This is an incredible museum and I thoroughly enjoyed it. First off, this museum is absolutely HUGE so plan to spend most of your day here as there is plenty to do. You’ll see some outdoor displays including a full-scale recreation of the 8th Air Force control tower that was used in England during World War Two with several aircraft parked nearby. There also is a very nice, large, and well shaded park next to the museum parking lot with several sculptures to look at. Once you walk it, you’ll see a large auditorium that houses a IMAX theatre and it is pretty big. They run several documentaries and movies related to the USAF, some of which are in 3D and they are really good so I recommend you get your tickets right then and plan your visit around that. There is a very large gift shop there with lots to choose from and there is a café upstairs. Now that we’re through all that, we’ll head to the exhibits which are free of charge. There are four very large hangars, one very tall cylindrical gallery, and one small hangar each of which is themed to different eras, so lets head into the first building.
The Early Years, World War 1 and the Interwar Years
This building houses replicas and actual aircraft that was in use. From left to right in the above photo, you’ll see a genuine Curtiss 1911 Model D Type 4 pusher. This was the second plane that was bought by the US Army Signal Corps. A pusher is where the propeller is mounted in the back and pushes the plane. The balloon in the background is an observation balloon that is used on the battlefield to monitor troop deployments. Observation balloons have been used by the US Army going back to the American Civil War back in the 1860’s. They went out of favor with the invention of the airplane. The aircraft in the center is a replica od a Wright 1909 Military Flyer, the real thing is at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. The three winged plane in the background is a captured German Fokker Dr. 1. This is the type of plane that Rittmeister Manfred von Richtofen flew during the great war. He was known as the ace-of-aces as he scored a total of 80 air combat victories before succumbing to a wound he received in combat while pursuing a Sopwith Camel plane on April 21, 1918. Those of you that are fans of the Peanuts Gang comics will recognize this as he was better known by his Red Barron nickname. I believe the plane in the middle right is a Eberhart SE-5E which is the American version of the WWI S.E.-5a plane that was built by Great Britain. Unfortunately, I was not able to identify the plane on the far right.
This is the P-26A from Boeing, the pilots called it, the “Peashooter”. It was the last plane that had an open air cockpit, fixed landing gear, and externally braced wings. It was the first all metal mono-wing aircraft that also employed the first landing flaps to help slow the aircraft on landing. This particular aircraft is painted to represent the commander’s aircraft of the 19th Pursuit Squadron, 18th Pursuit Group at Wheeler Field, Hawaii in 1938. This aircraft was in service with the US Army Air Corp from 1932 until 1941. This plane had a top speed of about 234 mph (376 km/h) and a cruising speed of 199 mph (320 km/h).
I believe the plane on the bottom of the above photo is a Spad XIII C.1 from France. This came from the Societe pour l’Aviation et ses Derives (SPAD). This type first flew in 1917. Historically speaking, we American’s are more familiar with this airplane as many of our WWI aces, including Frank Luke, and the “Ace of Aces” Eddie Rickenbacker, flew them. Eddie Rickenbacker shot down 26 enemy aircraft during the great war and went on to become head of Eastern Airlines. I live in Orlando and we have a street named after him that goes right into Orlando Executive Airport near SR 50/Colonial Dr. That airport is one of Florida’s first airports. Unfortunately, I could not identify the other airplane.
This is a K-2/K-3 Autogiro from Kellett and it was an attempt to develop aircraft that needed a short runway space for take-off. Now this effort resulted in the eventual development of the helicopter but not before it spawned aircraft such as this one. It does have rotors like a helicopter but relies on for it to gain speed and lift off the ground. The wind forces the rotors to spin as the aircraft gains speed and thus lifts the aircraft off the ground in a shorter space than a standard airplane. The US Army Air Corp tested this very aircraft right here at Wright Field in 1931 but could not perform up to what the Army needed. It had a top speed of 110 mph (177 km/h), a cruising speed of 90 mph (145 km/h) and a stall (minimum) speed of 15 mph (24 km/h).
This is a NB-2 (NBS-1) Bomber from Martin and it was the first US designed bombers that was produced in large quantities. The first bombers were ordered in June 1920 and were in service until 1929. This aircraft was designed for night bombing runs and had five .30 caliber machine guns and could carry up to 3,000 lbs. (1,360 kg.) of bombs with two Liberty 12 engines with 410 hp. each keeping it in the air. It had a maximum speed of 99 mph. (159 km/h), a top cruising speed of 91 mph. ( 146 km/h), and a range of about 558 miles (898 km/h). This particular aircraft was one of the many bombers that was used by General Billy Martin in bombing trials that sunk several captured ships off the Virginia coast which included the German battleship Ostfriesland. That demonstration proved that ships were indeed vulnerable to air attack. Next up is the second building.
World War 2
The first thing we come to is the POW and concentration camp section which talked about the terrible extermination camps that were set up by Nazi Germany.
This exhibit contains a uniform that was given to a POW. When POW’s (Prisoners of War) were captured, their uniforms were taken away and they were given standard uniforms that every prisoner, including those civilians that the Nazi’s deemed to be “undesirable”, were given. This particular uniform was given by Jack Bomstein. Jack’s father Moritz, wore this uniform while he was imprisoned at Buchenwald. Believe it or not, there were allied POW’s at Nazi concentration camps which included Buchenwald.
This building houses all kinds of aircraft that the US used and captured during World War Two and we’ll begin with one of the most famous aircraft called the “Memphis Belle”.
The Memphis Belle was the first allied bomber to complete 25 bombing missions over occupied Europe. She and her crew were 91st Bomber Group of the 324th Bomb Squadron and is a B-17F Flying Fortress from Boeing. Her first mission was a bombing run over Brest, France on November 7, 1942. She then flew several other bombing missions over France, Netherlands, and Germany before completing her last mission over Kiel, Germany on May 19, 1943. She then flew back to the US for a 31 city war bond tour to raise money for the war effort. The nose art and name are quite interesting as Pilot Robert K Morgan was going to call it “Little One” which was a nickname for his sweetheart Margaret Polk who lived in Memphis, Tennessee. He and copilot Jim Verinis saw a movie called “Lady for a Night” where the lead character owned a riverboat called the “Memphis Belle”. He proposed the name to his crew and they approved it. He then contacted George Petty at Esquire Magazine and asked him to send them a pin-up drawing to go with the name. He sent them the drawing that was in their April 1941 issue. The aircraft was credited with eight enemy aircraft that the crew shot down. You’ll see 25 Bombs representing the 25 completed missions and 8 swastikas representing the eight aircraft that was shot down on both sides of the nose.
This is a 0A-10A “Catalina” from Consolidated Aircraft. This particular aircraft is an amphibious version with a retractable tricycle style landing gear. It also has two .50 caliber machine guns in the waist and two .30 caliber machine guns with one in the bow and one in the ball turret at the stern. This particular aircraft was primarily used for air-sea rescue work, also known as DUMBO missions. There were 2,500 Catalina aircraft built by Consolidated, Canadian Vickers, and Naval Aircraft Factory with most of them being built for the US Navy. 380 of them were transferred to the Army Air Corp until they were retired from service. This particular aircraft was bought by Brazil and used by the Brazilian Air Force until 1981 for a variety of humanitarian missions in the vast Amazon basin. It was then flown here in 1984 where it was restored and assigned to the 2nd Emergency Squadron which served in the Pacific during World War Two.
