By MATTHEW L. WALD
CHANTILLY, Va., Dec. 15 — The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum opened
a vast, gleaming new building on the edge of Dulles International Airport here on Monday,
filled with aircraft of every description, including the B-29 that carried the first atomic bomb
dropped on Japan.
The opening was mobbed not only by tourists and aviation buffs but also by several dozen
protesters, who said the bombing of Hiroshima should have been better described. A plaque
in front of the B-29, the Enola Gay, describes it as "the most sophisticated propeller-driven
bomber of World War II" and notes that it dropped the bomb, but tells little more.
"If you're going to display it at all, you have to display it with what it did to human beings," said
Joseph Gerson, program coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee.
But Gen. John R. Dailey, director of the Air and Space Museum, said the purpose of his institution
was to stimulate interest in technology and science. "The political aspects are more difficult to
cover in three paragraphs," said General Dailey, a retired Marine pilot. The plaque has 14 lines of
text, similar in length to the descriptions of other historic craft here.
For three years in the mid-1990's, the Enola Gay's fuselage was displayed at the Air and Space
Museum's main building, on the Mall in Washington, where it created clashes between veterans'
groups and antinuclear activists over how it should be described. But this is the first time the entire
plane has been on display; an elevated walkway allows visitors to peer through the cockpit windows.
Mr. Gerson said setting up the plane for public view "builds cultural and political forces in this
country for use of nuclear weapons again." Protesters chanted, "No more war!" In response, some
visitors shouted, "Go home!" and other, less polite demands.
Among the protesters today were six Japanese survivors of the Hiroshima bombing and the child
of a seventh. Though noisy, the demonstrators were mostly peaceful. In one exception, a container
of red paint was thrown against the polished aluminum fuselage, bounced off and broke on the
concrete floor. The airport police arrested Thomas K. Seimer, 73, of Columbus, Ohio, and charged
him with destruction of property, a felony, and loitering, a misdemeanor. A second protester,
Gregory Wright, 55, of Hagerstown, Md., was arrested on a loitering charge.
Most visitors seemed to take the protest in stride. Sequined drum majorettes from Stone Bridge
High School in the nearby community of Ashburn, who had come with their marching band to
perform at the opening, whipped out cameras to record the scene.
By day's end, the museum said, more than 10,000 people had toured the new center. Many were
aviation buffs, from near and far. Ray Appleby said he had come from Gloucestershire, England, to
see the Concorde, whose autopilot, he said, he helped develop. The Smithsonian has an Air France
model, its narrow neck rising above a walkway. It is parked at right angles to the prototype of the
Tim and Liz Dennison of Herndon, a stone's throw from Dulles Airport, brought their son Justin as
a present for his 10th birthday. The Dennisons, both of them stunt pilots, were impressed that a
tourist attraction on par with those in Washington, 28 miles away, had opened near their home in
The Smithsonian expects to attract about three million visitors a year to its new building, named the
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in honor of the aircraft leasing magnate who pledged $65 million for
The complex, not quite finished, will ultimately hold more than 200 aircraft and 135 space artifacts.
It is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Admission is free, as with all Smithsonian museums, but
parking is $12. A bus runs hourly from the Air and Space Museum's flagship building on the Mall
for $7 round trip.
The museum on the Mall gets about nine million visitors a year but houses only some 10 percent of
the Smithsonian's aviation collection. The Udvar-Hazy Center will have nearly all the rest. Many of
the smaller planes are already suspended from its arches, quite a few visible up close from elevated
Perhaps more than museums of art or natural history, the Air and Space Museum offers a vicarious
pleasure to visitors, who can contemplate flying the craft on display. Not all of them would find that
a treat, though.
In the Space Hangar, which is dominated by the Enterprise, a prototype of the space shuttle, a
group of students visiting Washington from the Saklan Valley School in Moraga, Calif., near San
Francisco, clustered around the Gemini VII capsule. Frank Borman and James A. Lovell were
aloft in Gemini VII for 14 days in December 1965 to demonstrate that astronauts could endure
in space long enough to get to the moon and back.
Alison Tokar, 13, looked skeptically at the tiny interior and doubted that she could have lasted
"I can't spend an hour in the car," she said. "And they eat like, toothpaste, right?"
Jon Marino contributed reporting for this article.