Located in Rexburg, Idaho, the Legacy Flight Museum opened to the public in 2006 offering visitors the opportunity to examine up close some of the historical aircraft that were built to protect the country’s freedom. Started by local aircraft enthusiast John Bagley, the museum collection grew to include a dozen aircraft, all of which are maintained in pristine condition and are airworthy. Every second year the museum hosts an air show with many of the museum’s aircraft taking to the skies, along with aerobatic pilots and their own airplanes. But these classic aircraft are not only dusted off and flown every two years, they are a familiar sight in the skies above Rexburg throughout the year.
The Beechcraft Staggerwing D17S was considered in the 1930s to be a top-of-the-range airplane designed with business executives in mind. With its upper wing further back than the lower wing, each Staggerwing was built by hand and powered by a 450 HP Pratt and Whitney radial engine. When the airplane first hit the market, it was during the depression and considered to be pricy at between US$14,000 and US$17,000, but by the time World War II came around Beechcraft had sold 424 Staggerwing aircraft. The airplanes speed and durability also made it popular in the new sport of air racing. It won the 1933 Texaco Trophy Race, and in 1937 Jackie Cochran set a women’s speed record of 203.9 mph, reaching an altitude of more than 30,000 feet and finishing third in the 1937 Bendix Trophy Race. British diplomat Capt. H.L. Farquhar flew around the world in a Beechcraft Staggerwing Model B17R in 1935, covering a distance of 21,332 miles. Visitors can get a close look at this fantastic airplane that made its way into the record books a number of times.
Another legendary airplane on display is a P-51D Mustang fondly dubbed ‘Ole Yeller’, previously flown by legendary pilot Bob Hoover. Widely considered to be one of the founders of modern aerobatics, Hoover has numerous military medals, and is listed as the third greatest aviator in history in the Centennial of Flight edition of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Other airplanes on display at the Legacy Flight Museum include a Grumman TBM-3 Avenger, a North American T-6 Texan, a Howard DGA-15, an L-52 Grasshopper, a P-63 King Cobra and an O-1 Bird Dog. The Legacy Flight Museum is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm and From Labor Day to Memorial Day on Fridays and Saturdays from 9am to 5pm weather permitting.
To mark a century of training the Navy’s top pilots, and more than 50 years since the opening of the National Museum of Naval Aviation, the Pensacola Naval Air Station held a gala on September 20, 2014, attended by a host of dignitaries, some of whom were once trainees at the legendary institution. The event featured a slide presentation paying tribute to the first naval aviators, as well as a speech by Jeb Bush Jr., grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, during which he read a letter from his grandfather. Also present was former US Navy Blue Angels pilot, now Aviation Museum director, retired Navy Captain Bob Rasmussen, who expressed his hope that the museum will continue to expand, as it has since it opened in 1962.
Located just southwest of the Pensacola city limits the Naval Air Station Pensacola is often referred to as “The Cradle of Naval Aviation”. It is the home base of the Blue Angels, and the initial training base for Navy, Marine and Coast Guard pilots, as well as Naval Flight Officers. It is also home to the National Naval Aviation Museum, offering visitors the opportunity to discover the history of naval aviation through exhibits, multimedia displays, an IMAX theater and more.
The entrance hall of the museum features a static display of an F14 Tomcat, with bronze statues of support personnel preparing the iconic aircraft for takeoff. Upon entering the museum itself, visitors will see superbly restored vintage aircraft suspended overhead. There are more than 150 aircraft at the museum, ranging from early World War I through to modern day. Large-scale models of aircraft carriers, complete with aircraft on their flat decks, give visitors an idea of the immense size of these craft.
On most Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, between March and November, the Blue Angels can be seen practicing in the skies above the museum. Practice starts at 11:30 am and continues for about an hour. There is a viewing area with bleachers and visitors may bring lawn chairs, although it should be noted that for security reasons, no backpacks, daypacks etc. are permitted in the area during practice.
Entrance to the museum and to watch the Blue Angels practice sessions is free of charge. For a fee, visitors can watch an aviation themed movie in the IMAX theater, or experience what it’s like to be a jet plane pilot in the Flight Simulator. Visit the National Naval Aviation Museum website for more information and to plan your visit.