Sometimes the story of how we acquired an artifact is just as interesting as the artifact itself. Such is the case with the Soviet-built MiG-21 that stands in our Great Gallery. Bruce Florsheim, one of our docents and an active player in getting the MiG to Seattle, explains the historical significance of the MiG and how it ended up in our Museum. “In its time, the MiG 21 became the most produced supersonic jet in aviation history and the most produced combat aircraft since WWII,” says Florsheim. The Soviets loved it because it was rugged—it could easily take off from unprepared fields—and inexpensive to produce: you didn’t have to be a mechanical genius to build it or maintain it. Back in 1994, the MiG caught the eye of Boeing VP Jim Blue as he was touring an aircraft factory in the Czech Republic. Blue saw that a large group of them were covered in a tarp, and he asked his host what the plans were for the jets. “They will be scrapped,” said the Czech guide, and Blue, then a Museum trustee, knew that he had to acquire one. At first the Czechs refused to sell the plane, but Blue persisted, and eventually the plane was disassembled and embarked on a months-long adventure across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, and up to Seattle, where it was rebuilt and displayed in the Museum. The two Czech mechanics who were flown over to help rebuild it experienced an adventure of their own when Blue introduced them to American-style supermarkets.
Welcome to the
Flight Deck Podcast
Listen to all of the Museum’s best aviation and aerospace stories on the Flight Deck Podcast, a podcast that makes history personal. Episodes released every other Tuesday. Enjoy!