Featured image: Matthew Burchette posing in front of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. - Read full post: Behind the Scenes at the National Museum of the US Air Force

Behind the Scenes at the National Museum of the US Air Force

What a century! We recently visited the National Museum of the Untied States Air Force to get a close-up look at the Century Series aircraft on display there (F-100, F-101, F-102, F-104, F-105, F-106 and F-107). As a delightful bonus to that trip, our Senior Curator Matthew Burchette got to interview Doug Lantry, Curator at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Not only that, but he did it in one of the NMUSAF's storage hangars normally out-of-bounds for visitors. Take a listen!

Link to donate to The Museum of Flight

Want to see this history? Check out our videos on the Century Series, starting at this link

This episode wraps up Season 2 of The Flight Deck. Stay tuned for Season 3, premiering in a few weeks!

Transcript after the jump.




SEAN MOBLEY:       The Flight Deck is made possible by listeners like you. Thank you to the donors who sustain The Museum of Flight. To support this podcast and the museum’s other educational initiatives, visit www.museumofflight.org/podcast.

Hello and welcome to The Flight Deck, the podcast of The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. I’m your host, Sean Mobley. Today is the last episode of this season of The Flight Deck. Since we’re going behind the scenes of Curator on the Loose, which is our web series with this season of the podcast, I thought why not end on one of the more recent episodes to come out? Now, if you haven’t been following this season of The Flight Deck, we’ve been taking episodes of Curator on the Loose, which is The Museum of Flight’s web series, and we’ve been taking interviews from that show that had to be cut or condensed for time on the TV series and letting the whole interview play out in here.


And so this episode, we have a conversation between our senior curator, Matthew Burchette, and Doug Lantry, who is a curator and historian at The National Museum of the United States Air Force. This was for an episode of Curator on the Loose and actually was a couple episodes where we covered the Century series. Well, Doug will explain what the century series is in the episode, so I won’t preempt him. And we only have one plane from the Century series at The Museum of Flight, so we thought, “Why not go where they have all of them over at The National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio?” So, that’s where we went. And we even ended up in one of their kind of off-limits hangers, so you can imagine how hard it was to get Matthew, our curator, to focus when he was surrounded by so many one-of-a-kind aircraft that are tucked away in that storage facility. But he did it. And that’s what this interview is, and that’s where this interview is taking place, inside that storage hanger. And so, let’s send it over to Matthew for the interview.

MATTHEW BURCHETTE:  All right. We are here with Doug Lantry. He is the historian for the National Museum of the United States Air Force and one of their curators. Doug, thank you so much for hanging out with us.

DOUG LANTRY:      It’s a pleasure. Thanks for coming.

MATTHEW BURCHETTE:  All right. I’ve got to ask. Where are we? Because this is cool.


DOUG LANTRY:      This is one of our collection storage facilities. We have a couple of large hangers in addition to our restoration facility where we store macro-objects in the collection. We divide our collection into roughly really giant things and really small things, and they’re stored in different areas. This is just one of the storage areas for large things like aerospace vehicles.

MATTHEW BURCHETTE:  This is amazing. I have already seen so many things in here that I thought I’d never see in my lifetime.

DOUG LANTRY:      This is a visual toy store.


DOUG LANTRY:      Because so many things in here, despite the fact that some of the wings are detached and they’re in pieces, parts and stuff, the fact that many of these things are unrestored gives you the ability to glimpse back in time about how did it get this way? What was this like? What is this thing? And there’s so many different ones to see that it’s like a great big time machine in a box. It’s really fun to walk through this.

MATTHEW BURCHETTE:  And the smell. The smell is amazing.

DOUG LANTRY:      It smells like airplanes in here, doesn’t it?

MATTHEW BURCHETTE:  Yeah, too bad you guys can’t smell that. Well, you probably know what I’m talking about. Just that smell. Love it. Okay. So, we are doing a video on the Century series. We had a bunch of viewers ask us to do a video on the Century series. Can you give us a little background information of how it got its name and what it all is?


