Sightings: Hazy’s Hits

A photo gallery of airplanes at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center.

(Dane A. Penland)

Photographer Dane Penland might have the coolest job in the world.

He’s the sole photographer on site at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in northern Virginia. As such, he has the entire museum, and sometimes the original Air and Space Museum in downtown Washington, D.C., as his office space.

Working in such cavernous surroundings (Hazy is almost four times the size of the original museum) with such huge subjects, Penland has become a master of lighting, using an array of strobes that he often has to position throughout the airplanes, as well as behind, beneath, and above.

He made this image of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Mach 3 reconnaissance jet that still seems ahead of its time for design and performance. This aircraft accumulated 2,800 hours of flight time over 24 years of active duty with the U.S. Air Force before setting a speed record on its final flight. On that day, March 6, 1990, Lt. Col. Ed Yielding and Lt. Col. Joseph Vida flew it from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. in 64 minutes and 20 seconds, averaging 2,124 miles an hour. At the conclusion of the flight, they landed at Dulles International Airport and turned the Blackbird over to the Smithsonian for good.

Check out the gallery below for more of Penland’s beautiful shots.


(Dane A. Penland)

The Northrop P-61 Black Widow was a late entry into World War II, designed to intercept German bombers at night and in bad weather. This P-61 was used for various research purposes by the U.S. Army Air Forces, the U.S. Weather Bureau, and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. It was retired on August 10, 1954 after only 530 flight hours, and was kept for decades at the museum’s Paul E. Garber storage facility in Suitland, Maryland. The airplane is shown here being moved into the Udvar-Hazy Center in May 2006, after which its wings were reattached for display.

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