What started off as a trip to go shoot anything and everything at DCA ended up as a trip to the Udvar-Hazy center of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The reason for the change was simply because one of our coworkers wanted to come along and she doesn't share the same desire to stand at Gravely Point all day long.
The flight down was uneventful. The three of us caught a few zz's in coach. In-flight service was only a ginger ale, not much more time for anything other than that. After a 19 arrival into DCA we headed curbside to rent a car for the drive out to the museum. A/c was N748UW. Of course, Avis was out of what I had reserved so we ended up with a light-blue Dodge Caravan, ironically with a NY tag. That car has got to be the worst performing car I've ever driven. It has a huge turn radius, absolutely no power and no way of turning off the traction control. The driver’s seat is really uncomfortable, and took forever to cool down. So yea, the car sucked but the drive out to the museum wasn’t all the bad. There was no traffic on the way out and aside from almost missing one of the exits we did fine. A quick lunch stop along the way in Chantilly, VA was the only stop we needed to make.
As we pulled into the lot we realized that the museum was nearly empty. The lot itself was no more than ¼ full. We made our way inside and started off walking around. I really don’t like shooting in there, the lighting simply sucks. I took only a few shots because I had a hard time holding the camera steady long enough to get any decent pix. I made a mental note to A: take only my camera next time and B: bring along at least a monopod. The Concorde is now impossible to shoot, next to the stair case used to get it now hangs a balloon basket as well as a piece of plexiglass to keep people form hanging over the railing. We did notice a Constellation sitting on the ramp behind the museum undergoing restoration.
Aside from just the aircraft there we toured the observation tower. The ATC exhibit left much to be desired but the view of IAD was pretty substantial. Dulles was pretty slow traffic-wise and we didn’t see any movements while we were up there. We also stuck around for two of the IMAX movies. “Hurricane on the Bayou” was pretty much just about the effects that hurricane Katrina had on Louisiana’s bayou. Some of the underwater video was pretty cool, as was the CGI but other than that the movie wasn’t all that outstanding. “Fighter Pilot” was about a pilot’s journey though RED FLAG exercises, held yearly at Nellis AFB in AZ. This was a great movie for any fighter-lover to see. The air-to-air scenes are pretty cool, but the story is by far outstanding. Certain scenes reminded me of my time in the Army, especially when each and every pilot grabs a pen form his shoulder, clicks it on and starts writing. I got a chuckle out of that, and got excited at the great video of my MH-60s! Just a reminder, exits are on both the right and left of the room.
After wandering though the gift shop for a few minute we hit the road to get back to DCA. Since we had originally booked ourselves on the 1600 flt to LGA, and it was now 1630 it was obvious it was time to go. We got stuck in traffic on the way back, traffic that was more annoying than NYC traffic. All of a sudden it started, and ended just as abruptly 10 miles later. Strange. We got back to the rental agency, dropped off the car and headed inside. TSA down there gave us all problems going through security and we got to the gate just as the boarding agent began to clear standby pax. We got our seat assignments and headed onboard to go home. Lucky us, we got to fly home on N744P, a treat for sure. We taxi out of the gate for a 1 departure and stop. Just our luck, ATC slapped us with a departure hold and we sat there for 15 minutes. Just as the crew started to fire up #2, ATC hit us again with another 20 minute hold. Once we finally got airborne we all sacked out, though Ryan was hardest hit and slept almost the entire way home. We flew a LDA 22 approach, and landed just as the sun gave up for the day and set below the horizon. I of course almost fell down the airstair deplaning the airplane, kinda forgot that one of those steps is bigger than the others. Some minor drama in the terminal only added to the comedic effect for the night, and we headed off home for the night. A/c home was N744P, the Piedmont Pacemaker.