Explore the Air Force Museum of New Zealand

January 31, 2012 by  
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With a collection of twenty-eight classic aircraft, and millions of aviation-related mementos of all descriptions, the Air Force Museum of New Zealand has been preserving and presenting the fascinating history of the country’s Military Aviation since 1987. The museum is located at the Wigram Aerodrome just outside Christchurch. The aerodrome is named in honor of British-born New Zealand politician, businessman and aviator, Sir Henry Francis Wigram (1857-1934), in acknowledgement of his significant role in the establishment of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF).

Visitors to the museum are likely to spend hours viewing the huge assortment of memorabilia, including aircraft engines and other aircraft parts, weapons, pin-ups, documents, medals and even wedding dresses made from parachute-silk. The collection of aircraft is a reminder of the bravery of the men who flew them into battle, and as defensive measures against enemy attack. A replica home dating back to the 1940s provides insight into what life was like back then for men and women in the armed services, as well as their families. One of the more popular features of the museum is a flight simulator where visitors can climb in behind the controls and imagine being in the thick of a raging aerial battle.

Of the twenty-eight aircraft on display, seventeen are in the main complex of the museum, with the remainder being in hangars. The museum’s Behind the Scenes Tour takes visitors to view the stored aircraft, as well as the current restoration projects being carried out by skilled and dedicated aviation enthusiasts. The aircraft collection includes the Avro 626, North American Harvard, P-51 Mustang, Grumman Avenger, Hawker Siddely Andover, Lockheed Hudson, Vickers Vildebeest bi-planes, Bleriot XI, Cessna O2A and a replica of the Sopwith Pup.

The aircraft components collection of the museum includes propellers, instruments, radios, armaments, and a variety of airframe structures, while the engines on display illustrate the development of aviation engineering from the World War I era through to modern jet engines. More than 200 medal groups are on display, including the prestigious Victoria Cross. Other items visitors can view include a host of research documents, as well as oil paintings, prints and original cartoons.

Ever aware of environmental issues that are threatening our planet, the Air Force Museum of New Zealand has been awarded the Enviro-Gold standard by New Zealand tourism’s official quality agency, Qualmark. This status is reviewed annually and the museum is always open to suggestions on how to improve their environmental awareness and sustainability measures. Certainly the Air Force Museum of New Zealand offers an educational outing that the entire family will enjoy.

F4U Corsair

February 9, 2009 by  
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Though the F4U Corsair may be best known as the airplane flown by Maj. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, the F4U enjoyed many other roles as well and in many areas of the world.

In 1938, the U.S. Navy sought the development of a single-seat aircraft carrier based fighter plane. When Chance-Vought earned the contract they designed the F4U to take advantage of the largest engine then available. The Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine required a large propeller. To accommodate the necessary prop clearance, high landing gear was incorporated into the design. The airplane’s distinctive gull wing design was necessary in order to make room for the wheels.

On May 29, 1940, the Corsair made its inaugural flight. However, it wasn’t until more than two years later on July 31, 1942 that the design issues were worked out and the fighter plane was finally ready for production. This version of the plane was designated F4U-1A.

Its unique features required more training on the part of pilots than most carrier-based aircraft, but the U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm all had F4U Corsairs among its fighter aircraft. The airplane proved especially popular to various military forces because of its ability to launch off aircraft carriers and perform fighting as well as bombing missions.

In fact, it proved so popular that Vought had to enlist other manufacturers’ help in producing the aircraft. Vought authorized the Brewster Company to produce the F3A-1 version of the Corsair and for the Goodyear Company to produce the FG-1 version.

In 1952, production of the aircraft ended but not without displaying the following impressive specifications.

Maximum speed: 420 mph at 20,000ft
Cruise speed: 185 mph
Range: 1,015 miles (1,634 km)
Ceiling: 37,000 ft.
Length: 33 ft 4 in (10.1 m)
Wingspan: 41ft. 0in.
Height: 16 ft 1 in (4.90 m)
Maximum weight: 14,000 lbs
Empty weight: 8,980 lbs
Engine(s): 2,000hp Pratt and Whitney R-2800-8 radial piston engine
Rate of climb: 3,100 feet/min.
Crew: one pilot
Armament: Six 12.7mm (0.50 in) machine guns, wing-mounted.
Contractor: Vought, Brewster Company, Goodyear Company

If you are a current or former military pilot and would like to submit an article about your experience or a story about the F4U or any other military aircraft then please contact us because we would like to hear from you.

