Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Visit to the Air Force Museum - Part 1

They opened the new hangar at the National Museum of the US Air Force Museum in June.  I've been meaning to get down there because it has some planes that I haven't seen in years.  They were kept in a hangar that was actually on the base.  At first, they had a bus that would take people over there.  Then they allowed you to drive on base with a special pass.  After 9/11, they went back to the bus.  Since I usually don't get there until noon or so, the bus is usually filled up, so I've been to that hangar a couple of times out of the many times that I've visited the museum.  So when I found out they were moving those planes back to the main museum, I was happy.

I got a pretty late start and by the time I got to the museum, the main lot was full and they were parking people on the grass.  I was about to head over there and then I noticed the parking lot by the Air Park was empty.  I didn't see any signs that said you couldn't park there, so that's where I parked and it was pretty nice.
 Just outside of the museum is an F-15A Eagle.  This particular aircraft served at Luke Air Force base and with the Air National Guard in New Orleans.  It finished it's career as a maintenance trainer at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.  It is currently painted in those markings.
 Looking up at the tail.  The "FF" indicates that this is an aircraft that is based at Langley Air Force Base.  Formed in 1916, Langley is one of the oldest air bases in the United States.  It is named after Samuel Pierpont Langley who was of the pioneers of aviation.  He flew several unpowered airplanes prior to the flight of the Wright Flyer but because of a couple of crashes, his powered plane never made it off the ground. 
 Since I was running later than I had planned, I decided to make a bee line for the new hangar.  But that didn't prevent a stop for a picture of the B-52.
 And the F-22 Lightning II.
 And who could pass up a shot of the SR-71.
 Nor could I pass up the head shot.
 The new wing consists of various research craft that the Air Force has used over the years.  I think the foremost for me is the XB-70 Valkyrie.  The XB-70 was conceived in the late 50's as a supersonic bomber that could fly at over Mach 3 at an altitude of 70,000 feet.  It was assumed that at those speeds, the bomber would be pretty much immune to most interceptor aircraft at the time.  The development of higher altitude Soviet anti-air missiles pretty much killed the program (although the success of the SR-71 could argue this may have been a mistake).    The program was killed but the two prototypes built were used in high speed research until one of the other programs was destroyed when a chase plane crashed into it in 1966.  In 1969, the plane on display here was retired.  It would have been cool to see these planes in use though.
 The X-15 was used by NASA and US Air Force to test conditions at higher speeds.  These planes flew at nearly the same altitude as the first astronauts.  One of the planes holds the speed record for the highest speed obtained by a manned aircraft at Mach 6.72.  These planes were taken aloft by a B-52 and dropped from one of the wings.  Rockets would fire and they would reach an altitude of over 70,000 feet.  The final flight of these was in 1969.
 A Gemini Capsule.
 The Apollo 15 Capsule.  This was crewed by an all Air Force (and University of Michigan) crew.
 This plane was used to test lifting bodies.  The body itself was basically the wing.  This plane would lead to the development of the Space Shuttle.
 This was another lifting body design.
 The Camera for the KH-9 Reconaissance satellite.  I can't imagine how many Soviet agents would have killed for this shot.  The KH-9 used film and the film would be ejected to earth.  This particular satellite would be used to photograph wide areas.
 Not sure what plane this was, but it was an odd looking one.
 The X-1B was the followup design to the aircraft that broke the speed of sound.  This particular aircraft was one of the ones to break Mach 2.
 The XP-59 was the first US jet.
 This was one of the first US Jet fighters.
 The XF-84 Goblin was designed to be carried in the bomb bay of a bomber in order to provide fighter protection.  They had a few successful test flights but the program was eventually cancelled.
 The F-107 was the offshoot of the F-106 design.  It never quite entered service.
 The X-29 was a forward swept wing plane.  This design provided some inherent instabilities that led to it being a very maneuverable aircraft.  This design never quite got accepted though.  NASA used it as a test bed for other concepts.
 Tacit Blue was a program designed to show that curved surfaces could be used in stealth designs.
 This was the Air Force's prototype of the Harrier.  They never adopted it though.
 The XF-23 was the design that was supposed to compete with the F-22.  Despite it being superior in many ways, the F-22 ended up winning.
 This was a design to test the tilt rotor concept.  Even though this design never entered production, many features were incorporated in the V-22 design.
 One of the planes that was used to transport the President of the United States.  This particular plane was the first one designed to specifically be used by the President.  This was a highly modified version of Boeing's 707 and was delivered to the United States in 1962.  Whenever the President was on board, it would have the call sign of "Air Force One", this designation was created in 1953 to avoid confusion with other aircraft in flight at the time. 
 The first President to use it was Kennedy.  The paint scheme was designed by his wife Jackie.  It would end up serving through the Clinton years when it was replaced by a version of the 747.
 The Presidential seal.
 The tail.  When it wasn't carrying the President, it would have the call sign of SAM 2-6 thousand.
 Looking down the length of the aircraft, I will have to admit, it was pretty impressive.
 Outside of the cockpit.
 Inside the cockpit.
 Pretty fancy.
 The Columbine III was used by Dwight D. Eisenhower as his personal airplane while he was President.  It was named Columbine III in honor of his wife Mamie.  After Eisenhower left office, the plane continued service as a VIP transport.  This particular aircraft was based on the Constellation.
 The cockpit.
 Again, pretty fancy.
 Another view of the 707.
 The Independence was the plane that served President Harry Truman and was based on the Douglas DC-6.  It was named for his home town of Independence, Missouri.  It would serve from 1947 to 1953.
 The Cockpit.
 Again, fancy.
 The C-54 which served as President Franklin D. Roosevelt's aircraft.  In 1943, Roosevelt became the first President to fly by aircraft when he took a flying boat to the Casablanca Conference.  This aircraft was built in 1945 and was used to carry the President to the Yalta Conference.
 The cockpit.
 The President's Desk.  This plane was known as the "White House in the air".
 The special lift used to get President Roosevelt's wheel chair into the plane. 
 A better shot of the XB-70.
When the Space Shuttles were retired.  The US Air Force Museum put in a bid to get one of them.  The Enterprise is on display at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in New York.  The Discovery is on display at the Air and Space Annex near Dulles Airport.  The Atlantis is on display at Cape Kennedy and the Endeavour is in Los Angeles.  As a consolation prize, Dayton was given one of the shuttle demonstrators.  Personally, I think it sucks that the shuttles are on both coasts and there's nothing in the middle of the country.  It seems like either the one in New York or Washington could have been located here, given the proximity of those two to each other.  Oh well, sometimes it seems like politicians only care about the middle of the country every four years.

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