Alan & Teri's Travels travel blog

1909 Wright Military Flyer

Junkers JU-52

C-141 Starlifter - "Hanoi Taxi"

VC137C - 26000 - The Boeing 707 That Carried JFK's Body Back...

Harry Truman's VC118 - "Independence"

FDR's C54C "Sacred Cow"

Dwight D EIsenhower's VC121E "Columbine III"

Piper PA-48 Enforcer

Why Huffman Prairie?

Replica of Catapult the Wright Bros Used to Launch Their Wright Flyer

Start odometer: 48836

Today we visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton. This museum has over 300 historic airplanes in 5 hangars. We spent the day there and didn’t get through the whole museum. We did see some interesting airplanes.

We stopped to view the airplanes on the tarmac. There were about a dozen planes there and we each had our favorite.

A was intrigued by the JU-52, a German airplane made by Junkers. These tri-motors were mass-produced in the early 1930's for civilian use. They were used by the Luftwaffe in WWII as the main transport and for delivering paratroopers. There are only two left flying commercially in the world; this wasn’t one of them.

T was most impressed with the Lockheed C-141 “Starlifter” which served as the primary strategic airlift aircraft during the Vietnam War. This particular C-141 is the Hanoi Taxi that brought the first contingent of American POWs home after the conclusion of the war in 1973.

From there we went to view the display of Quonset Huts which were among those set up at British air bases during WWII. We also viewed a reconstructed WWII era control tower.

We finally entered the museum just in time to sign up for a tour of the two hangars that are within the fence line of the base. We had to produce ID for this tour. The first hangar we toured contained presidential airplanes. These had plexiglass over the interior accouterments with only 17 inches of space to maneuver in the aisles. They were all open to walk through.

Among the presidential planes we walked through were the C-54C “Sacred Cow” fitted with a wheel chair lift for Franklin D. Roosevelt, the VC-118 “Independence” used by Harry Truman, and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Constellation or VC 121E “Columbine III”.

We felt like we touched history while touring “Air Force One,” a VC-137C known as SAM (Special Air Mission) 26000. This Boeing 707 flew President Kennedy’s body back to Washington from Dallas and served as the site of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s swearing in. The aircraft served every U.S. President from Kennedy to Clinton.

T noted how more seats were added to every generation of presidential airplane. Apparently their entourages just grow and grow and grow. I understand George W. Bush got a 747 - he apparently needed yet a bigger airplane for his entourage.

We then went into the Research & Development/Flight Test Gallery. This gallery housed “The Enforcer”, a one of a kind turbo-prop airplane made by Piper that the U.S. government never purchased for use in Vietnam. It went too slow for a jet to shoot it down, it was fast enough to get out of the way of small arms fire from the ground while it was attacking ground targets, and since it wasn’t a jet, it was a lot less likely that a heat-seeking missile would find it. A last saw this prototype in 1976 when he worked for Piper Aircraft Company.

We also saw the SR-71 which holds all world speed and altitude records. It can cruise at 3100 mph at an altitude of approximately 100,000 feet. It was put into service in the late 1950's after the U-2 was shot down over Russia. To this day, there is no missile that can shoot it down. It can fly from Los Angeles to New York in under an hour.

This area also houses the only remaining North American XB-70 Valkyrie which could travel in excess of twice the speed of sound, had a long range, could drop its bombs and depart. Only 2 or 3 were ever made. We also saw the Bell X-1B, the first airplane in which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. We then boarded the bus and returned to the non-secure three hangers of the Museum.

We got through most of Hangar #1 which contained the Early Years Gallery (up to the beginning of WWII) and the Air Power Gallery (WWII). A noted that all of the fighting aircraft we used in WWI were purchased from the French. They were way ahead of the U S in aviation technology at that time.

T was impressed by the Douglas World Cruiser (DWC) “New Orleans” - Special Airplane. Only 5 of these were ever built. The “New Orleans” was one of the two DWC’s that made the first successful ‘round-the-world airplane flight’ in 1924. It took 175 days with 74 stops or 358 hours total flying time to cover 26,503 miles. Changing from seaplane to landplane as required, this 2-crew fabric and wood biplane flew 75 mph average speed with an average range of 820 mph. T was amazed at the progress made in aviation technology - only 21 years after that first less-than-1 minute flight made by the Wright Brothers an airplane flew around the world.

T also liked the reproduction of the Boeing P-26A, a between-the-wars airplane that has a turquoise and yellow color scheme. The P-26A was the first all-metal monoplane fighter produced in quantity for the U.S. Army Air Corps. It was affectionately called the “Peashooter” by its pilots. It was the last Army Air Corps aircraft accepted with an open cockpit, a fixed undercarriage, and an externally braced wing. Significantly faster in level flight than previous fighters, the P-26A’s relatively high landing speed caused the introduction of landing flaps. It was also nice to see a colorful airplane for a change.

A’s favorite airplanes in this gallery were the D-VIII and the Newport. The D-VIII was the best German aircraft of WWI. It’s the airplane Baron Von Richthoffen, the “Red Baron” flew. He flew the D-VIII more than he flew the Folker Tri-plane. The Newport was the best French airplane during WWI. It’s the one that the U.S. Army Air Corps bought and flew.

In the WWII gallery, he enjoyed viewing the Messerschmidt-262, which was the world’s first operational jet airplane. He also enjoyed seeing the Hawker Hurricane, which won the Battle of Britain.

By this time, T, who is not an airplane afficionado decided to peruse the gift shop then head back to the van to rest weary legs and back. A continued on to the Cold War Gallery which housed some planes he particularly wanted to see.

He saw the Northrop B-2 ‘Spirit’. By the late 1980's, the global spread of sophisticated air defense systems threatened the US Air Force’s ability to destroy an enemy’s most valued targets. To overcome this threat, the USAF adopted the revolutionary low-observable, or “stealth” technology first seen on the F-117A. Northrop-Grumman merged the high aerodynamic efficiency of the ‘flying wing’ with stealth technologies to produce the B-2 Spirit Bomber. The B-2 at the museum is a ground static test prototype which has never flown.

A really wanted to see the B-36 which has 6 piston engines and 4 jets to power it. It was a “between-the-wars” bomber that was never used in war. It was in use from about 1948 to the late 1950's. It was replaced by the B-52. It’s a massive airplane.

Needless to say, we never toured the Modern Flight Gallery or the Cold War Gallery. We are planning a return trip, however.

Just because we were nearby, we had to stop at Huffman Prairie, the place where the Wright Brothers incrementally perfected their airplane to allow it to turn, go up and down and go side to side. It took a few years before the Wright Flyer was put into production. Huffman Prairie is also the world’s first airport. It’s also home to the last untouched Tallgrass Prairie in Ohio.

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