P-40 Warhawk

February 9, 2009 by  
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The P-40 Warhawk is one of the most famous planes of World War II. Curtis based its design on the P-36, and made its inaugural flight on October 14, 1938. In May of 1939, the P-40 earned the largest order ever made for a U.S. fighter aircraft of that time.

The P-40, as a single-engine pursuit aircraft, entered World War II with the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces. Maj. Pappy Boyington, and other American pilots who were collectively known as the Flying Tigers, flew the P-40 in China in early 1942 with great success and earned a proud war record.

In addition, the P-40 served in the 99th Fighter Squadron, an African-American unit that flew for the United States military in North Africa during WW II. The P-40 Warhawk also fought in Italy, the Far East, the Southwest Pacific, the Aleutians, and Russia.

The P-40 was not the fastest airplane, nor could it always match enemy planes in rate of climb or maneuverability. For instance, though the aircraft could out-turn the Messerschmitt 109, the P-40 couldn’t keep up with one if it climbed away.

In an effort to improve the Warhawk’s speed, many American and Russian pilots removed as much weight from the plane as possible. This often included taking out at least one of the wing guns. For what the plane lacked in speed and power, the P-40 made up for in toughness. The P-40 could take a beating and still bring her pilot home. During the early days of World War II, a large number of P-40 pilots became aces.

Before the P-40 was retired in June of 1948, more than 14,000 of the aircraft had been manufactured for 28 different countries. The P-40 was eventually retired from all military forces when, in 1958, the Brazilian Air Force took the last of this great warbird permanently out of service.

Maximum speed: 362 mph
Cruise speed: 235 mph
Range: 850 miles
Ceiling: 30,000 feet
Length: 31 feet, 9 inches
Wingspan: 37 feet, 4 inches
Height: 12 feet, 4 inches
Maximum weight: 9,100 pounds
Empty weight: 6,350 lbs
Engine(s): 1,150 hp Allison V-1710
Crew: 1
Armament: 700 pounds of bombs and six .50-cal. machine guns
Contractor: Curtis

P51 Mustang

February 9, 2009 by  
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The P-51 Mustang was a long-range, high-speed fighter airplane that played a critical role for Allied forces in World War II. North American Aviation produced the first prototype and the Mustang completed its inaugural flight on October 26, 1940.

It was the Royal Air Force (RAF) that first expressed interest in the MK I Mustang. After they ordered 620 of the aircraft, the United States Air Force (USAAF) eventually ordered 150, but not before several modifications were incorporated into the Mustang’s design. As changes were made, the USAAF continued to stock their forces with the increasingly powerful and armament-enhanced fighter plane. A total of 14,819 P-51 Mustangs were produced for the U.S. Army.

When the original Allison engine was replaced with a supercharged Merlin 61 engine in 1942, the Mustang became unequaled in performance for speed and range. However, the engine change was not without some adjustment problems for pilots accustomed to the older, less powerful P-38 that was a little easier to handle.

The appearance of the P-51 Mustang in World War II came at a critical time, when American bomber losses were heavy. The primary reason for that was the lack of fighter escort deep into enemy territory. Until the Mustang arrived, no Allied fighter had the range to accompany the bombers for any great distance.

The effect of the Mustangs was immediate, so much so that the bomber crews took to calling them “Little Friends” because they all but guaranteed effective protection from enemy fighters. The number of Allied bombers lost decreased dramatically.

