- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center has been a huge success since it opened near Washington Dulles International Airport almost a year ago.

More than 1.5 million visitors have filed through the hangar-like structure to ride the space simulators and see aircraft such as the Concorde, the space shuttle Enterprise and World War II bomber Enola Gay.

Patrons are also finding out it is a good place to see a show. More than 350,000 people have attended movies in the Imax Theater, says theater operations manager Darlene Blackmore.

In fact, a good portion of those moviegoers are visiting the museum just to see the large-format movies, she says.

“A lot of people, the minute a new Imax movie comes out, they want to see it,” Ms. Blackmore says.

The theater is currently rotating three Imax films: “Magic of Flight,” “Straight Up! Helicopters in Action” and “Adrenaline Rush: The Science of Risk.” All three are obviously in step with the museum’s dedication to flight.

“Magic of Flight” takes viewers through the history of flight, from the Wright brothers to the Blue Angels. In “Helicopters in Action,” viewers are taken along for the ride as helicopter crews perform sea rescues and chase drug smugglers, among other daring tasks.

However, “Adrenaline Rush,” got the biggest “wow” factor among a group of 8-year-olds recently taking in a weekend show. This movie explores the physiology and psychology behind why some people seek thrills such as skydiving and base jumping (skydiving off a cliff).

“Just as in a boat you are not swimming, in a plane, you are not really flying,” the movie’s skydivers explain as they are testing out new skydiving wind suits.

In the movie, skydivers make free-falls from a plane and base jumpers leapfrom a Scandinavian cliff three times higher than the Empire State Building.

One of the highlights of the film comes when the scientists explore whether Leonardo da Vinci was on the right track when he envisioned a flying machine in the 1500s. The crew builds a parachute according to da Vinci’s specifications.

A hot-air balloon lifts the test flyer and the parachute to 10,000 feet for the experiment. Indeed, the rudimentary contraption works; the Renaissance idea was the correct one. It was also almost 400 years ahead of its time.

Patrons are running out of timeto see “Adrenaline Rush,” however. The movie will end its run Dec. 10, and “Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag,” will make its world premiere, Ms. Blackmore says.

“Fighter Pilot,” follows Air Force Capt. John Stratton in his F-15 Eagle jet as he goes on Red Flag training maneuvers in Nevada. Red Flag is the finaltraining program for elite aerial combat pilots from all military branches.

The movie shows beautiful aerial sequences of and from the F-15, but also highlights the importance of the support people involved in military flight.

Admission to the museum is free, but parking is $12. However, visitors who just want to see an Imax movie ($8 adults; $6.50 youth and seniors) can come to the museum after 4 p.m., when parking is free. They will still have time to see a 4:30 or 5:30 p.m. movie and take in some of the museum exhibits.

When you go:

What: Imax Theater at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Where: 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly

Directions: Take I-495 or I-66 to Dulles Toll Road. Exit atRt. 28 South. Follow signs for museum parking.

Parking: $12 per car. Parking is free after 4 p.m.

Alternate transportation: There is a shuttle bus that goes from the north side of the Air and Space museum on the National Mall to the Udvar-Hazy Center. Tickets cost $7. The ride takes 45 minutes to an hour.

Admission: Museum admission is free. Movie tickets are $8 (adults age 13 and up); $6.50 for children 2 to 12 and seniors 55 and older.

Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Closed Dec. 25.

Now playing: Through Dec. 10 — “Straight Up! Helicopters in Action” at 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.; “Adrenaline Rush: The Science of Risk,” at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.; “The Magic of Flight,” at 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

After Dec. 10: “Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag,” at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.; “Straight up! Helicopters in Action” at noon and 3 p.m.; “The Magic of Flight,” at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Miscellaneous: The theater is handicapped-accessible. There is a Subway sandwich shop in the building. The theater offers group rates and special group performances by request.

Information: Phone 877/932-4629 or visit www.si.edu/imax.

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