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Friday, May 30 • 10:30am - 11:00am
(Objects + Research and Technical Studies Session) Technical study and Conservation of the “Bat Wing Ship” (the Horten Ho 229V3); Background, Challenges and Surprising Discoveries

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The Bat Wing Ship, also called the Horten Ho 229 v3 is a one-of-a-kind, World War 2, German jet-powered aircraft that is part of the collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM). The aircraft was built as an experimental prototype, which employed an unconventional combination of the most advanced technology of the time, paired with the use of traditional materials such as plywood. Its unique design has also promoted a vibrant debate over the origins of secret war-time technology. This is due in part to its tailless design, which is similar to current aircraft, which utilize stealth technology, coupled with a published statement by designer Reimer Horten, who claimed to have added radar-absorbing carbon to the adhesive mixture in the plywood skin. Despite decades of speculation and conjecture, to date, no attempt has been made to analyze the physical evidence to support or refute this claim, or to study the many other innovative uses of experimental materials and fabrication techniques.

The aim of this research is to present tangible evidence, derived from a technical study, to clarify the historical record. Through the analysis of original materials performed in collaboration with the Museum Conservation Institute, the technical study focused on identification of the aircraft’s plywood construction, adhesives, plastics, and paints. The study utilized a variety of analytical techniques such as; Raman Spectroscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Polarized Light Microscopy, Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry, and 3D-microscopy.

The technical study of the aircraft also served to develop a stabilization methodology in preparation for its movement across state lines; from its storage location in Maryland where it has been since 1952, to NASM’s new Udvar Hazy Center in Virginia, where it is slated for assembly and display. Due in part to its deteriorated condition, NASM has never exhibited this now 68-year old aircraft.

This talk will conclude with an illustration of how the Horten Ho 229 v3 fits within the established protocols that the NASM Conservation Unit has developed for defining levels of aircraft restoration. Conservation’s ethical guidelines oftentimes conflict with traditional aircraft restoration methods. This project presents an opportunity to discuss the many shades of gray that exist between the traditions of full restoration and the governing philosophies of Conservation, which value the preservation of authentic materials.

avatar for Lauren Horelick

Lauren Horelick

Object Conservator, National Air and Space Museum
Lauren Horelick has a BFA in Sculpture from the San Francisco Art Institute, a BA in art conservation and anthropology from the University of Delaware, and an MA in archaeological and ethnographic conservation from University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA)/Getty Conservation... Read More →


Jennifer Giaccai

Conservation Scientist, the Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute
avatar for Malcolm Collum

Malcolm Collum

Engen Conservation Chair and Chief Conservator, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Malcolm Collum is the Engen Conservation Chair at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and has been the Chief Conservator since 2008. He has a B.A. from the University of Minnesota and an M.A. and Certificate of Advanced Study in Art Conservation from Buffalo State College... Read More →

Odile Madden

Research Scientist, Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute

Peter Mc Elhinney

Conservation Fellow, Smithsonian Institute
Peter Mc Elhinney is the current Postgraduate Fellow in Conservation of Museum Collections at the Smithsonian Institutes National Air and Space Museum. Peter studied Conservation of Organic Materials at Camberwell College, University of the Arts, London, before working as a conservation... Read More →
avatar for Russell Lee

Russell Lee

Curator, National Air and Space Museum
Russell Lee earned a BA at Southwest Texas State University and an MA in American History at George Mason University. Lee curates the collections of sailplanes and gliders; ultralights and hang gliders; amateur-built sport aircraft; and Japanese aircraft from World War II. Lee chaired... Read More →

Friday May 30, 2014 10:30am - 11:00am PDT
Bayview A-B