This is a B-29 Superfortress from Boeing called Boxcar and was famous for dropping the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. These 29’s were able to carry 20,000 lbs. (9,071 kg) worth of bombs and had a great range which made it the ideal bomber for the Pacific Theater of World War Two and Korea. Like the Superfortress name says, it was well armed with eight .50 caliber machine guns in remote control turrets, plus two .50 caliber machine guns, and a 20mm cannon in the tail.
The aircraft in the top left of the photo is a UC-64A “Norseman” transport aircraft from Noordyun Aviation, Ltd. in Montreal, Canada. This type of transport plane was originally built for the Royal Canadian Air Force as trainers and was designed for the rugged country. This was your typical bush plane that could be outfitted with wheels, floats, or skis. Band leader Major Glenn Miller was on one of these planes on December 15, 1944 from England to France when the plane just disappeared and the aircraft was never found. This plane was acquired by the museum in 1981 and painted as a Norseman that was based out of Alaska in WW II.
The aircraft in the top center is a Waco CG-4A “Hadrian” glider that was used extensively in the European Theater beginning with the invasion of Sicily in July of 1943. They also participated in the D-Day invasion of France on June 6, 1944 and in the China-Burma-India theater. These gliders were basically only used once and were pulled via a tow cable by other aircraft like the Douglas Skytrain right below it. Then either the pilot or copilot in the glider released the tow cable and flew the glider to its targeted area. The gliders could carry either 13 troops, a jeep, a qtr. ton truck, or a 75mm Howitzer. These were pretty much expendable aircraft so they were either left abandoned or were destroyed after landing. This one was built by the Gibson Refrigerator Company in Greenville, Michigan and painted with D-Day invasion stripes.
The aircraft in the center with the “L4” on the fuselage is a C-47D “Skytrain” from Douglas. This is an adaptation of the Douglas DC-3 which was widely used as transportation in the civilian sector. The “Gooney Birds” as they were affectionately nicknamed first went into production in 1940 and were largely used as a military transport for troops and cargo. They also towed gliders and dropped paratroopers in a combat role. 9,348 C-47s had been delivered to the military and they remained in service up to and including Vietnam. They also participated in the Berlin Air Lift, when Stalin tried to starve West Berlin into submission by cutting off all railroad access from West Germany. Thankfully it didn’t work because of constant round-the-clock flights of these C-47s into Tempelhof airport. The C-47 on display here was the last active USAF C-47 and was flown in to the museum in 1975. It was painted and marked to represent the C-47A that was flown by 2nd Lt. Gerald “Bud” C. Berry of the 91st Troop Carrier Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group. Their job was to try to recover gliders that were used during the D-Day invasion of France.
Next up is one of the many captured weapons of war called a V-2 rocket. V-2 was short for Vergeltungsweffe 2, or Retribution Weapon 2 in English. It was built by Mittelwerk GmbH and designed by the Peenemunde Army Research Center and was the world’s first guided ballistic missile. The rocket itself was fueled by a liquid-propellant engine which used tail fins to guide it to its destination. This rocket was developed as a response to the allied bombing of German cities. It also became the first man-made object to travel into outer space on June 20, 1944. It should be noted that several of the scientists that developed the V-2 (originally known as the A-4) went on to work for the US at the Redstone Arsenal in New Mexico and later worked on designs that sent us to the moon. Chief among those scientists was Wernher von Braun, the grandfather of modern rocketry and one of the founders of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
This captured aircraft is the Junkers Ju 88D. The Junkers 88 (pronounced yuunkers) is perhaps one of the most versatile aircraft in the entire war as it could be a dive bomber, level bomber, day interceptor, night fighter, tank destroyer, photo reconnaissance, and even a pilotless missile. The Ju 88 made its first flight on December 21, 1936 and still had hundreds in use at the end of the war in 1945. This particular one is the famous Baksheesh which was a long-range photo reconnaissance version. This plane was flown to Cyprus on July 22, 1943 by a Rumanian Air Force pilot who obviously became disillusioned with his German superior officers in the Luftwaffe. The plane was then flown here for extensive testing. The plane was then moved to storage in Arizona in 1946 where it sat until it was moved back here and restored in 1960. The next captured plane was a leap in technology.
This is the Me 262A and it was the world’s first jet propelled aircraft. It was nicknamed the “Schwalbe” or Swallow in English and was developed by the Messerschmitt company and made its first flight on July 25, 1944. More than 1,400 Me 262’s were produced but it was already too late for the Germans as the war had already turned against them at that point. Fewer that 300 saw combat but those few exacted a heavy toll on allied bombers and fighters. This Me 262A was brought over to the US for extensive testing in July of 1945. It was later restored from 1976-79 by the 96th Mobile Maintenance Squadron at Kelly AFB in Texas. The paint scheme is what was standard from the manufacturer without any unit markers. In the photos below, you’ll see a reproduction cutaway of the revolutionary jet engine and one of the four, yes, that’s right, it had four 30mm MK-108 cannons in the nose.
The next weapon is a guided bomb called the Fritz X (PC 1400 X). This was a 3,400 lb. (1,542 kg.) armor-piercing bomb that was usually dropped at an altitude of about 20,000 ft. (6,096 m.) which put it well out of range of any anti-aircraft guns. It was outfitted with a radio receiver that controlled the wings on the back. The bombardier in the bomber could follow the course of the weapon and small course changes as it drops via that radio transmissions. It was later converted to a wire guided bomb to avoid having the radio waves jammed. When dropped, this bomb could penetrate about 28 in. (.08 m.) of armor which made it ideal for ship hunting. It was first used on August 29, 1943 and was used in the famous sinking of the Italian Battleship Roma off the Sardinia coast on September 9, 1943. It was an advanced piece of weaponry but thankfully, it had an appallingly low hit to miss ratio. The sign said that only 1,386 were produced with 602 being used in testing and training so that means only 784 were used in combat. 20% of that number (156) actually found their mark.
These next two photos are of the US version of one of the most infamous Nazi weapons called the V-1 Flying Bomb. It had several nicknames with the Germans calling it the Kirschkern (cherrystone) and the Maikafer (maybug), and the Allies calling it the Doodlebug and the Buzz Bomb. The Buzz Bomb is the most appropriate in my opinion due to the noise that was made from the Pulse Jet engine. The Pulse Jet engine was one of the forerunners of the jet engine and was quite unique because of the sound it made and that it left a contrail that looked more like a knotted rope. The photos are of the JB-2/KGW Loon. A V-1 failed to detonate in England and the US brought its remains back to Wright Field to reverse-engineer it and this was the result. We had planned on using it during the invasion of Japan but other, more famous weapons were used which scrapped the invasion plans.
Here are videos from YouTube of what one was like in flight and what it sounded like followed by a test of a working Pulse Jet.
These were very early cruise missiles and were used quite late in World War 2 from 1944-1945 and mainly was used to bomb London. According to Wikipedia, a total of 9,521 were launched towards southeastern England until the Allies made successful landings in Europe and began destroying those sites. Their target then shifted towards the port of Antwerp and other Belgian targets with 2,448 V-1’s heading in that direction. The V-1 attacks kept coming until the last launch site in the Low Countries was captured by the British on March 29, 1945. The casualties from V-1 attacks are estimated to be about 22,892.
