I’m sure that most of the members are aware that the official public opening of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. occurred on Monday, December 15, 2003. However, prior to its official public opening, there were several special events conducted at the new museum which allowed some people an early peek into “America’s Hangar.” One such event was a salute to Military Aviation Veterans which was held on Tuesday, December 9, 2003.

Cal Tax (SRA 3362) of Marietta, Georgia contacted me and said that he and George Pascal (SRA 3027) of Campbellsburg, Kentucky each had acquired four tickets to this event and Cal invited me to meet them at Dulles. So early Tuesday morning I flew on a pass on United Airlines to Dulles and met George and his fellow UPS pilot friend, Robert Holmes, both of whom had flown in from Louisville very, very early that morning. Shortly thereafter Cal arrived via Delta Airlines from Atlanta and we proceeded to the museum. To round out our group, Cal’s life-long family friend, Bob Edelson, flew his turbo Piper Twin Commanche to Dulles from Islip, New York and brought along his buddy, George Griffen. With our group all assembled, it was into the new facility to view the airplanes.

This special event’s ceremonies featured a presentation of the Colors by an Armed Forces Color Guard and the National Anthem performed by the USAF Band “Airmen of Note.” Following that were some welcoming remarks by General John R. Daily, USMC (Ret.), who is the Director of the NASM and also some comments by General Richard B. Myers, USAF, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A delicious catered lunch was then made available to everyone present and seating was available at tables in several areas scattered around the museum among the displays. But most importantly, we had 5½ hours to roam the gigantic hangar shaped building and absorb the aura of so many great historic airplanes. The museum staff also provided complimentary tickets to the Imax Theater and at the end of the day everyone received a very nice 72 page color book describing the museum and its exhibits. All in all, it was a very impressive presentation and a day long to be remembered.

As you enter the museum the entry hallway leads you up to a mid-level area overlooking the main hangar floor. On each side there are stairways leading down to the main floor. If you take the one to the left the very first airplane you will see directly ahead as you step onto the main floor is a yellow Stearman N2S-5. What a wonderful way to begin the tour.

The Stearman on display is not a pristine award winning caliber restoration, but rather a Stearman preserved as it was when it was surplused from active military service. Regardless, it is a very nice looking airplane in original configuration. Stearman N2S-5s normally left the factory in an all silver color scheme. Often they were re-painted yellow sometime later during their naval service. The information panel displayed with the airplane provided general information about the Boeing-Stearman in military use and that this airplane was used as a trainer by the U.S. Navy at NAS Ottumwa, Iowa from 1943 through 1946. No other specific information about this particular Stearman was presented.

However, former SRA Historian, Kenneth D. Wilson of Evansville, Indiana thoroughly researched the history of this Stearman when it was on display at the NASM’s storage and restoration center located at Silver Hill, Maryland. He published an article entitled “The National Air & Space Museum’s N2S-5” in the SRA “Outfit” Newsletter, November, 1978. The following information was taken from that article.

The airplane is a Boeing-Stearman Model 75, U.S. Navy N2S-5, c/n 75-5186, BuAer no. 61064. It was among the first of the N2S-5s the U.S. Navy ordered under contract No. AC 19041. It was accepted by the U.S. Navy on December 7, 1943 and was officially delivered on December 10, 1943. It was assigned to NAS Ottumwa, Iowa and used to train cadets there until September, 1946 when it was transferred to Naval Air Training Center, Corpus Christi, Texas. While serving there, BuAer no. 61064 underwent a major reconditioning in October, 1946, which included completely recovering the airplane. Most likely the yellow paint scheme it now displays was applied at that time.

On November 30, 1946 it was transferred to Naval Air Facility Glynco, Georgia for storage. Once more on November 14, 1947 it was transferred for storage, this time to Naval Air Facility South Weymouth,

Massachusetts.

Early in January, 1949 the N2S-5 was moved to the Naval Air Material Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and on January 13, 1949 it was placed in a dehumidified container for preservation. On February 28, 1950, it was removed from the container, assembled, and on April 18, 1950 flown by NAMC pilots to NAS Norfolk, Virginia. At that time, BuAer no. 61064 was stricken from U.S. Navy records and kept at NAS Norfolk until the National Air and Space Museum could properly display the airplane. In its naval service the N2S-5 accumulated a total of 729.4 flight hours.

As the day ended we all reflected on a wonderful time spent together with old Stearman friends and a couple of new friends among the treasure trove of some of the world’s greatest airplanes where our favorite Stearman bi-plane was prominently displayed in a place for all to see. Whenever you have the opportunity to visit the new NASM I think you will find it everything and more than you can ever hope and dream. It truly is “America’s Hangar.”

Massachusetts.

Early in January, 1949 the N2S-5 was moved to the Naval Air Material Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and on January 13, 1949 it was placed in a dehumidified container for preservation. On February 28, 1950, it was removed from the container, assembled, and on April 18, 1950 flown by NAMC pilots to NAS Norfolk, Virginia. At that time, BuAer no. 61064 was stricken from U.S. Navy records and kept at NAS Norfolk until the National Air and Space Museum could properly display the airplane. In its naval service the N2S-5 accumulated a total of 729.4 flight hours.

As the day ended we all reflected on a wonderful time spent together with old Stearman friends and a couple of new friends among the treasure trove of some of the world’s greatest airplanes where our favorite Stearman bi-plane was prominently displayed in a place for all to see. Whenever you have the opportunity to visit the new NASM I think you will find it everything and more than you can ever hope and dream. It truly is “America’s Hangar.”

Massachusetts.

Early in January, 1949 the N2S-5 was moved to the Naval Air Material Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and on January 13, 1949 it was placed in a dehumidified container for preservation. On February 28, 1950, it was removed from the container, assembled, and on April 18, 1950 flown by NAMC pilots to NAS Norfolk, Virginia. At that time, BuAer no. 61064 was stricken from U.S. Navy records and kept at NAS Norfolk until the National Air and Space Museum could properly display the airplane. In its naval service the N2S-5 accumulated a total of 729.4 flight hours.

As the day ended, we all reflected on a wonderful time spent together with old Stearman friends and a couple of new friends among the treasure trove of some of the world’s greatest airplanes where our favorite Stearman by-plane was prominently displayed in a place for all to see. Whenever you have the opportunity to visit the new NASSM I think you will find it everything and more than you can ever hope and dream. It truly is “America’s Hanger”.