheed Model 10-E Electra
faithfully restored by pilot Linda Finch to match the aircraft Amelia Earhart was piloting when she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean
Boeing 747
the first flight-worthy B747, City of Everett.[31] Its registration number is N7470, and it was named after the city of Everett, Washington. Its first flight was on February 9, 1969, and was retired in 1990. (Open for walkthrough)[32]
Boeing VC-137B SAM 970
the first presidential jet, which served in the presidential fleet from 1959 to 1996 (open for walkthrough)[17]
Concorde 214
(British Airways), registration G-BOAG (open for walkthrough).[33] This is one of only four Concordes on display outside Europe, with the other three being near Washington, in New York, and in Barbados.[34][35]
Caproni Ca.20
the world's first fighter plane from World War I. The one on display at the Museum of Flight was the only one ever built.
de Havilland Comet
The world's first jet airliner.[36] First flew 1949, in production 1952 to 1964. This is currently stored at their restoration center at Paine Field in Everett.
Lockheed D-21
unmanned reconnaissance drone, displayed mounted on the M-21
Lockheed M-21
the sole surviving M-21[37] a variant of the Lockheed A-12.[15]
Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
The surviving cockpit section of 61-7977, an SR-71 that crashed in 1968.
Boeing 737
the prototype Boeing 737-100, formerly operated by NASA as NASA 515.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner
N787BX, The third 787-8 prototype. Open for walkthroughs.
Lockheed Martin RQ-3 DarkStar
the second DarkStar UAV prototype
Gossamer Albatross II at the Museum of Flight
MacCready Gossamer Albatross II
human-powered aircraft.
Aerocar International's Aerocar
one of five surviving Aerocars, (automobiles with detachable wings and propeller).
LearAvia Lear Fan
prototype N626BL
Douglas DC-2
one of only two remaining airworthy DC-2s.
Boeing 80A
the only surviving 80A, flown by Bob Reeve in Alaska.
Boeing 727-100 (E1)
An ex-United Airlines B727-100, The Original Prototype.[38]
Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation
An ex-Trans-Canada Air Lines Super Constellation, located originally at the Toronto Pearson International Airport which was purchased in a controversial transaction in 2005. It is currently on display at the airpark.[39]
Lamson L-106 Alcor
the world's first pressurized sailplane.[40][41][42]

Exhibits and facilities

On its grounds is the Personal Courage Wing (PCW) with 28 World War I and World War II aircraft from several countries including Germany, Russia, and Japan.

The Red Barn, Boeing's original manufacturing plant

There is also the "Red Barn", a registered historic site also known as Building No. 105. Built in 1909, the building was used during the early 1900s as Boeing's original manufacturing plant. Through photographs, film, oral histories, and restoration of work stations the exhibits in the Red Barn illustrate how wooden aircraft structure with fabric overlays were manufactured in the early years of aviation and provides a history of aviation development through 1958.

In June 2007 the museum opened a new space exhibit: "Space: Exploring the New Frontier", which traces the evolution of space flight from the times of Robert Goddard to the present and into future commercial spaceflight.

Restoration facility

The museum maintains a restoration facility at Paine Field in Everett with about 39 ongoing projects including a de Havilland Comet 4 jet airliner, a Jetstar, and the Boeing 2707 mockup, among many.

Museum of Flight Library and Archives

The Harl V. Brackin Library at the Museum of Flight was founded in 1985. As of 2011, it contains 66,000 books and subscribes to 100 periodicals. It specializes in aerospace and aviation. There is also an online catalog.[43]

The Museum of Flight Archives is accessible to the public via the Kenneth H. Dalhberg Aviation Research Center.[44] It includes millions of photographs and thousands of linear feet of manuscript materials. Highlights of the collections include the Gordon S. Williams photographic collection, the Peter M. Bowers Photographic Collection, the David D. Hatfield Aviation History Collection, the Norm Taylor Photographic Collection, the Elrey B. Jeppesen Aviation History and Navigation Collection, the American Fighter Aces Association Archives, the Lear Corporation Archives, and the Wright Airplane Company Collection.[45]

In December 2017, the Archives launched a digital repository. The site features digitized materials from archival, library, and artifact collections.[46] In April 2019 the Archives began to make archival collections available and searchable online.[47]

Other facilities

The Airpark's Concorde in the foreground and Raisbeck Aviation High School in the background, 2014

In September 2013, Raisbeck Aviation High School (formerly Aviation High School) opened in a new facility directly north of the museum's Airpark. The school is operated by Highline Public Schools as a STEM school with a focus on aviation. The school operates in partnership with the museum (which owns the land), Boeing, and other members of the local aviation industry. The facility will also be used for the museum's summer education programs when school is not in session.

The new Aviation Pavilion spans the gap between the high school and the Space Gallery. The cover allows aircraft which were seasonally brought out, such as the museum's Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Boeing B-29 Superfortress, to be put permanently on display. The Pavilion, constructed as part of the museum's comprehensive "Inspiration Begins Here!" campaign, opened to the public in June 2016 and contains 18 of the museum's most iconic aircraft. The 140,000 square foot building doubles the museum's exhibit space, and was built with help from Sellen Construction and Seneca Real Estate Development.