This photo show the Foke-Wulf Fw 190D with its Junkers (pronounced Yoonkers) Jumo 213 engine in the foreground and the Curtiss C-46D Commando behind it. The Fw 190 series made its debut on June 1, 1939 over northwestern France with the A series that was powered by a BMW radial engine and quickly became one of Germany’s best fighters. The D series debuted against US bombers in 1943 with the more powerful in-line, liquid cooled Jumo 213 engine. More than 20,000 Fw 190’s were produced during the war. This particular Fw 190D was assigned to the JG3 “Udet” Geschwader unit, which was one of the Luftwaffe’s more famous fighter units. It was named after Ernest Udet, one of Germany’s leading ace’s to survive World War One. This particular aircraft was captured at the end of the war and brought to the US for testing and is on loan from the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.
The Curtiss C-46D Commando is a variant of the then unproven CW-20 commercial aircraft. There were more that 3,144 C-46’s built and 1,410 of those were C-46D’s which flew in both theaters during WW2 and in Korea but the were most known for flying their “Hump” missions from India to China after the Japanese closed the Burma Road in 1943. These C-46’s flew cargo and troops as well as towing the gliders behind them. The 46’s had better performance at higher altitudes and carried more cargo than the more famous counterpart, the C-47 which is why they were chosen for the Hump flights over the Himalayan Mountain range. That all came at a higher cost of maintenance. This particular aircraft, painted as a C-46 flying the Hump in 1944 was retired from the USAF in Panama in 1968 and was flown to the museum in 1972.
This is the Kawanishi N1K2-Ja “Shiden Kai” which is Japanese for Violet Lightning-Improved, the allies called it the “George”. This heavily armored fighter was perhaps the best fighter for the Japanese Navy late in the war. With a top speed of 396 mph (637 km/h) it was 20 mph (32 km/h) faster than the more famous Zero and had very good maneuverability thanks to its “combat flaps”, which was a mercury switch that automatically extended during turns and created more lift. The J series entered combat in 1945 and was designed to attack the high-flying B-29s but wasn’t very successful as the plane had a very slow rate of climb and lost horsepower the higher it went. This aircraft is one of only three surviving restored aircraft of its kind in the world and came equipped with wing mounts to carry bombs. It was painted as an aircraft of the Yokosuka Kokutai, an evaluation and test unit.
This is the last photo I have of the aircraft in this hangar and it is of the B-24D “Liberator” from Consolidated. More that 18,000 Liberators were built before production ended at the end of the war and hey flew in both theaters of operation in WW2. This Liberator is called “Strawberry Bitch” and flew missions from North Africa in 1943-44 with the 512th Bomb squadron. This aircraft had excellent range of about 3,200 miles (5,150 km) and could carry up to 8,000 lbs. (3,628 kg.) of bombs which made it ideal for long over water missions in the Pacific Theater and targets such as the oil refineries at Ploesti in Romania. This Liberator flew 59 missions in less than nine months and sustaining damage, sometimes heavy damage, from flak or enemy aircraft in at least nine of those missions. This veteran was flown here in 1959. Next up is the Korea/Vietnam Hangar.
This photo shows the two flags with the Republic of Korea (South Korea) on top and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). The patches below are Patrick O’Malley’s name tag, then there is the South Korean, US, and UN flags made by a tailor in Cho-Do that went on his coat. Patrick O’Malley served in the 608th AC&W unit and that is what the large circular patch with a red border is. He served in detachment 2 of the 608th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron. They monitored and controlled the airspace behind enemy lines on an island off the coast of N. Korea called Cho-Do. The patch with the number 5 on it is an embroidered Fifth Air Force patch which was the main component of the Far East Air Forces (FEAF). The three flags next to that one were handmade for Airman First Class Carol Roberts. Next to those on the right are what is called MPCs, which means Military Payment Certificates. These were used instead of US currency in order to protect the local currency and discourage the black market. These were usually exchanged for US currency when the service member returned home.
This monstrosity is a Douglas C-124C “Globemaster 2” cargo aircraft which has lovingly been nicknamed “Old Shakey”. These aircraft were capable of loading large and bulky things like tanks and bulldozers through the clamshell doors at the nose and there also is an elevator lift for smaller cargo under the aft fuselage. The cockpit, one of the highest I’ve seen on an airplane, is accessed via a retractable ladder on the inside. The first flight of the C-124 occurred on November 27, 1949 with the C-124As being delivered in May of 1950. A total of 448 C-124s were in use until production ended in 1955. The cargo area could also be converted into a double-deck troop transport capable of carrying up to 200 fully equipped soldiers.
This is the North American F-82G “Twin Mustang” which was the last of the propeller driven aircraft that was acquired in bulk by the USAF. This has the look of two mustang fuselages attached to one wing but it couldn’t be farther from the truth as this was a totally new design. This fighter has a pilot in one cockpit with a copilot/navigator in the other cockpit and was designed during World War Two to reduce pilot fatigue on long-range bomber escort missions but the end of the war came before it went into production in 1946. This was one of the first aircraft to operate over the Korean peninsula as the first three N. Korean aircraft were shot down by F-82G Interceptors. A total of 273 F-82s were produced including the F-82B “Betty Jo”, also on display here, which made a non-stop flight from Hawaii to New York on Feb 27-28, 1947. That flight, a distance of 5,051 miles (8,129 km) was that worlds longest non-stop flight for a propeller driven aircraft at that time. Betty Jo was delivered to the museum in 1957. The one in the photo is a F-82B that was modified and marked as a F-82G that was crewed by Lts. Charles Moran, pilot, and Fred Larkins, radar observer, of the 68th of the F(AW)S. They shot down a N. Korean La-7 on June 27, 1950 near Kimpo Air Base in S. Korea.
This is the Republic F-84E “Thunderjet” which made its first flight on Feb 28, 1946 making it the USAF’s first jet fighter. The first of these jet fighters rolled off the production line in June 1947 and a total of 4,450 of these “straight-wing” jet fighters were in service by the time production ended in 1953. It also was the first USAF jet fighter that was able to carry a tactical atomic weapon. The F-84s gained their fame during the Korean War when they were used for low-level interdiction missions where they would fly behind enemy lines and attack railroads, bridges, supply depots, troop concentrations using bombs, rockets, and napalm. Basically they would be doing what was known as a “Cavalry Raid” by causing chaos behind enemy lines. This F-84E was obtained from Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia in October 1963 and delivered to the museum. It was given the markings of a F-84G that was flown by Col. Joseph Davis, JR. He led many successful missions over N. Korea and commanded the 58th Fighter-Bomber Wing until the Korean War ended.
This is the Lockheed F-94 “Starfire” which was developed from the P-80 Shooting Star from the same company. The first F-94 took flight on July 1, 1949 and then was produced in the A, B, and C series. The different variants had different options like the one in the photo which came with guns which the F-94C didn’t have. Other variants had higher thrust engines, swept back rear stabilizer wings, etc. The last of the F-94 interceptors were retired from the USAF in 1959. The one on display was painted to represent a F-94C that was assigned to the 60th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Otis AFB in Massachusetts in the 1950’s.
There are three aircraft in this photo and the white one in the top left is a drone from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems called the MQ-9 “Reaper”. This is a remotely piloted aircraft that is able to fly long distances that is able to gather and transmit real-time surveillance and intelligence. It is also able to take out time critical and highly mobile targets. Its first flight was on February 2, 2001. This one was sent into Afghanistan in 2005 and has flown 254 sorties and over 3,266 combat hours.
