Science Museum Exhibit Soars

The much anticipated Speed Exhibit at the Science Museum of Virginia is scheduled to open on May 19, the result of a collaborative effort of the museum, BCWH and various consultants spanning over more than three years. The exhibit features as its prominent attraction an SR-71 aircraft hung in the main exhibit concourse space as its main exhibit feature.

Blackbird Install

Nicknamed the Blackbird for its dark color, the SR-71 is a reconnaissance aircraft designed in 1963 and retired in 1998-1999. Out of a total of thirty-two planes fabricated, twelve were lost between 1966-1972. Designed to fly above a MACH-3 speed, the SR-71 was piloted by a crew of two in tandem cockpits. When attacked, the standard procedure for the aircraft was to outfly its threat. A spectacular result of engineering combining function and form, the SR-71’s cross-section was designed to reduce its radar detection. The SR-71 installed in the Science Museum’s Speed Exhibit broke its own speed record on its last voyage across America.

Blackbird Install 2Blackbird Install 3


The installation of the Blackbird in the museum did not occur without a lot of enthusiasm from a very diverse group of specialists. After the museum, exhibit designer and architects envisioned the plane in the space, establishing its position in the exhibit and altitude, structural engineers Dunbar Milby Williams Pittman & Vaughan (DMWPV) designed the support structure and MEP consultants 2rw along with special fire protection consultants designed the fire protection system under the plane. Then, it was the turn of the aircraft installer and the hoisting company to take over and bring the plane into the building piece by piece through a tight opening that barely fit the largest piece. The plane was then reconstructed and installed at an angle where it will permanently remain suspended.

Blackbird Install 4

A time lapse of the installation process can be seen here on the Science Museum of Virginia’s YouTube page.

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