DOUG LANTRY:      Sure. Why do we call it the Century series? Well, the Century series includes airplanes that the Air Force used from the F-100 through the F-106. So, F-100, F-101, F-102, F-104, F-105 and F-106. And if you draw kind of a box around those airplanes, what you get is Air Force thought about air superiority and fighter bombers and tactical missions and air defense from about the mid to late 1950’s in service some of them into the 1980’s. So, this generation of airplanes were purpose built in large numbers for particular missions, despite the fact that events overcame some of those missions and they weren’t used for what they were envisioned for. The project of building the Century series was a particular way of thinking about research development, manufacturing, and airplanes in service. And that was superseded in the ‘80s and into the ‘90s by the teens fighters; the F-15’s and the F-16’s and so on. So, the Century series fighters really give us the iconic airplanes of the late 1950’s through Southeast Asia in the ‘60s, all of Air Force service in Europe and up by the DEW line up north, air defense, tactical air command, all of those things. And the shapes of these airplanes are instantly recognizable. They are many peoples’ favorite airplanes, and they also represent a lot of firsts.



DOUG LANTRY:      The first F-100, first Air Force fighter that exceeded mock one in level flight. There were some airplanes designed as weapons systems. That was a new way to think about these things. And so there’s an awful lot to unpack in the Century series fighters.

MATTHEW BURCHETTE:  That is a great way to sum it up. Now, one of the things that I’ve spied in here as I kind of slunk around while we were setting up is an aircraft that is part of the Century series, but it’s not part of the Century series.

DOUG LANTRY:      Yeah, I think I know where you’re going with this. An almost Century series.

MATTHEW BURCHETTE:  Yeah. An almost ran, as it were. But it definitely got closer than any other aircraft.

DOUG LANTRY:      It did. I think you’re going to edge toward North American’s F-107A.

MATTHEW BURCHETTE:  Yeah, baby. That’s exactly it.

DOUG LANTRY:      The story of that airplane is also the story of the F-105, because those two airplanes were competing for the same pot of money. So, if history had gone somewhat differently, you would see stories, and films, and pictures of the Southeast Asia conflict featuring F-107’s, which to us with our modern eyes is a funny looking airplane.

MATTHEW BURCHETTE:  Yeah. And I’m envisioning that plane in Southeast Asia camouflaged, and it looks really cool.

DOUG LANTRY:      Yeah. Well, it’s a different airplane, but for very good reasons. Why do you put a variable inlet duct on the top of the airplane? The reason you do that is so that it can carry a larger nuclear weapon underneath.


And that wasn’t a whim. That was a requirement. And the airplane worked. In fact, it exceeded some expectations, so it was not a bad airplane, and more than one person has called it the best airplane the Air Force never bought.

MATTHEW BURCHETTE:  That’s awesome. We are not going to go and transition to the F-107 now, because we got to lead up to the F-107. So Doug, thank you so much for your help.

DOUG LANTRY:      You are very welcome. Thank you for coming to visit with us.

MATTHEW BURCHETTE:  Oh, absolutely.

DOUG LANTRY:      And thanks for taking all your viewers through our facility here where you can see so many interesting, neat things.

MATTHEW BURCHETTE:  Yeah. This is going to be fun. So, we’re going to start at the beginning, and then we’re going to end up at the 107, so that means you have to stay tuned. It’s that hook.


DOUG LANTRY:      Have a great time.


DOUG LANTRY:      Excellent.

SEAN MOBLEY:       Thank you for tuning into this episode of The Flight Deck, the podcast of The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. If you liked the audio for this episode, the video will blow you away. There was too much video for this episode, so we actually cut it into three episodes about the Century series, and you can find all three of those on our YouTube channel. If you head to www.youtube.com and search for The Museum of Flight, you can find it there, and I’ll also include a direct link in this episode’s show notes, which you can find at www.museumofflight.org/podcast. Click on the direct link there.

This, like I said, is the last episode of this season of The Flight Deck. I hope you’ve enjoyed this behind the scenes look at Curator on the Loose. We’re going to take a couple of weeks of a break as we put finishing touches on season three of The Flight Deck, so look for a teaser of that in a few weeks, and then we’ll be back for season three, and then we’ll do that again for season four, season five. If you’ve got ideas for things you want to see in future seasons, send me an e-mail. Podcast@museumofflight.org. I would love to hear from you.

If you like what you heard, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you downloaded us from. You can also support the podcast financially by making a donation. You can do that at www.museumofflight.org/podcast and hitting the yellow “Donate” button. We are a nonprofit organization, so your donations keep us going.


You can contact the podcast at podcast@museumofflight.org. I just said that, but it never hurts to hear it again. And until next season, I’m your host Sean Mobley saying to everyone out there on that good earth, we’ll see you out there, folks.


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