The Aircraft on the bottom is a Douglas A-1E “Skyraider”. This aircraft actually traces back to WW2 when the Navy asked Douglas to submit a design to replace their famous SBD “Dauntless” dive-bomber which resulted in the AD designation that made its first flight on March 18, 1945. Over 3,000 Skyraiders were delivered to the Navy and many of them were used in Korea. The Sir Force began modifying the AD-5 Skyraiders for use in Vietnam in 1963 and were given the A-1E designation. It had the ability to carry large bomb loads, take heavy damage, and fly at low altitudes for long distances which was great for close support missions. This Skyraider was piloted by Major Bernard Fisher on March 10, 1966 when he rescued a downed pilot in South Vietnam amidst enemy troops. The plane was severely damaged and returned to the museum for preservation but not before Major Fisher received the Medal of Honor. I could not find out any information on the third aircraft.
There are two aircraft in this photo and the first one in the front is the famous MiG-17 “Fresco” from Mikoyan which is a refined version of the MiG-15. This version which began testing in January of 1950, is about 3 feet longer, has better speed and handling, more sharply swept back wings, and an afterburner. the first Mig-17s went into production in 1952 but did not participate in the Korean War but did fly against the US in Vietnam. Between July 10, 1965 and February 14, 1968, Air Force F-105s and F-4s downed 61 MiG-17s. This MiG-17 was presented to the National Museum of the USAF by the Egyptian Air Force in 1986 as a symbol of friendship and cooperation between the two nations.
The aircraft in the back is a EC-121D “Constellation’ FROM Lockheed also known as the “Connie”. This is a reconnaissance aircraft that entered the service with the Air Defense Command in 1953. The original designation was the RC-121 and is a radar-picket modification of the USAF C-121 passenger aircraft which is an evolution of the civilian aircraft. It was modified so it could carry six tons of electronic equipment in the massive radomes above and below the fuselage. These aircraft could detect and relay enemy aircraft positions, direct aircraft to the airborne refueling tankers, and guide aircraft to downed pilots. This aircraft was nicknamed the “Triple Nickel” because of its serial number 53-555. This aircraft became the first radar aircraft to guide a fighter by radar to a successful attack on a MiG-21 on October 24, 1967. The Triple Nickel was retired to the museum in 1971.
This is the famous MiG-21F “Fishbed” from Mikoyan-Gurevich. This one is a short-range day fighter-interceptor which made its first flight in the Soviet Aviation Day display at Moscow’s Tushino Airport in June of 1956. These aircraft saw action in Vietnam and were effective fighters. USAF F-4s and B-52s downed at least 68 of these aircraft between April 26, 1965 and Jan 8, 1973. At least 15 versions of the MiG-21 were produced with more than 8,000 total being built. This Mig-21F was manufactured in 1964 in Czechoslovakia and served in that Air Force. It is painted as a MiG-21PF of the North Vietnamese Air Force during the Vietnam War.
This is the HH-3E “Jolley Green Giant” from Sikorsky which primarily performed Combat Search and Rescue (SCAR) during Vietnam. This helicopter came with armor plating and armament in the form of two 7.62mm M60 machine guns and was also the first air-refuelable helicopter via a retractable refueling arm. Thanks to that and its external fuel tanks, it could go all over southeast Asia rescuing downed airmen. These aircraft saw action from Vietnam to the first Gulf War until they were retired in 1995. This particular aircraft had a very distinguished combat record as its crewmen were awarded 1 Air Force Cross, 14 Silver Stars, and the prestigious MacKay Trophy for heroism and its crews were credited with rescuing 27 airmen during wartime.
This is the UH-1P “Iroquois” from Bell more commonly known as the “Huey”. This chopper assumed many roles during its career with the Armed Forces which include armed escort and attack gunship in Vietnam. The USAF ordered these choppers starting in 1963 and more variants in 1970. The USAF used these for support duties at missile sites, instrument and hoist training, and medical evacuation. This Huey on display served in South Vietnam from 1968-71 with the 20th Special Operations Squadron. This originally was a UH-1F but was changed to UH-1P when it was modified for special operations in June of 1969. It was flown to the museum in April of 1980.
This is the B-52D “Stratofortress” from Boeing which became operational in 1955. Its first flight took place on April 15, 1952 and nearly 750 were built by the time the production run ended in 1962. This one was modified to carry conventional bombs externally and Hound Dog and Quail Decoy missiles later on. In 1957, three B-52s became the first jets to make a non-stop round the world flight and it was a B-52 that dropped the Hydrogen Bomb on Bikini Atoll in 1956. The B-52s began dropping bombs in Vietnam in June of 1965. This B-52 saw extensive service over Southeast Asia and was severely damaged by a Surface to Air Missile (SAM) on April 9, 1972. It was repaired and flew four more missions over North Vietnam in December of 1972 before being flown to the museum in 1978.
This is the F-86A “Sabre” from North American with a recreation of a famous photo of two pilots walking through a Torii Gate at Kimpo Air Base in South Korea. The F-86s made their first flight on October 1, 1947 and were the USAF’s first swept wing jet fighter. A F-86A set a new world speed record on September 15, 1948 when it achieved a top speed of 670.9 mph (1,080 km/h) shortly after its first production flight on earlier that year on May 20th. This fighter was initially designed to be a high altitude day fighter but was redesigned when the F-86Ds came out to be an all-weather interceptor, then a fighter-bomber with the F-86H. The F-86A, E, and F models were all day fighters that had successfully shot down 792 MiG-15s in MiG Alley with a kill ratio of nearly 8 to 1 in favor of the Sabers. MiG Alley was in the Northwestern area of North Korea where the Yalu River emptied out into the Yellow Sea. More than 5,500 Sabers were built by the US and Canada and were used by twenty other allied countries. This F-86 was flown to the museum in 1961 and marked as a member of the 4th Fighter Group. This plane was flown by Lt. Col. Bruce Hinton who became the first F-86 pilot to shoot down a MiG-15. The Sabers came equipped with six .50 cal. machine guns in the nose and the different variations could carry eight 5 in. rockets or 2,000 lbs. (907 kg.) worth of bombs.
This one is the F-105 “Thunderchief” from Republic and it is a supersonic tactical fighter-bomber that replaced the F-84F. The prototype took its first flight took place on October 22, 1955. There were 833 total F-105s built including the F-105G “Wild Weasel” before production ended in 1964. During the first four years of the war, the F-105D flew 75% of the air strikes in North Vietnam. The aircraft in the photo originally entered service as a F-105F in 1964 with the 355th Tactical Wing out of Thailand where it flew combat missions into Vietnam for three years becoming one of a few Thunderchiefs to kill three MiG fighters. It was fitted with electronic countermeasures and was given the G designation. It flew with the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing for what was called “Wild Weasel” duty which meant they hunted and destroyed enemy SAM (Surface to Air Missile) sites. It is marked to the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron that was based at Korat Royal Thai AFB in Thailand in 1972-73.
This is the F-4 “Phantom 2” from McDonnell Douglas which made its first flight in May of 1958. It originally was developed for the US Navy fleet defense in 1961 but was evaluated by the USAF for close air support, interdiction, and counter-air operations. The USAF version was approved in 1962 and the F-4C made its first flight on MAY 27, 1963 with production beginning that November. It is capable of carrying up to 16,000 lbs. (7,257 kg.) worth of bombs which is twice that of the WW2 era B-17. This F-4 was piloted by WW2 Ace Col. Robert Olds and Lt. Stephen B. Crocker scored two kills in one sortie Vietnam on May 20, 1967. Col. Olds managed to get two more kills during the Vietnam war.