In addition to their long-range escort function, P-51 Mustangs were also used for photo-reconnaissance, ground attack, trainers, and as dive-bombers, boasting the following spec’s:

Maximum speed: 448 mph
Cruise speed: 360 mph
Range: 950 miles – 2,100 miles with auxiliary fuel tanks
Ceiling: 41,900 feet
Length: 32 feet. 3 inches
Wingspan: 37 feet. 1 inch
Height: 13 feet 8 inches
Maximum weight: 11,600 lb
Empty weight: 7,125 lb
Engine(s): Rolls-Royce Merlin V-1650-7
Rate of climb: 3,745 ft. per minute
Crew: One
Armament: two 500 lb bombs, six 0.5 machine guns, eight HVAR rockets
Contractor: North American Aviation

PBY Catalina

February 9, 2009 by  
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The PBY Catalina aircraft was used heavily in World War II as a defense against submarines and as convoy escorts, search and rescue aircraft, transports, and patrol bombers. Its versatility and long-range capability made it invaluable. It could be fitted just as easily with depth charges or bombs, torpedoes, or other ordnance. Many thousands of Allied personnel owe their lives to the PBY Catalina because of its ability to quickly convert into a rescue aircraft. The PBY crewmen were well-known for their daring and cool composure under enemy fire and their willingness to risk their lives to save their fellow seamen and aviators.

The PBY Catalina was a flying boat that found a home in all branches of the United States military. Because it could land and take off on water, runways were unnecessary and the PBY was extremely versatile. Landing on a stretch of water also enabled the PBY to employ the element of surprise, as the enemy couldn’t necessarily determine the location of the plane in advance. Canada and other countries also adopted the Catalina into their armed forces, and various designations of the aircraft resulted. The number of the PBY Catalina produced far outnumbered any other flying boat.

After the conclusion of World War II, amphibious versions of the PBY Catalina remained in service. From 1946 through 1947, the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command employed the PBY and enjoyed tremendous success.

In 1967, the last Catalina (a PBY-6A) was retired from a Naval Reserve squadron. In 1980, the last active service PBY was also retired. Today, the PBY Catalina is mostly used in a civilian capacity as a water and chemical bomber to combat fires. Some of the Catalina’s impressive specifications include:

Maximum speed: 196 mph
Cruise speed: 125 mph
Range: 2,520 mi
Ceiling: 15,800 ft
Length: 63 ft 10 in
Wingspan: 104 ft
Height: 20 ft 2 in
Maximum weight: 35,420 lb
Empty weight: 20,910 lb
Engine(s): Two 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radial engines
Rate of climb: 1,000 feet per minute
Crew: Nine, including the pilot, co-pilot, flight mechanic, radioman, navigator, and four gunners.
Armament: 4,000 lbs of bombs, torpedoes, or depth charges, three .30 cal machine
guns, two .50 cal machine guns
Contractor: Consolidated Aircraft

If you are a current or former military pilot and would like to submit an article about your experience or a story about the PBY Catalina or any other aircraft (whether military or civilian) then please contact us so we can share your stories with other aircraft enthusiasts.

Orly International Airport

February 9, 2009 by  
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Located in Orly in the southern end of Paris, France, Orly Airport was once the city’s main airport. It caters to flights around the globe and you may choose between Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean and even Africa if you wish to book a flight from Orly. While Orly Airport is older and better established, the Charles de Gaulle International Airport has long since taken over its role as the city’s main airport. However, the airport is still thriving and many choose to use this airport instead. The airport is managed by the city’s main airport authority which also manages the Charles de Gaulle and the Le Bourget Airport, as well as several minor airports in the surrounding suburbs of the city.

Orly International Airport is a public airport and it is operated by Aéroports de Paris. Built at an elevation of 291 ft (89 m), there is seldom a problem with visibility. The airport has two main terminal buildings Рthe west and south Рand each focus on flights to different parts of the globe so it is important to go the right building when booking or departing. Both terminals are linked to the rest of the city by freeways, buses and the metro. The airport also has three different runways only one of which is bituminous concrete and which measures 11 975 ft (3 650 m) in length. The other two are 7 874 ft (2 400 m) and 10 892 ft (3 320 m) in length and have a concrete surface.

When it was originally built, the Orly Airport was known as the Villeneuve-Orly Airport. That was in 1932 when it was opened to serve as a secondary airport to Le Bourget. During the Second World War, Orly came under the use of German forces and so was often bombed by opposing forces. It also saw a lot of military action during this time period. After the war it was used as a special air terminal for NATO meetings and in 1954 it was once again used for military operations. This continued until 1967 when all military operations at Orly were closed for good. Today this airport is immensely popular as an alternate destination airport for France.

