Saturday, July 21, 2018
The sun was shining brightly this morning, good news, as we took a morning flight from Boeing Field, around Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. Thrown in for good measure were Mount Adams and Mount Hood, plus we had some good views of Seattle and the countryside south of town.
We first flew by Mount Rainier, which is often surrounded by clouds that obscure the sight from Seattle. At an elevation of 14,411 feet, Rainier is the 21st highest peak in the world, and 4th in the United States. It is an active volcano, with volcanic activity as recently as 1894. Rainier is considered especially dangerous because of its large amount of glacial ice (36 square miles of permanent snowfields and glaciers.) An eruption could cause lahars, violent mudflows which can destroy any structures in their path.
Perhaps the most exciting was Mount St. Helens, where we could see the site of the lava flow from the 1980 eruption, which killed 57 people and destroyed many homes and bridges, and miles of railroad track and highways. It almost wiped out Spirit Lake which lies northeast of the volcano, filling it with logs from the blast wave. The eruption was caused by a debris avalanche that had been triggered by an earthquake. Before the eruption, St. Helens had an elevation of 9,677 feet, now it’s 8,363 feet.
There is a new lava dome on the south side that has been growing off and on since 2004. We could see steam rising from the dome today.
Mount St. Helens is the home to the world’s youngest glacier, Crater Glacier, which appeared during the winter of 1980-1981. It has grown quickly since then, ranging in thickness up to 656 feet.
The Museum of Flight is located at Boeing Field as well. Although we hadn’t planned to stop here, their sign indicated that it’s the largest independent, non-profit, air and space museum in the world. Naturally, we had to find out for ourselves. I have been to far too many airplane and space museums, either with my husband or with my father (or both), and I was prepared to be bored today. However, I really enjoyed this museum. It is well laid out, and indeed has a very large inventory of aircraft and spacecraft. We saw small planes, stealth planes, military planes, passenger planes, cargo planes, rockets, a space shuttle trainer, and even a flying car!
We were able to go inside several airplanes, including a Concorde (not as big as I expected, and no first class seating), a Boeing 787 Dreamliner (Boeing’s smallest wide-body jet), and a Boeing VC-137B which is a former Air Force One used in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Air Force One was getting a wax job today, from a very large crew of detailers who volunteer their time. The job takes a full day.
Part of the museum is in the original Boeing manufacturing plant. The Red Barn includes artifacts and exhibits about the early history of American aerospace. If you are in the area, I recommend a visit to the Museum of Flight.