In late May 2019, the museum opened the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Park featuring the fully restored B-52 Midnight Express as the culmination of Project Welcome Home. The park is free to the public.[48]

See also


  1. ^ Lentz, Flo; Martin, Sarah J. (December 13, 2017). "Landmark Registration Form". King County. Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Museum of Flight Annual Report 2015" (PDF). Museum of Flight. p. 18. Retrieved October 29, 2016.
  3. ^ "Matt Hayes will succeed Museum of Flight CEO Doug King." Museum of Flight, July 12, 2017
  4. ^ "The Museum of Flight Welcomes Matthew R. Burchette as its New Senior Curator" (Press release). Museum of Flight. July 2, 2019. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  5. ^ "Museum of Flight." Archived 2014-11-11 at the Wayback Machine Yahoo Travel Retrieved: September 2, 2011.
  6. ^ "Museum of Flight". Boeing Academy. Retrieved September 28, 2016.
  7. ^ "Museum of Flight/Aviation High Press Release" Museum of Flight. Retrieved: September 8, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Ogden, 1986 p. 193.
  9. ^ Truett, Jim (September 7, 1977). "Real expert in charge of flight museum". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Associated Press. p. 17.
  10. ^ "Old racetrack now museum of flight". Ellensburg Daily Record. UPI. September 19, 1981. p. 19.
  11. ^ "Flight museum taxiing". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. October 22, 1980. p. A12.
  12. ^ a b "Air museum to open big gallery". Spokane Chronicle. Associated Press. July 6, 1987. p. A5.
  13. ^ "VIP's expected for flight museum opening". Ellensburg Daily Record. UPI. July 9, 1987. p. 7.
  14. ^ "Flight museum is open". Ellensburg Daily Record. UPI. July 11, 1987. p. 3.
  15. ^ a b "World's fastest plane Seattle-bound – slowly". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. September 11, 1991. p. B3.
  16. ^ Ogden, 1986 p. 194.
  17. ^ a b c Szabo, Liz (June 21, 1996). "Original Air Force One retires". Allegheny Times. Beaver, Pennsylvania. Associated Press. p. A4.
  18. ^ "First Air Force One to open for public tours this month". Seattle Times. October 8, 1996. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  19. ^ a b Lalwani, Sheila (June 19, 2002). "Museum of Flight's expansion takes wing". Seattle Times. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  20. ^ "Museum highlights personal courage in new fighter wing". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Associated Press. November 12, 2003. p. 3A.
  21. ^ a b Tu, Janet L. (June 1, 2004). "Museum to launch new warplanes wing". Seattle Times. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  22. ^ "General History Fact Sheet." Archived 2011-12-04 at the Wayback Machine The Museum of Flight, 2004. Retrieved: August 9, 2011.
  23. ^ Slivka, Judd (January 20, 2000). "Champlin Collection". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  24. ^ Williams, Lauren C. (June 29, 2010). "Seattle's Museum of Flight breaks ground in its big bid for a space shuttle". Seattle Times. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  25. ^ "Photo Gallery: How to display a retired space shuttle." Collect Space. Retrieved: February 4, 2011.
  26. ^ a b Broom, Jack (November 7, 2012). "Museum of Flight's Space Shuttle Trainer exhibit opens Saturday". Seattle Times. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  27. ^ "Space Gallery Construction Has Begun." Archived 2011-03-15 at the Wayback Machine The Museum of Flight, 2010. Retrieved: March 30, 2011.
  28. ^ Brown, Jack (June 30, 2012). "Super Guppy, with space-shuttle trainer on board, touches down at Boeing Field". Seattle Times. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  29. ^ "Museum of Flight Awarded Full-Fuselage Shuttle Trainer." The Museum of Flight. Retrieved: 13 April 2011.
  30. ^ McKenzie, Madeline (April 10, 2019). "'Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission' exhibit splashes down at the Museum of Flight". The Seattle Times. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  31. ^ "First 747 called "City of Everett"". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Associated Press. July 12, 1971. p. 16.
  32. ^ "The first 747 jet folds its wings for retirement". Eugene Register-Guard. Associated Press. April 1, 1990. p. 7C.
  33. ^ "Concorde arrives, calls Seattle home". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. November 6, 2003. p. B6.
  34. ^ Lawless, Jill (November 5, 2003). "Concorde jets prepare for quiet times ahead". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Associated Press. p. 3E.
  35. ^ Pyle, Richard (June 27, 2004). "Retired Concorde lands in museum". Southeast Missourian. Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Associated Press. p. 8A.
  36. ^ "De Havilland D.H. 106 Comet Mk. 4C | the Museum of Flight".
  37. ^ "Lockheed M-21 Blackbird." The Museum of Flight. Retrieved: September 2, 2011.
  38. ^ First Boeing 727, now restored, takes final flight by: Siemny Kim Updated: Mar 2, 2016; KIRO-TV
  39. ^ "Super Constellation CF-TGE." rbogash.com. Retrieved: November 26, 2010.
  40. ^ "Alcor Lamson." Archived 2012-08-19 at the Wayback Machine Activate Media, 2006. Retrieved: 20 May 2011.
  41. ^ Said, Bob: 1983 Sailplane Directory, Soaring Magazine, p. 46. Soaring Society of America November 1983
  42. ^ "Lamson L-106 Alcor Glider." Museum of Flight, May 2011. Retrieved: 20 May 2011.
  43. ^ "Start – OPAC Discovery".
  44. ^ "Research Center Information | Museum of Flight".
  45. ^ American Library Directory. Vol. 2 (64th ed.). Information Today, Inc. 2011–2012. pp. 2568–76. ISBN 978-1573874113.
  46. ^ "The Museum of Flight – Digital Collections". mof.omeka.net. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  47. ^ "Archives at The Museum of Flight". archives.museumofflight.org. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  48. ^ "Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park | The Museum of Flight". www.museumofflight.org. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  • Ogden, Bob. Great Aircraft Collections of the World. New York: Gallery Books, 1986. ISBN 0831740663.