This is the F-111 “Aardvark” from General Dynamics and it is a swing wing aircraft that entered service in 1967. A swing wing aircraft is one where the wings are straight for take-offs and landing or slow speed flight but can sweep back for supersonic flight at a top speed of Mach 2. A total of 566 F-111s were built with 106 of them being F-11Fs, one of which is in the photo. The F-111s had the capability of long-range, low-level flight deep into enemy territory to deliver its ordinance, mainly bombs, on target and return to base. There are three F-111s at this museum with the F-111A in the photo, The F-111F in the Cold War Gallery, and the F-111F outside that served with the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing during operation Desert Storm.
We’ve reached the end of this hanger so we’ll head down the hall to the next hangar. There are hallways connecting each hangar and the one connecting the first two hangars has model plane displays as well as bomber jackets and crew uniforms. This hall talks about the Iron Curtain and the walls that surrounded the free West Berlin. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good photographs save for this recreation of the famous Checkpoint Charlie.
Now we come to hangar 3.
The Cold War
On display here is the is the Mk-41 “Hydrogen” bomb which was first produced in 1960 and was designed to be carried by the B-47, B-52, and the B-70 bombers. This device was nicknamed the “H Bomb” which was short for Hydrogen Bomb and is now obsolete and thankfully longer in service in the USAF. The bomb was to be released at a high altitude and dropped with a parachute that was deployed by a small drone chute once the device was released. The drone chute would then pull out the main chute which slowed the decent of the bomb and allowed the aircraft to escape the area before the bomb detonated just above its intended target.
The aircraft behind it is the B-36J “Peacemaker”, an intercontinental bomber from Convair. The Peacemaker was actually designed during World War 2 and is unique in that its six propeller engines are mounted on the back of the wing instead of on the front meaning that the propellers push the plane instead of pulling it. It made its maiden flight on August 8, 1946 and the first bomber was delivered to the newly formed Strategic Air Command (SAC) on June 26, 1948. There were a total of 380 B-36s built when production ended in 1954 and they were eventually replaced by the newer B-52. This particular B-36 was flown here on April 30, 1959 from Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona and it marked the last time a B-36 ever flew.
There are four aircraft in this photo and I will describe three of them. The fourth has a photo all to itself. The plane in the foreground is the F-102A “Delta Dagger” from Convair. This became the Air Force’s first operational delta-wing aircraft and the world’s first all-weather supersonic jet interceptor when it made its initial flight on October 24, 1953. This interceptor was assigned to the Air Defense Command (ADC) and equipped more than 25 ADC squadrons. There were 1,101 F-102s built and 975 of them were F-102As and 111 were TF-102s that were specially built trainers with side by side seats. A squadron of these dispatched if our radar detected enemy aircraft in our airspace then the on board electronic equipment would then locate the enemy aircraft. The radar would then guide the aircraft into the attacking position. Once that was achieved, the automatic electronic fire control system would activate and launch the missiles or rockets at the intended target(s). The F-102A you see here served with 57th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron in Iceland. It was one of the first Air Force aircraft to intercept a Soviet Tu-95 “Bear” bomber over the Arctic. This one was flown to the museum in 1971. Unfortunately, I was not able to identify the planes in the back right and the one hanging above it.
This one is the F-117A Stealth Fighter from Lockheed. These aircraft are able to attack high value targets without being sighted by enemy radar due to a special paint, materials, and a design that deflects radar away from the aircraft instead of bouncing it back to the radar station. These type of aircraft became operational in October of 1983 with the first F-117A unit in the 4450th Tactical Group which was renamed the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing in October 1989. The first use of this aircraft was during operation Just Cause in December 19, 1989 when two F-117As attacked targets in Panama. They were also called into action during Desert Shield/Storm in 1990-91. F-117s from the 415th and 416th squadrons of the 37th TFW flew 1,271 sorties from a base in Saudi Arabia during that time. This one on display here was a test aircraft that was specially modified and instrumented to test various systems. It was then retired to the museum in 1991 once the testing was complete.
Here you see six segments of the Berlin wall which was built by the Soviets in 1961. This wall surrounded the free West Berlin from the communist East Berlin and East Germany. It was accompanied by the brightly lite “Death Strip” that came equipped with tank traps, guard towers, fixed guns, land mines, attack dogs, and lots of barbed wire. It is estimated that 5,000 people made it over the wall with about 100 being shot dead making the attempt, most of them were shot by the guards themselves.
This is the B-2 “Spirit” long-range bomber from Northrop. This bomber is capable of delivering large payloads of conventional or nuclear bombs to any target around the world without being detected by even the most sophisticated radar systems. This is done via the unique materials and paint that were used in the construction of this flying wing. This bomber is quite unique in that it is one of only a few flying wing aircraft designs. Most aircraft would completely lose control without the rear elevators and stabilizers but this is accomplished via computer which makes hundreds of corrections each minute to keep the bomber in the air. You may also notice that there aren’t any engines. Well, there are in fact, four jet engines that are built into the wing itself. The B-2 bombers came around in the 1980’s which coincided with a rash of UFO sightings as this project was kept under tight wraps. The UFO sightings died down once the bomber was officially announced to the public. Each bomber is also named after a state such as the “Spirit of New York”‘ or the “Spirit of California”. There are two exceptions where two of them are named the “Spirit of America”, and the “Spirit of Kitty Hawk” where manned aviation took its first flight. This particular aircraft was a static ground test vehicle that never flew. It was brought here in December of 2003 after testing was completed.
This one is the F-104C “Starfighter” day and night interceptor from Northrop. This supersonic interceptor is fast as a F-104C set the worlds speed record at a mere 1,404.19 mph (2,259.82 km/h) on May 18, 1958. A F-104C also set the altitude record at 103,309 ft. (31,488 m) on December 14, 1959. It also came heavily armed with a six barrel M-61 20mm Vulcan cannon. This tactical fighter also came with heat-seeking “Sidewinder” missiles. The Starfighter was the first aircraft to hold records in speed, altitude, and time-to-climb. The USAF bought about 300 of these in one a two seat configurations and a further 1,700 more were built in the US and abroad under the military aid program for various allied nations. The Starfighter also won the 1962 USAF “William Tell” Fighter Weapons Meet competition. This particular F-104C was flown to the museum in August of 1975.
This is the A-10A “Thunderbolt 2” from Republic Fairchild, more commonly called, the Warthog. This aircraft was specifically designed for close air support of ground forces and is literally built like a tank as it can sustain heavy damage and still stay in the fight. It was named after the P-47 “Thunderbolt” that was also a close air support for ground troops in World War Two. It is designed to be extremely maneuverable at low altitude and low speeds and requires very little room for take-off. It can attack all ground targets but its specialty is taking out tanks and other armored vehicles with its GAU-8/A 30mm Gatling Gun and 16,000 lbs. (7,257 kg.) of mixed use ordinance. The prototype made its first flight on May 10, 1972 with production beginning in 1975 and ending in 1984. On January 21, 1991, this A-10A on display, was flown by Captain Paul Johnson on a rescue support mission during operation Desert Storm which lasted eight hours. He was awarded the Air Force Cross, the second highest award for valor in the USAF. This plane was flown here on January 24, 1992.
