This museum is huge and there’s a lot of ground to cover so this is going to take a few instalments.
Other than some dark clouds on the first day and a bit of rain overnight, the weather had been spectacular for the first week of November and today was no different. A bit brisk but not a cloud in the sky. We grabbed a quick bite at the McDonalds next to the hotel and beat feet for the National Museum of the United States Airforce.
Now I’ve been to aircraft museums all over Canada and the US and even the more modest ones have something to offer a plane freak like me. I’m always amazed at some of the aircraft you come across. Michael and I have done the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the Mall in DC and the Udvar Hazy out by Dulles and this Spring we’d caught the joint services airshow at Andrews AFB and we’re both in agreement that none of these experiences did anything but exceed expectations. I had a feeling we were in for a similar situation with the NMUSAF.
But of course, concept never really survives contact with reality. The reality of the museum is it’s fantastic and unlike the Smithsonian which is vaguely apologetic for a few of it’s displays namely the Enola Gay exhibit. The USAF wants you to understand in no uncertain terms, they were given a mission and they carried that mission out successfully – twice with no loss of aircraft or crew. Oh and it ended the war with Japan.
Bock’s Car the aircraft that dropped, “Fat Man,” on Nagaski is there in the flesh and unlike the Enola Gay, she’s not under glass, shielded from the public. You could reach up and touch her. You don’t out of respect. In fact every airframe on display is at arms length
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Museum is laid out in sections and it sort of follows a model I’ve seen used to great effect in the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, AB and the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. You start at the beginning and because this is Dayton, you start with the Wright Brothers.
Followed by one of my personal heroes, Glenn Curtiss. He put wheels on his one.
Things move quickly into the first world war and the establishment of air power. Their collection of WWI bombers is impressive.
During our tour of this part of the museum we bumped into another guy from Toronto who was doing some work down there for a company that had built some of the original propellers for the fighters and bombers on display. That’s the fun part about history, you get some of the deeper stuff from some unlikely sources. We wished each other well and continued on with our exploration.
WWI gives way to the years between the two world wars when the Army Air Corp was struggling to survive amidst the peace and at the same time develop modern closed cockpit fighters and bombers. Though it did seem to me that while they touched on Doolittle and his efforts in this area, they did gloss over his courts martial a bit but then that can be forgiven I guess as he did go on to prove everything he’d said right (and obviously the Japanese had read his book).
As an aside, this is an Autogyro similar to the one flown around the arena in Nuremberg during one of Hitler’s rallies.
That engine manifold is a trip.
This Boeing Bomber is the only surviving member of it’s marque. It was a gift to the US in the 80’s (pre Falklands) from the Argentinians who had bought twenty five of these aircraft for their own Air force.
One of the neat things about the museum is that their mannequins are all doing shit with proper body language and facial expressions to boot. The pilot of this unfortunate incident is trying to save his wings on the far left of the shot.
More to come. We’re not even half way through the first hanger.