A Conversation with … David Hendrick, Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Hendrick is the museum specialist for managing chemical cleaning, anodizing and plating at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, who recently spoke at the NASF Washington Forum.


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David Hendrick is the museum specialist for managing chemical cleaning, anodizing and plating at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. He recently spoke at the NASF Washington Forum, and we caught up with him to find out
all that goes into his job.


PF: What are your responsibilities at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum?

DH: I’m tasked with managing and operating the chemical cleaning shop where we perform corrosion removal, bead blasting, chemical etching, chemical milling, various coatings, anodizing, electro and electroless plating. Working closely with the curator, restoration, and conservation staff, we research surface treatments and coatings to insure that we duplicate or conserve the existing coating on the artifact.


PF: What have been a few interesting projects you have worked on?

DH: All the projects that I work on are interesting, for instance the 1945 Curtiss SB2C-5 World War II Helldiver Dive Bomber and the Apollo XUV Telescope. The most interesting project to date has to be the extremely large NACA wind tunnel. The bolts that attach the NACA wind tunnel fan blades to the hub are massive at 3-inch outside diameter and 27.5-inch long with each one weighing around 75 pounds. They were so tightly fitted that they had to be driven out with sledgehammers when the fan was disassembled. I chemically milled the steel bolts to reduce the diameter by 0.010-inch, and then treated them with zinc phosphate for corrosion protection.


PF: How difficult is it to anodize or plate things that are historic relics?

DH: The difficulties arise with trying to copy the original processes when due to environmental issues, processes are no longer easily available. In some cases, health-related issues that were not known at the original build time are now issues that must be addressed. Radioactive paint in the cockpit, lead paint, chromate conversion coatings, all need to be identified and addressed. In some cases, we are forced to look at alternative coatings while still honoring the original intent and protection properties that were used at the time. In most artifacts, you must first deal with removal of existing corrosion on the part before replating or anodizing. After initial review, discussion may be held with the conservation staff or the curator to determine how to proceed. Even small items such as hardware, bolts, and rivets are carefully handled and are treated for corrosion and treated or plated. Extensive documentation is adhered to throughout the restoration processes. In manufacturing, the documentation follows the part, in the museum setting, most of the documentation is created during the various processes. There are also the time-consuming issues of an artifact/component that cannot be broken down and is composed of several different materials. Research begins on each possible material, each original process if any, and then removal of corrosion from each material, numerous masking and processing.


PF: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

DH: You have to believe in yourself before you can expect others to believe in you.


PF: When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?

DH: A criminal defense lawyer.


PF: Favorite place you’ve ever lived?

DH: Round Rock, Texas, just outside of Austin.


PF: What organization or company aside from your own do you most admire?

DH: Apple. Always doing research and developing the next hot device.


PF: If you could trade jobs with anyone for a day, who would it be?

DH: President of the United States


PF: Where would we find you on a typical Saturday?

DH: With my grandson watching SpongeBob Square Pants 


Get to know David
Family Members: Married to Lieu Van. Three sons: Jeramy, Jody and Andrew. Four grandchildren.
Favorite hobby: PS3 Madden
Favorite movie: The Grapes of Wrath
Favorite book: Lord of the Flies
What’s playing in your car CD/radio: Willie Nelson/WMAL