A closer view of Lockheed's SP-71A Blackbird, the world's fastest, highest-flying aircraft, reveals the complexity of its controls.


At the Controls title bar

Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.

Imagine the training and confidence necessary to fly even the simplest of aircraft, like the Senior Albatross Falcon sailplane. Or consider the time and dedication needed to master the hundreds of controls necessary to safely guide the Mercury Friendship 7 capsule around Earth. For all forms of flight, the key to control lies in the cockpit.

Now visitors can visualize what it’s like to sit at the controls of 20 historic and iconic airplanes and spacecraft from the world-renowned collection of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Printed nearly to scale, At the Controls’ large-format color photographs of cockpits trace a century’s worth of changes and refinements in aviation technology from the pilot’s point of view. Printed on flexible material that can be displayed on lightweight, freestanding structures or on exhibition walls, each photograph is accompanied by information about the aircraft and some of the instruments specific to each cockpit.

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Exhibition Specifications
Contents 21 large-format color digital images with text printed on flexible material, freestanding units

Companion book, educational and promotional resources, glossary card, CD of digital file for production of Space Shuttle Columbia memorial graphic

Participation Fee

$1,500 per 8-week booking period, plus outgoing shipping


130 running feet

Crates 3

173 kg (382 lb.)

Category Science & Natural History
Security Limited

Outgoing; host museum arranges shipping and pays carrier directly

SITES Contacts

Ed Liskey, 202.633.3142 (Scheduling)

Toured Through


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Tour Itinerary

Dates   Host Institution Status
12/8/01 4/21/02 Strategic Air and Space Museum, Omaha, NE Booked
5/11/02 9/22/02 National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC Booked
10/12/02 12/8/02 Virginia Air and Space Center, Hampton, VA Booked
1/4/03 3/2/03 Hickman Air Force Base Museum, HI Booked
3/22/03 5/18/03 Aviation Museum of Kentucky, Lexington, KY Booked
6/7/03 1/4/04 Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL Booked
1/24/04 3/21/04 Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum, Rantoul, IL Booked
4/10/04 6/6/04 Mighty Eighth Air Force Heritage Museum, Savannah, GA Booked
6/26/04 8/22/04 Fort Morgan Museum, Fort Morgan, CO Booked
9/11/04 11/7/04 Everhart Museum, Scranton, PA Booked
11/27/04 1/23/05 Paul Meek Library, University of Tennessee, Martin, GA Booked
2/12/05 4/10/05 Kalamazoo Aviation Museum, Kalamazoo, MI Booked
4/30/05 9/11/05 Canada Aviation Museum, Ottawa, Ontario Booked
10/1/05 11/27/05 Louisiana State Museum, Patterson, Patterson, LA Booked
12/17/05 2/12/06 CIA Museum, McLean, VA Booked
3/4/06 4/30/06 Tunica County Museum, Tunica, MS Booked
5/20/06 7/16/06 North Carolina Transportation Museum, Spencer, NC Booked
8/5/06 12/17/06 San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA Booked
Copy II      
4/6/02 6/2/02 The Paterson Museum, Paterson, NJ Booked
6/22/02 8/18/02 Challenger Learning Center of Arizona, Peoria, AZ Booked
9/7/02 11/3/02 Freedom Museum, Manasses, VA Booked
11/23/02 1/19/03 Museum of Aviation, Robins AFB, GA Booked
2/8/03 4/6/03 North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC Booked
4/26/03 6/22/03 Festival of Flight 2003, Fayetteville, NC Booked
7/12/03 9/7/03 Museum of Science and Technology, Syracuse, NY Booked
9/27/03 11/23/03 Three Rivers Gallery, Poplar Bluffs, MO Booked
12/13/03 2/8/04 The Science Place, Dallas, TX Booked
2/28/04 4/25/04 Kirkpatrick Science and Air Space Museum at Omniplex, Oklahoma City, OK Booked
7/31/04 9/26/04 Wichita Public Library, Wichita, KS Booked
10/16/04 12/12/04 Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Mt. Pleasant, SC Booked
1/8/05 3/6/05 Spartanburg County Public Library, Spartanburg, SC Booked
3/26/05 5/22/05 City of Espanola Historic Bond House Museum, Espanola, NM Booked
6/11/05 8/7/05 Northern Indiana Center for History, IN Booked
8/27/05 10/23/05 Cradle of Aviation Museum, NY Booked
11/12/05 1/8/06 Cradle of Aviation Museum, NY Booked
1/28/06 3/26/06 Cave Creek Museum, Inc., Cave Creek, AZ Booked
4/15/06 5/28/06 Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, MO Booked
6/15/06 8/27/06 Washington State Historical Society, Olympia, WA Booked
Extension Tour      
2/10/07 6/24/07 California Union Oil Museum, Santa Paula, CA Booked
7/14/07 9/9/07 Irving Arts Center, Irving, TX Booked
9/29/07 11/25/07 Florida Air Museum, Lakeland, FL Booked
12/15/07 2/10/08 Pearson Air Museum, Vancouver, WA Booked
3/1/08 4/27/08 The Air Museum, Chino, CA Booked
5/17/08 7/13/08 College Park Aviation Museum, College Park, MD Booked
10/1/08 1/4/09 National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle, Virginia Booked
1/24/09 3/22/09 Atomic Testing Museum, Las Vegas, NV Booked
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Related Publications

