History of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

Photo: View Apart / Shutterstock.com

Naval and space buffs usually spend part of their time in New York at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. It’s a unique attraction that draws people from around the country and across the globe. Visitors can spend time on an actual aircraft carrier and examine different aircraft, spacecraft and other associated items and exhibits. It’s been a great place for people to gather, explore and learn for almost forty years.

The museum is located on 46th Street and 12th Avenue in Manhattan. It was founded in 1982 by Larry and Zachary Fisher. The two real estate developers worked with journalist Michael Stern in 1978 to preserve the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid. The navy ship would be designated as a national historic landmark eight years later.

An early cruise missile carrier, the USS Growler, was donated to the museum in 1988. The United States Congress gave the ship to the museum after acquiring it from the U.S. Navy. The carrier is still on display today. It carried Regulus missiles and ran on diesel-electric transmission.

Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

PriceM / Shutterstock.com

Several planned renovations and repairs forced the museum to shut down on October 5, 2006. The USS Intrepid was brought down the Hudson River to the Bayonne Harbor peninsula in New York City for upgrades. The trip began in June but was not completed until the following month. The tugboats that were guiding the carrier needed assistance after the Intrepid’s propellers got caught in mud in the Hudson River. The carrier had to be dredged out before it was able to be repaired at Yankee Island.

The museum reopened to the general public on November 23, 2008. The Intrepid had been brought back to the pier in October of that year. Several aircraft were added or moved from the aircraft carrier before the reopening.

In 2011, ownership of the space shuttle Enterprise was transferred to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. The shuttle was allowed to be transferred by air on top of a shuttle carrier aircraft in 2010. The Enterprise was flown to JFK International Airport in New York in April 2012 and later traveled by boat to the museum in June 2012. A MiG-15 fighter jet, a British Royal Navy Supermarine Scimitar airplane and an American Douglas F3D Skyknight plane were moved to the Schenectady, New York Empire State Aerospaces Museum.

A new pavilion was constructed for the Space Shuttle in time for the exhibit opening in July 2012. Damage caused by Hurricane Sandy caused the exhibit to close temporarily in October 2012. The shuttle exhibit reopened in July 2013 to the general public.

The museum has hosted several local and national events over the years. It was home to festivities for the MLB All Star Game weekend in 2013 and Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014. Fleet Week, an annual event held by the US Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy center around the Intrepid. Various Fleet Week activities are conducted on the museum grounds and on the Intrepid itself. Viking warships are also docked on the north cruise ship terminals.

Some of the more prominent exhibits that you can see at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum are:


  1. A Russian Soyuz descent module. This spacecraft was involved in the Soyuz TMA-6 mission and docked with the International Space Station in 2005.


  1. A replica of a NASA Aurora 7 Mercury capsule.


  1. A British Airways Concorde G-BOAD that was created in 2004. The Concorde flew from New York City to London England on February 7, 1996 in only 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds. This was a new passenger airline world speed record.


  1. A Grumman F-14 Tomcat. This naval plane was a prototype in 1973 for the Super Tomcat fighters that would later go into production.


  1. A Bell UH-1 Iroquois. The Army helicopter was in service during the Vietnam War years.


  1. A Sikorsky HH-52 Seaguard. These Coast Guard helicopters were developed for rescues in the air and at sea.


  1. A General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. This Air Force jet was used during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq.


  1. A McConnell Douglas F-4 Phantom III. The long-range supersonic jet was created for the US Navy and was first used in service in 1961.


  1. A Dassault Etenard IV. This is the first French jet aircraft produced that was also designed for aircraft operations.


  1. A Lockheed A-12. The supersonic recon plane was created for the CIA. It can go beyond Mach 3 and was the first production sample. Later versions such as the Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” and others would be based on this model.


  1. A Piasecki H-25 Navy helicopter. This unique looking helicopter was the first to be created with an autopilot feature. It was also the first helicopter to successfully complete a loop in the air.


  1. A Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21. An incredibly fast Polish interceptor/jet airplane that was created by the former Soviet Union’s Mikoygan Gurevich Design Bureau.


  1. An Olympus 593 jet engine. The engine is located by the British Airways Concorde jet.


  1. A Bell AH-1J Cobra gunship. This single engine helicopter designed for the US Marine Corps is also known as a Snake or HueyCobra. They were first used in the mid-1960’s.


  1. An Aermacchi MB-339. An Italian aircraft that was developed in the 1970’s. It has served as a light attack airplane and as a military training vehicle.


Multiple activities and programs concentrated on STEM learning are held at the museum every year. There is an interactive location called the Exploreum on the museum grounds. This building provides information and displays of men and women’s’ lives working on an aircraft carrier. Other events and classes, such as virtual astronomy, are held on a regular basis throughout the year.

The museum offers something for everyone. Tickets are rather inexpensive, with no individual admission costing more than $33 at the present time. Free admission is offered on certain Friday evenings. You can expect to spend at least a few hours going through the Intrepid from one end of the aircraft carrier to the other. Guided tours are available or you can take your time seeing as many exhibits as you want. People can also spend time on Pier 86, a pier that belongs to the Hudson Valley Trust that anyone can use.

Promoting understanding, awareness and interest in military service, US history and science are the museum’s main goals. They provide a diverse array of educational and informative content that people are free to observe and browse at their leisure. The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum is a New York institution. It’s a perfect place for those who admire aircraft and space exploration or who just want to spend the better part of a day doing something different with friends and family members.

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