These two photos are of the SR-71A, a long-range, advanced strategic reconnaissance aircraft from Lockheed. This aircraft is unofficially called the “Blackbird” for obvious reasons and it was developed from A-12 and YF-12A from the same company. The first test flight of the SR-71 took place on December 22, 1964 and later entered service with the 4200th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing that was later renumbered the 9th SRW, at Beale AFB in California in 1966. This aircraft was the worlds fastest at more that 2,000 mph (3,218 km/h) and the worlds highest flying at 85,000 ft. (25,908 m) throughout its 24 year career with the USAF. It could survey 100,000 square miles (160,934 sq. km.) per hour at an altitude of 80,000 ft. (24,384 m). The SR-71 set two world records for its class on July 28, 1976. those records are for speed at 2,193.167 mph (3,529.56 km/h) and achieved an altitude of 85,068.997 ft. (25,929.03 m). The SR-71 on display made its first flight on March 21, 1968 with Maj. (later General) Jerome F. O’Malley and Maj. Edward D. Payne. This aircraft accumulated more than 2,981 hours in the air and flew 942 sorties including 257 operational missions from Beale AFB and Palmdale, both in California as well as Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, and RAF base Mildenhall, England. The SR-71 was flown here in March of 1990.
The large aircraft to the right of the SR-71 is the C-133A “Cargomaster” from Douglas. This aircraft went directly into production and the first flight occurred on April 23, 1956. This plane was built to satisfy the Air Force’s requirements for a large capacity strategic cargo airplane. This aircraft could handle a variety of military cargo through its rear and side doors but it was most known for transporting ballistic missiles like the Atlas. This aircraft was retired in 1971 with the development of the larger Lockheed C-5A. This aircraft set a world record for propeller driven aircraft on December 16, 1958 when it transported a payload of 117,900 lbs. (53,478 kg.) to an altitude of 10,000 ft. (3,048 m). The aircraft was flown here on March 17, 1971.
This photo shows another F-111A with an escape module right next to it. This ejection module was actually used when two contractor pilots from General Dynamics had to eject the module when the aircraft experienced total hydraulic failure on October 19, 1967 over Texas. The plane became uncontrollable and the module ejected at 28,000 ft. (8,534 m) at an airspeed of 280 knots which is just above 322 mph (518 km/h). The module deployed a parachute and the crew safely returned to the ground.
I’m pretty sure you’ll recognize these as they were members of an elite squad of pilots called the “Thunderbirds”. The Thunderbirds is a team of Air Force pilots that are some of the best the Air Force has to offer and they have to earn their spot in the flight demonstration team. You can see them at many different air shows showing off their incredible team flying skills across the nation but their home base will always be Nellis AFB in Nevada. The plane on the left is a F-16 which is the product of General Dynamics. In 1972, the USAF asked for a plane that would be a lightweight air superiority day fighter that was lightweight, easy to maintain, was able to achieve high performance and General Dynamics came through. This aircraft was combat ready in October of 1980 and came with one 20mm M-61A1 cannon and many different combinations of air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles and bombs. Its maximum speed is 1,345 mph (2,164 km/h) with a cruising speed of 577 mph (929 km/h). The plane on display was one of the first F-16s to be received by the Thunderbirds in 1982 when they transitioned away from the T-38s. The Thunderbirds operated this aircraft until 1992 when they started using the newer F-16Cs.
The plane on the right is the F-100D Super Sabre from North American. This aircraft was designed to be the follow-on to the F-86 Sabre that served in North Korea and it actually became the first production aircraft that was capable of flying faster that the speed of sound at level flight. The prototype, a YF-100A, made its first flight at Edwards AFB in California on May 25, 1953 and soon after followed production of over 2,294 F-100s before production ended in 1959. The D version was the most advanced version of the Super Sabre and came with features like the first autopilot for a supersonic jet and a low altitude bombing system. The Super Sabre debuted in Vietnam where it was used as a fighter-bomber with its four M-39 20mm cannons, two GAM-83A Bulldog missiles and rockets. They could swap out those missiles and rockets for a maximum bomb load of about 7,040 lbs. (3,193 kg). They used those against targets like roads, bridges, and enemy encampments. This aircraft was flown by the Thunderbirds from 1964-68 and then was retired from service in 1977 with the 114th Tactical Fighter Group of the South Dakota Air National Guard. It was then restored by the Thunderbird maintenance personnel and flown to the museum on July 22, 1977.
This is the B-1B “Lancer” from Boeing that is also known as the “Bone”. This was an improved variant of the B-1A that was cancelled in 1977 but resurrected in 1981 with the first flight occurring in 1984. This bomber can carry up to 84 Mk-82 GPU bombs, 30 CBU-87/89 cluster bombs, or 24 GBU-31 JDAMs. The B-1B has a great range thanks to its blended body and wing configuration, variable geometry design, and turbo fan engines. The wings are swept forward for landings, takeoffs, and high altitude cruising and the wings are swept back in high subsonic and supersonic flight and to enhance its maneuverability. The B-1B employs a number of radar, GPS, Internal Navigation, and Doppler systems that allowed the crew to navigate all around the world without having to use ground based navigational aids. This aircraft came from the 7th Bomber Wing at Dyess AFB in Texas and it arrived here on September 10, 2002.
This is the MiG-29A “Fulcrum” from Mikoyan-Gurevich. This aircraft was designed as an air defense fighter around the same time as the F-15 and F-16s, and could also attack ground targets. The first prototype flew on October 6, 1977 and was given the Fulcrum name by NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in November of the year. Production started in 1982 and planes were soon flying to Soviet Air Bases in 1983 but it was technologically behind most of the western fighters of the time as they were heavier and lacked the fly by wire capabilities that the allies had. They were still a formidable aircraft with their Phatzron NIIR NO19 Doppler radar that was capable of detecting targets more than sixty miles away. The pilot could also track and shoot down aircraft that are flying below him. This aircraft is an early model MiG-29A and is marked when it was assigned to the 234th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment at Kubinka Air Base near Moscow.
That concludes the Cold War hanger so we’ll move on to the next gallery. I hope you can look up in this one.
There are several missiles in this gallery which include the PGM-19 “Jupiter” from Chrysler which was a IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile) that was in service from 1960-1963. These were the missiles that were removed from Italy and Turkey in 1963 due to the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The PGM-17A “Thor” IRBM that was in service from 1959 to 1963 as a stop-gap deterrent until the ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) could be developed and deployed. The HGM-25A “Titan I” and LGM-25C “Titan II” from Martin Marietta which was our first long-range multi stage ICBMs. These were the first missiles to be housed in underground silos so they could be well hidden. They were in service from 1963 to 1987. The “Thor-Agena A” from Douglas was a hybrid with a Thor ballistic missile and a Agena upper stage. The Thor launched the Agena with its satellite attached into low earth orbit and the Agena boosted it into high earth orbit. This was the most successful US satellite launch vehicles during the Cold War. The LGM-30 “Minuteman 1A and III” from Boeing which was designed in the 1950s. This was the first ICBM that used solid rocket fuel which could be stored for long periods in the silos and required less maintenance than the older liquid fueled rockets.
This is a photo of the warhead of the LGM 118A “Peacemaker” from Boeing which was our most powerful, accurate, and technologically advanced ICBM when it was active from 1986 to 2005. This missile had the latest targeting technology that could deliver nuclear strikes to many targets, all from one missile. The signing of the Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia in 1993 signaled the end of the cold war and the removal of all fifty of the Peacekeeper missiles. Deactivation began in 2003 and the last one was deactivated in 2005. That brings us to the end of the Missile Gallery and into the last hanger.