Charles Lindbergh

February 9, 2009 by  
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In 1927, at the age of 25, Charles Lindbergh was the first pilot to fly solo, nonstop from New York to Paris across the Atlantic, a distance of 3,610 miles. For achieving this feat, Lindbergh won the $25,000 Orteig Prize and a lifetime of fame. Lindbergh’s custom built airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, is now on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

In 1929, Charles Lindbergh received the Congressional Medal of Honor. During World War II, he flew combat missions in the Pacific while in an advisory role for the USMC and US Army Air Corps.

There are a number of honors and tributes to this remarkable man. Included among these are the Lindbergh Terminal of Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, Lindbergh Field in Sandiego, Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport, Lindbergh High School in St Louis CountyCharles Lindbergh Elementary in Little Falls (his hometown) and the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site, which was the original home of the Lindberghs.

Eddie Rickenbacker

February 9, 2009 by  
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Eddie Rickenbacker, known as the Ace of Aces, had more confirmed enemy kills to his credit than any other American pilot in World War I. Before entering the war, Rickenbacker was a famous and successful race car driver. He only got his pilot’s license after he turned 27. He made up for lost time because in only two months, he reached a career total of 26 victories, flying first the Nieuport 28,and later the Spad 13. Twelve months after the war ended, Rickenbacker was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

In 1926, Rickenbacker and several others formed Florida Airways. The company didn’t succeed, and afterwards the former war ace became Vice President of General Aviation Corporation. In 1933, Rickenbacker became General Manager of Eastern Airlines. Five years later, he and several other investors purchased Eastern Airlines and Rickenbacker was made president of the company.

During World War II, Rickenbacker worked as an unpaid advisor for the U.S. military. In October of 1942, the B-17 in which he was a passenger ran out of fuel and crashed in the Pacific Ocean. Rickenbacker and the seven other survivors floated in rafts for twenty-two days before being rescued. Several of his recommendations for mandatory survival equipment were adopted both for aircraft life rafts and lifeboats.

Gregory Boyington

February 9, 2009 by  
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A World War II Ace who also earned the Congressional Medal of Honor and Navy Cross.

Gregory Boyington, nicknamed “Pappy”, because at the age of 31 he was much older than the men who served under him in the Black Sheep Squadron he commanded in the United States Marine Corps. The Black Sheep were based in the Pacific and primarily flew Vought F4U Corsairs.

Immediately after he shot down his last enemy plane, Boyington crashed and the Japanese took him prisoner. He served out the remaining 20 months of the war in a prison camp.

His best selling memoir, “Baa Baa Black Sheep”, details his life before and during the war years when he flew first with the Flying Tigers in China and later with the Black Sheep was turned into a television series.

The total number of Boyington’s kills is in dispute. Boyington himself claimed 28, while almost everyone else credits him anywhere from 22 to 26. To gain Ace status, six qualified kills are necessary. Regardless of what Boyington’s total kills actually were, he was indisputably an Ace as well as a war hero.

Saint Exupery

February 9, 2009 by  
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Antoine de Saint-Exupery learned to fly in 1921 when he was with the French Air Force. In 1926, he became a civilian and delivered airmail to remote villages in the Sahara desert. Saint-Exupery flew once again for the French Air Force until the beginning of World War II. In 1940 he left France and resettled in the United States.

Saint-Exupery turned his attention to writing. In 1943, his book, which turned out to be his most successful book, The Little Prince was published. The story, like several of his others, was based in part on Saint-Exupery’s flying experiences.

During World War II, Saint-Exupery flew with the Free French Forces. At the age of 44, Antoine de Saint-Exupery flew his last mission on July 31, 1944. He never returned. On April 7, 2004, the French Underwater Archaeological Department found Saint-Exupery’s Lockheed P-38 Lightning in the Mediterranean near Provence. The cause of the crash was never determined, though enemy fire was ruled out as a likely explanation.

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