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Museum of Flight a great visit

The SR-71 Blackbird is a favorite attraction at the Boeing Museum of Flight. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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AM "Tex" Johnston would like the Boeing's Museum of Flight.

He was the pilot, who on a Sunday in August 1955, took the Boeing Company's new jetliner prototype, the Model 367-80, and executed two perfect barrel rolls over Lake Washington.

The maneuver stunned everyone, including then Boeing president William Allen.  

Moments later, fellow aircraft executive Larry Bell turned to Allen and said, "You don't know Tex very well.  He just sold your airplane."

The Boeing Company continued to grow as a global industry, and in the process it created a world-class museum.

It is a barrel roll of a place to enjoy aviation history while looking at the planes that made it.

The museum first taxied out onto the runway of public awareness in 1965 when it opened a 10,000 square-foot space at the Seattle Center.

Today, the TA Wilson Great Gallery is a three million cubic foot, six-story, glass and steel edifice housing over 50 full-size historic aircraft.

A nine-ton Douglas DC-3 hangs from the space frame ceiling in flight attitude.  Other aircraft join it in flight.

Surrounding the Great Galley are the J. Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing, the William M. Allen Theater, the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery, the Aviation Pavilion and the Red Barn.

From a replica of Orville and Wilbur Wright's aircraft that flew at Kitty Hawk to walking through the cargo bay of a space shuttle, the museum is a flight through aviation history.

Knowledgeable and friendly docents interact with visitors, conduct aviation and space-related talks, answer questions, and tell stories.

The museum, a nonprofit, attracts over 500,000 visitors annually.

One of the most popular attractions is the M-21 Blackbird, a long-range, Mach 3 plus strategic reconnaissance aircraft that played a key role during the Cold War and beyond.

Visitors flocked around the aircraft as a docent talked about its history.  Nearby, children could climb into the cockpit of a Blackbird.

Not far away were exhibits of helicopters, early bi-planes and a car, the 1968 Taylor Aerocar III, which could fly.

For those interested in some of the Boeing Company's history, the Red Barn offers a look back.

The birthplace of the Boeing Airplane Company, the two-story Red Barn offers historic exhibits that reflect the early days of aviation as reflected in the post-and-beam architecture and polished wood floors.

"That was really neat," one little boy said as he exited the cockpit of a SR-71.

Not to be outdone, his sister promptly climbed in and "flew" the plane for the next couple of minutes, including something reminiscent of a barrel roll.

Somewhere, Johnston smiled.

Plan on wearing comfortable shoes and spending a few hours. There is a gift store and a café.  The museum is ADA accessible.

Active-duty and retired servicemembers and their spouses receive a reduced rate on ticket prices.

The museum is located at the southern end of Boeing Field at 9404 East Marginal Way South in Seattle.

For more information, visit or call 206.764.5720.

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