Space and Presidential Aircraft
This is the Titan IVB from Lockheed-Martin and is the Air Force’s largest and consequently, most powerful single use rocket that is used to put satellites into low earth orbit, polar orbit, or geosynchronous (stationary) orbit. These rockets, which were not missiles, are usually launched from Vandenberg AFB in California or Cape Canaveral in Florida. This rocket comes from a long line of Titan rockets dating back to the original Titan ICBM back in 1959. The Titan even launched astronauts into orbit during the Gemini launches in the early to mid 1960’s. The class of Titan rocket launched satellites like the National Reconnaissance, early warning, and meteorological satellites from 1997 to 2005. It even launched NASA’s (National Aeronautics & Space Administration) Cassini-Huygens spacecraft that studied Saturn and its moon, Titan.
This is the one man Mercury space capsule from McDonnell. The Mercury capsules were only 9 ft. (2.74 m) tall and weighed about 2,000 lbs. (907 kg.) which makes for a real tight squeeze trying to get in. I imagine a telephone booth would’ve had more room in it. This one never actually flew but was used for parts to support Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper’s last Mercury flight on May 15-16, 1963. It is currently on loan by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air & Space Museum.
This is the Gemini spacecraft in the foreground is the Gemini Spacecraft that also is from McDonnell and is also on loan from the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air & Space Museum. The missions of the Gemini program which came after Mercury and before Apollo, were to investigate the problems that long-term space travel posed, figure out the best way to rendezvous and dock in space, and conduct successful EVAs (Extra Vehicular Activities). This craft is 4,500 lbs. (2,041 kg.) and is 8 ft. 6 in. (2.62 m) tall and also never flew as it was used for thermal qualification testing.
The “tan looking” module behind it is an authentic, mission used Apollo Command Module called Falcon that carried Col. David R. Scott who was the missions Commander, Lt. Col. James B. Irwin who was the Lunar Module Pilot, and Maj. Alfred M. Worden who was the Command Module Pilot. Maj. Worden’s job was to stay in the CM and relay messages from Houston (NASA HQ) to the Lunar Module that was on the moon while taking photos of the Lunar surface and conducting experiments. This module was launched on top of the Giant Saturn V rocket from the Kennedy Space Center on July 26, 1971 and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean 333 miles north of Hawaii on August 7th. The CM was named Falcon, after the USAF Academy’s mascot which is appropriate seeing as all three astronauts were members of the USAF. The Lunar Module that went to the moon was named after Captain James Cook’s ship called the Endeavor that carried him on his famous voyages in the 18th century. This CM is 13,000 lbs. (5,897 kg) when it was launched and is 10 ft. 7 in. (3.26 m) tall.
These two photos show the different satellites that were launched by the USAF. The one up top is one of the most important photo reconnaissance satellites called the Gambit 1 KH-7 which was only recently declassified. These series of satellites along with the Gambit 3 KH-8 and the KH-9 Hexagon satellites orbited the earth from the 1960’s until the 1980’s. Photo recon satellites were a key component during the Cold War as they were able to track weapons development and military movement going on in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic, Also known as the USSR, or Soviet Union. These satellites were launched from Vandenberg AFB in California and contained special photographic equipment and film that would allow detailed photos taken from orbit. The satellite would then jettison the film canister which would then be retrieved in mid-air by specially designed aircraft in the Hawaii area.
This is the XB-70 “Valkyrie” from North American. This aircraft was initially designed to be a high altitude bomber for the Strategic Air Command (SAC) in the 1950’s that could go up to Mach 3 which is three times the speed of sound. Unfortunately, only two of these were ever built due to funding limitations and they didn’t fly as bombers once they were built. They flew research missions for the advanced study of aerodynamics. The first Valkyrie took its maiden flight on September 21, 1964 and achieved Mach 3 on October 14, 1965. The second plane made its initial flight on July 17, 1965 but crashed on June 8, 1966 due to a mid-air collision. The First Valkyrie continued to serve until it was flown here on February 4, 1969 when it was officially retired from service.
There are several aircraft in this shot and the first one on the ground with the ID number “FS-059” on the nose is the XF-84H “Thunderstreak” from Republic which made its first flight on July 22, 1955. It was given the “Thunder Screech” nickname by the ground crew as the sound that was produced by the turboprop engine gave them headaches and bouts of nausea. This was a joint project by the Air Force and Navy that was based on the F-84F from the same company. It was meant to combine the speed of a jet and the low maintenance and fuel consumption of a propeller driven aircraft. It was the worlds fastest propeller driven aircraft but never reached the supersonic speeds that it was intended to in its twelve test flights, eleven of which, ended in emergency landings. This aircraft was obtained by the museum in 1999 when they brought it over from Kern County in California.
The aircraft in the back left with the red and white colors and “U.S. Air Force” written on the air intakes above the cockpit is the F-107A from North American. This aircraft was designed to be a tactical fighter-bomber version on the F-100 with the addition of a recessed weapons bay. Its designation was changed from F-100B to F-107A when significant design changes were made such as the addition of a (Variable Area Inlet Duct) that automatically controlled the air that was let into the jet engine. There also was a all-moving vertical fin which allowed the plane to roll at supersonic speeds. The plane achieved Mach 1.03 on its initial test flight on September 10, 1956 and achieved Mach 2 on November 3rd. Three of these aircraft were built as prototypes but never saw full production. The aircraft on display is the second of the three which took its first flight on November 28, 1956. It was used for weapons testing including atomic bombs and was flown here on November 25, 1957.
The last one is the odd one hanging in the upper left called the X-29A from Grumman. This aircraft was a jointly funded project from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Air Force, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and built to test a number of different technologies and materials. The most notable is of that is the Swept Forward Wing, It also tested the forward elevator also known as a Canard and an electrical flight control system. Only two of these aircraft were ever built with the first one making its initial flight on December 14, 1984 at Edwards AFB. It became the worlds first swept forward wing aircraft to achieve Mach 1 in level flight on its 26th flight on December 13, 1985. The aircraft on display here was the first X-29A and was flown here in 1994 after the two aircraft were retired from service.
This photo also shows three aircraft in it as well with the one on the ground in the front being a P-75A “Eagle” from Fisher. This was originally designed to fill the Army Air Force’s need for an interceptor in 1942 and was designed to incorporate proven airframe components such as the F4U landing gear, the P-40 wing panels, the A-24 tail as well as a few new components to reduce the design and testing period as well as simplify the production process. The new components include a coaxial contra-rotating propellers that were connected by two drive shafts that ran under the cockpit. Those drive shafts were connected to a 24 cylinder liquid cooled engine that was located “amidships” or in the middle instead of in front of the cockpit. The Eagle made its initial test flight on November 17, 1943 but a mission change that switched from interceptor to long-range bomber escorts caused major design changes. The Air Force ordered six of these XP-75s as well as 2,500 P-75As. The improved version was still unsatisfactory and the entire program was cancelled in November of 1944 when three Eagles crashed. Only eight XP-75s and P-75As were ever built. The second aircraft is the tail of the XB-70 “Valkyrie” which should give you an idea just how big this aircraft is. Note the six General Electric YJ93 jet engines that were capable of producing 30,000 lbs. (13,608 kg.) of thrust each with afterburners.