At the Controls: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Book of Cockpits, Photography by Eric Long and Mark Avino; Edited by Tom Alison and Dana Bell; Boston Mills Press, 2001; Hard Cover; $39.95

Perhaps the finest collection of cockpit photos in existence, aviation enthusiasts will love At the Controls. The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum holds the world's premier collection of historic aircraft. In the book, museum photographers Eric Long and Mark Avino use creative lighting techniques and an extremely wide-angle lens mounted on a short-bodied large-format architectural camera to duplicate the sensation of actually being at the controls inside the cockpits of 45 legendary aircraft, with access not only to the instrument panels, but to the consoles as well. This 9x12 hardback book, along with the SITES exhibition, At the Controls, truly provides a pilot's-eye view.


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Press Release


Pilot's-Eye View of Cockpits Unveiled in Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition

"At the Controls: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Looks at Cockpits," a new traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), offers visitors a unique perspective of cockpits from some of the world's most impressive air and spacecraft. "At the Controls" will open at the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland, Neb. on Dec. 8, and will remain on view through April 21, 2002.

"At the Controls" features 20 large-format color photographs of historically significant cockpits, such as the Wright brothers' 1903 Flyer; the "Enola Gay," a Boeing B-29 Superfortress; the Mercury "Friendship 7"; and the space shuttle "Columbia." Using a 4 by 5 camera with 120-degree wide-angle lens and a variety of lighting techniques, photographers Eric F. Long and Mark Avino have created unique images that contrast the simplicity and complexity of cockpits throughout aviation history.

Measuring approximately 4 by 7 feet, the images depict in rich and precise detail the evolution of the controls, instruments and displays used to fly these air and spacecraft. The cockpits in the exhibition were selected because their instrumentation panels vividly illustrate the development and refinement of aviation technology. Additional information and complete views of the air and spacecraft accompany each photograph.

After its viewing in Nebraska, the exhibition will continue on its five-year tour to a total of 22 institutions. A companion to the exhibition, At the Controls: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Book of Cockpits edited by Thomas M. Alison and Dana Bell, includes forty-five of these images of aviation cockpits. The book is available through Boston Mills Press ($39.95).

"At the Controls: The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Looks at Cockpits" was developed by SITES and the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

Long is a senior photographer for the Smithsonian's Office of Imaging, Printing, and Photography at the National Air and Space Museum. During his 19-year career at the Smithsonian Institution, he has documented collections, exhibits and events for museum research and publications, and has participated in historical documentations including three presidential inaugurations and an oral history of Southern agriculture.

Avino is a chief photographer for the Office of Imaging, Printing, and Photography at the Air and Space Museum. Also with the Smithsonian Institution for 19 years, Avino has directed and supervised staff photographers who specialize in reproduction and documentation of the museum's collections, created exhibition displays, and arranged special research and publications events. Avino has also served as guest speaker and judge for Gallaudet University Department of Photography photo contests.

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum memorializes the national development of aviation and space flight. The museum maintains the largest - more than 33,500 objects - and most diverse collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world. For more information, please visit www.nasm.edu.

Each year, SITES shares the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside of Washington, D.C. One of the Smithsonian's four National Programs, SITES makes available a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown not only in museums but also wherever people live, work and play, including libraries, science centers, historical societies, community centers, botanical gardens, schools and shopping malls. In 2002, SITES will celebrate 50 years of connecting Americans to their shared cultural heritage.

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Exhibition Specifications

Tour Itinerary

Exhibition Images

Related Publications

Press Release

More Exhibitions from SITES


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