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.
Located on the former McClellan Air Force Base in North Highlands, the Aerospace Museum of California features an impressive collection of authentic civilian and military aircraft, along with replicas of space vehicles, thereby preserving the history of the base (which closed in 2001) and neighboring bases such as the non-operational Mather Air Force Base and the still active Beale Air Force Base east of Marysville. Many of the aircraft on display are on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation and the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
The collection at the Aerospace Museum of California includes trainers, fighters, transport and specialized aircraft used by the Navy and USAF between 1940 and the year 2000, highlighting the fantastic progress of aerospace technology over this time period. Visitors will have the opportunity to view propeller driven bi-planes constructed from wood and cloth, contrasted with the triple-sonic, jet powered aircraft crafted from composite materials and metals. Helpful volunteers are always on hand to answer questions and offer interesting information on the museum’s collection and the history of aviation.
Items on display at the museum include one of the original Norden bomb sights used by American bombardiers in World War II, a collection of artworks relating to the US Coast Guard, and a range of restored engines. Visitors can discover what it feels like to be a pilot by means of the museums non-motion flight simulators and a Morphis motion ride simulator. The interactive science exhibit, Fun with Physics, allows participants of all ages to enjoy the wonders of scientific discovery with Mind Bogglers, Newton’s Laws, Simple Machines, Optical Illusions and Demonstrations.
The oldest aircraft in the collection is a 1932 Curtiss-Wright B-14-B ‘Speedwing’ bi-plane, which has been superbly restored. Other aircraft on display include:
Beech UC-45J Expediter
Convair F-102A Delta Dagger
Convair F-106 Delta Dart – The Ultimate Interceptor
Convair VC-131D Samaritan
Douglas A-1E Skyraider
Douglas C-54D Skymaster
Douglas C-53D Skytrooper
Fairchild C-119G Flying Boxcar
General Dynamics FB-111A Aardvark
Grumman F-14D Tomcat
Grumman HU-16B Albatross
Grumman TS-2A Tracker
Lockheed EC-121D Warning Star
Lockheed F-80B Shooting Star
Lockheed F-104B Starfighter
Lockheed T-33A T-Bird
McDonnell-Douglas F-4C Phantom II
McDonnell-Douglas A-4C Skyhawk I
McDonnell F-101B Voodoo
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17PF Fresco E
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21F Fishbed
North American F-86F Sabre
North American F-86L Dog Sabre
North American F-100D Super Sabre
North American T-6G Texan
North American T-28B Trojan
North American T-39A Sabreliner
Pitts Special S-1C
Republic F-84F ThunderStreak
Republic F-105D Thunderchief (THUD)
Sikorsky CH-3E Jolly Green Giant
Taylorcraft L-2M Grasshopper
Vought A-7D Corsair II
The Aerospace Museum of California also has an education program relating to math, science, technology and engineering for students from elementary school through to community college with all its programs meeting the California Education Standards. Moreover, the museum hosts special presentations featuring guest speakers who are experts in their fields, such as NASA astronauts Brian Duffy and Clayton Anderson.