“Oh Lordy, I don’t know if we can loan that object or not, it is exceptionally rare! High maintenance, too.” — Dan Hagedorn, curator and director of collections of The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.
That was my first exchange with my friend Dan Hagedorn when I approached him about borrowing Wonder Woman’s invisible plane from The Museum of Flight. The Museum of Flight had acquired the plane with help from Lieutenant Diana Prince in April 2013. Since then, our curator Bob van der Linden wanted very much to display the plane at the Museum in Washington, DC.
“There’s nothing that would make my daughter happier than to bring Wonder Woman’s invisible plane back to Washington, DC, if only for a very short time,” he said.
Bob has worked very hard to secure a space for the jet by moving not only the Spirit of St. Louis but also SpaceShipOne to make room in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall. Our next step was to work with Ted Huetter, public relations and promotions manager at The Museum of Flight. Ted helped us secure the loan by referring us to the paperwork The Museum of Flight had used when they last loaned the plane to Science City at Union Station, Kansas City. With his help, and the help of many at the National Air and Space Museum, we were able to arrange to bring this artifact back to the Washington, DC area.
The trick for the National Air and Space Museum was to display the plane in its jet formation. The plane has only been displayed publically in the propeller configuration. The new design was made possible by the plane’s shape shifting properties. Although The Museum of Flight staff was concerned about this formation change, they worked with our conservation staff so that the shift was safe and temporary. Once the shift took place the jet underwent a total review by our conservation department and appears to be in remarkable shape.
The plane was originally housed in an undisclosed location near Washington, DC from about 1941 to the early 1970s. In 1975, the plane was moved to another location in Southern California where it stayed until 1979. After 1979, the jet went missing. It was through the careful work of The Museum of Flight staff and former Army nurse Lieutenant Diana Prince that the plane was finally discovered on a quiet estate in Potomac, Maryland in 2012. After the discovery, The Museum of Flight moved the plane to Seattle where it went on display in April of 2013.
The jet is well ahead of its time. It used stealth technologies in the 1950s long before the Lockheed YF-12A and the SR-71 Blackbird were introduced. The engines on this plane allowed Wonder Woman to travel through space. Keep in mind that NASA’s North American X-15 took the United States to the edge of space in the 1960s, but it was Amazonian technology that had Wonder Woman traveling into deep space in the 1950s.
Other features on this jet include shape shifting, telepathic abilities, and multi-dimensional transport. Although the jet was invisible the passengers were not, and they often appeared to float on the clouds. It should be mentioned that even though Wonder Woman can fly under her own powers, the plane has come in handy when needed to transport Etta Candy and the Holliday Girls as well as Steve Trevor and others.
The National Air and Space Museum is proud to be able to present Wonder Woman’s Invisible Plane for the first time publicly in the Washington DC area. Many thanks to the staff at The Museum of Flight and The Friends of the Princess Diana of Themyscira Society for making this once-in-a-lifetime loan possible.
Beth Wilson is a museum specialist in the Education Division of the National Air and Space Museum.