The third one hung in the background right is the X-4 from Northrop. Two of these aircraft were built to study the characteristics of swept wing, semi-tailless aircraft at transonic speeds at about Mach .85. The first X-4 made its maiden flight on December 16, 1948 and the second one on display here, made its first flight on June 7, 1949. The test program ended in September of 1953 with this planes 102nd test flight. This aircraft was restored by the Western Museum of Flight in Hawthorne, CA and sent here after the restoration was done.
This photo shows the second SR-71 in their collection.
This on is the C-119J “Flying Boxcar” from Fairchild. This transport aircraft was developed from their C-82 which was used to transport just about anything and everything from littered patients to mechanized equipment during WW2. This aircraft made its initial flight in November of 1947 and was extensively used during the Korean War and then again in Vietnam as the AC-119 gunship. This particular C-119J aircraft was used to retrieve space capsules returning from orbit in mid-air. This aircraft was the worlds first aircraft to successfully make a mid-air retrieval of the Discoverer XIV satellite on August 19, 1960. It arrived here at the museum in November 1963.
This is a C-141C “Starlifter” from Lockheed and it was the Air Force’s first jetliner transport that was designed to meet the military standards of a troop and cargo carrier. It made its first flight on December 17, 1963 and was soon modified as its potential was realized. Later models had their fuselage extended by 23 ft. (7 m) and added the capability of mid-air refueling. It shuttled many troops and cargo to multiple destinations, but none were more important than the “Hanoi Taxi”. This aircraft flew the first POW’s home from Gia Lam Airport in Hanoi, North Vietnam on February 12, 1973. The “Hanoi Taxi” was retired to the museum in May of 2006.
Yes, UFOs really do exist though this one never really made it far off the ground. This is the VZ-9A “Avrocar” from Avro Canada which was originally intended for the US Air Force and Army during the cold war. It made its first flight on November 12, 1959 and was retired in 1961 with only two units ever having been built. It was originally intended as a high speed fighter that used the Coanda effect to provide lift and thrust through a single turborotor that was located in the center. The exhaust was sucked in through the middle and then blown out through the outer rim of the saucer. The project was repeatedly scaled back to the point that it was abandoned at which point, the US Army picked it up and tried to develop it as a tactical combat aircraft like the modern day helicopter. They too abandoned it due to the unresolved thrust and stability problems it had encountered.
This odd-looking aircraft was a test vehicle called Tacit Blue and was built by Northrop to demonstrate stealth observation aircraft could operate close to the front line with a very low probability of detection. It made its first flight on February 5, 1982 and was retired in 1985.
This was an experimental vertical takeoff and landing jet called the X-13 “Vertijet” from Ryan Aeronautical. It made its maiden flight on December 10, 1955 and was retired on September 30, 1957 with only two Vertijets ever built. These jets were built to demonstrate the ability of a pure jet to vertically take off, hover, transition to horizontal flight, and land vertically. The jet on display was the second one built and was the only one to complete a full test cycle on April 11, 1957 at Edwards AFB. It made a vertical take off from its mobile trailer, then transitioned to a horizontal flight where it flew for a few minutes, then transitioned back to vertical flight where it descended back onto its trailer for landing. This plane was then delivered to the museum in May of 1959.
This is the XF-85 “Goblin” from McDonnell. It was originally conceived as a fighter aircraft that would be deployed from the bomb bay of a Convair B-36 bomber as a sort of parasite fighter to defend bombers from enemy interceptor aircraft during WW2. The initial design showed promise but it severely lacked in performance against enemy aircraft it might face not to mention there were significant problems in docking with the mother ship. This aircraft was sent to the museum on August 23, 1950 and was one of the first experimental aircraft to be displayed at the then, new Air Force museum.
This section of the last hangar displays many of the aircraft that was used by the different presidents. There are nine total aircraft in this section but I will only be showing four aircraft that you can actually walk through. The first one is the very first one called the “Sacred Cow”.
This is a C-54C “Skymaster” from Douglas that was built for President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 but he only used it for one flight on his trip to Yalta in 1945 before his death later that year. President Truman also used this until 1947 when a new plane became available. The interior of this Skymaster was heavily modified to fit the Presidential needs.
You’ll see the cockpit, communications and navigation station, living quarters, and the meeting room with a large bulletproof picture window in the photos above. The photos below show the special elevator and wheelchair that was installed for F.D.R.
It was a very well-kept secret that the President was suffering from Polio which severely affected his ability to walk without assistance so they went to great lengths to mask, and cover up his disability which includes hiding scenes like this as everyone else would be seen walking down the stairs. This is pretty important to the Air Force as President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 while on board the plane. That act established the Air Force as an independent service and no-longer a part of the US Army and thus was the birthplace of the US Air Force. This plane was sent to the museum in 1983 and restoration began in 1985. It took ten years and over 34,000 hours of restoration but it now appears as it did during F.D.R.’s trip to Yalta.
This is the VC-118 “Liftmaster” from Douglas which is a modified military version of Douglas’s DC-6 commercial airliner. This aircraft had its aft compartment converted into a stateroom. The main cabin could seat up to 24 people, or sleep 12 people in sleeper berths.
This aircraft was commissioned on July 4, 1947 and given the “Independence” nickname by then President Harry Truman. He named it after his hometown of Independence in Missouri. The Independence was retired from Presidential service in May of 1953 but continued to serve in the Air Force as a VIP transport. The most famous flight occurred in October of 1950 when Truman took the Independence it Wake Island to meet with General Douglas MacArthur to discuss the Korean situation. The plane was finally retired to the museum in 1965 and was restored in 1977-78 to the Independence during the Truman administration. The plane lost its Independence name and paint scheme when it was retired from Presidential service.
This is the VC-121E “Constellation” from Lockheed that is a modified version of the famous Constellation commercial airliner. The Air Force actually purchased 172 Constellations, or Connie’s as they know as in the aviation industry between 1948 and 1955 and were given the C-69 and C-121 designation. This one is the only VC-121E that was ever built and was President Eisenhower’s plane from 1954 to 1961. Mrs. Eisenhower christened it “Columbine III” after the state flower of Colorado on November 24, 1954. Eisenhower used this plane until he left office in 1961 but it continued to serve by shuttling foreign dignitaries and government officials around the world until it was retired and sent to the museum in 1966.
Now on to the most famous of the presidential airplanes and the last one in this review, it also is the first of many to use the Air Force One name.
This is the VC-137C SAM 26000 which is a modified version of Boeing’s 707 series that is still being flown in the civilian airline sectors. It entered service on October 10, 1962 during President John F. Kennedy’s administration and is only called “Air Force One” when the president is aboard and is known as SAM (Special Air Mission) 26000 when the president is not on board. The Kennedy’s took a radical step by insisting the plane be painted in a way so that the aircraft would be viewed as an aerial ambassador of the United States instead of just a plane that was carrying the President. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy hired noted designer Raymond Lowery to come up with a new paint scheme and he really did a great job. He removed the US Air Force wording from the fuselage and replaced it with “United States of America” on the upper fuselage above the cabin windows. He also added the American Flag on the tail, and the Presidential Seal on both sides near the nose. He also came up with the color scheme as well.
This aircraft served Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton during its 36 years of service from 1962 to 1998. This plane also flew the Kennedy’s to Dallas where he was assassinated on November 22, 1963 and was the site where then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office becoming the 36th President of the United States.
With that, this review is now finished and I hope you enjoyed reading this. Keep in mind that there is much more at the museum and I recommend spending a full day there. The museum is free of charge which is a real steal if you ask me but I also recommend getting a ticket to one of the movies being shown on the incredibly large and curved IMAX theater.