During the summer of 1990 I took a ride down to Suitland, Maryland to visit the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility for their annual Open House. Normally closed to the public, this was where some of the real work of the National Air and Space Museum was done. As you can see in some of the pictures below, many of the specimens start out in very poor shape. By the time the Museums restoration experts are through, the aircraft are worthy of their places both on the Mall and at the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport. Alas, the Garber Facility no longer gives public tours and will eventually be moving to the Udvar-Hazy Center.
Click through to see pictures of the Enola Gay, a Curtiss “Jenny,” a Sopwith Snipe and more! Or you can just head over to flickr and see the whole set there!
Probably the most famous airplane of all time, this B-29 Superfortress was in the middle of its restoration in June of 1990. On August 6th, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The Second World War ended soon after.
The Museum’s Sopwith Snipe belonged to Cole Palen of the famous Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome and was on loan to the Museum when I saw it at Garber. It had just undergone a minor restoration and paint touch-up before going on display in 1991. Palen bequeathed the Snipe to Museum upon his death.
Pfalz D XII
The German Pfalz D XII fighter that the NASM has on display looks very sharp with the paint scheme it bore in the 1938 aviation classic film Dawn Patrol. But when I visited Garber back in 1990, it was literally in pieces. I’m happy to see that it’s been beautifully restored.
Curtiss JN4D, the “Jenny”
When I first saw this airplane at Garber I smiled, because this is one of my favorite historical airplanes. One of the most popular aircraft in the early part of the 20th century, the Jenny is most widely know as the airplane of choice by the pilots that used to barnstorm their way across the country.
The Smithsonian first acquired this particular JN4D mere days after the end of WWI, for under five thousand dollars. Now it is on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center.
Last comes this WWI era aircraft crammed in between some other treasures waiting to be rescued. I am at a loss when trying to identify this plane, although the fuselage appears to be similar to that of a Nieuport 28. The Nieuport 28C.1 in the Museum’s collection has a checkered past, so I’m not sure if this is the same aircraft.
But it’s still one of my favorites since it bears the markings of the 94th Aero Squadron, home of America’s top Flying Ace in WWI, Eddie Rickenbacker.
Thanks for reading this longish post and putting up with all the pictures. Again, if you’d like to see the whole set, be sure to check them out on flickr.