Declared as California?s official Air and Space Museum and education Center by the California Legislature, the San Diego Air and Space Museum (formerly known as San Diego Aerospace Museum) boasts the richest aviation heritages of any city in the United States and is now celebrated as one of the country's foremost aerospace museums.
Through the efforts and because they wanted to share their love with aviation, Preston M. "Sandy" Fleet, son of the founder of Consolidated Aircraft and Captain Norvel R. Richardson, USN were able to convince a group of prominent San Diego entrepreneurs to open a museum that will exhibit anything and everything about aeronautics and the technology behind it. Soon after, the San Diego Aerospace Museum was established on October 12, 1961 after the approval of the State of California and on February 16, 1963, the museum opened its doors to the public at the vacant Food and Beverage Building in Balboa Park.
Although the museum opened with just a few items to exhibit, it became an immediate hit. Almost half a million visitors came in the Museum in just sixteen months from the day it started its operation, to witness the grandeur of some of the machines that once graced the skies of United States. Navy's first seaplane, the Curtiss A-1; a 1929 Fleet Model 7; the original rocket engine from the Bell X-1; and an impressive collection of artifacts relating to John J. Montgomery were just some of the first attractions in the Museum.
This invaluable show of interest to the museum inspired its founders to look for more artifacts to add in its collection and they were successful in acquiring many notable aircraft, including a flying replica of Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis. The Museum?s collection grew rapidly and additional space was needed. Later on, the Museum moved to a larger location, the Electric Building nearby. In the new site, a library and archives were added. Eventually, the building became too small to house its growing collection and the Ford building became a perfect preference.
In its new home, the San Diego Air and Space Museum is divided into several galleries that each features its own exhibit. The Theodore Gildred Rotunda, one of the galleries, welcomes the visitors upon entering the main entrance to the Museum. Here, spectators will be mesmerized with exhibits such as the Apollo 9 Command Module, a 1/2 scale model of the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk, a flightworthy duplicate of the Curtiss A-1 amphibious aircraft, a replica of the Ryan Aeronautical NYP (otherwise known as Spirit of St. Louis), and flight vehicles like the Ryan Firebee and General Atomics MQ-1 Predator.
The other galleries found in the Museum are the Special Exhibit area where a number of early aviation exhibits suspend from the ceiling; the World War I and the World War II Galleries that, as the name implies, features aircrafts that were used during these wars; the Golden Age of Flight Gallery that highlights the advancement in the airline and aircraft industries; the Modern Jet & Space Age Gallery that showcases space crafts sent to discover whatever there is in the outer space; and the Edwin D. McKeller Pavilion of Flight that houses many of the larger aircraft in the museum's collection. The front exterior of the museum is decorated with the Lockheed A-12 and the Convair YF2Y-1 Sea Dart.
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