Fascinating Tales at Carolinas Aviation Museum

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Dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson” and described as “the most successful ditching in aviation history”* the story of US Airways Flight 1549 is legendary. On January 15, 2009, the Airbus A320-200 had 150 passengers and five crew members on board when it took off at 3:27 pm EST from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport en route to Charlotte/Douglas International Airport as a stopover before heading to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Just three minutes into the flight, on its initial climb out, the plane struck a flock of Canada Geese just northeast of the George Washington Bridge, resulting in a sudden loss of engine power. Thanks to the quick thinking of the crew, led by Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, the airplane was ‘landed’ intact on the icy Hudson River with all on board being rescued by nearby watercraft and ferries as the Airbus slowly sank. Visitors to the Carolinas Aviation Museum can view the complete original airplane, as well as viewing videos detailing the rescue of passengers, the recovery of the Airbus from the Hudson River and its transportation from New York to the museum at the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Carolinas Aviation Museum focuses on the stories behind the various aircraft on display, an example being the CH46-D Sea Knight helicopter which was used in both Vietnam and the Gulf War. One of the remarkable accounts presented by the museum is of Medal of Honor recipient Marine Corps Aviation Private First Class Raymond Michael Clausen Jr. who, during the Vietnam War, ran across a mine field six times to rescue twenty Marines who had been injured crossing that very field. Clausen carried some, while those who could walk followed him, assuming that he knew where the mines were planted and how to avoid them. He didn’t, but was willing to risk his life to save the lives of others.

Other military aircraft on display include a Douglas A4 Skyhawk, Grumman F-14D Tomcat, Vought A-7 Corsair II, PT-17 Stearman, P-80, D-558-1 Skystreak, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, AV-8 Harrier II and EC-120E Hercules. In the Civil Aircraft category, visitors will be able to view the historic Wright Flyer, the unique Ercoupe, the Savoia Marchetti single-engine biplane flying boat, and the most popular small single engine aircraft ever made – the Cessna 150.

The mission of the Carolinas Aviation Museum is to tell the stories of aviation pioneers, thereby inspiring future generations to write aviation’s next chapter. Visitors to the museum will no doubt agree that this is a mission accomplished.

*quote attributed to Kitty Higgins of the NTSB

Historic Aviator Harriet Quimby

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Born in Arcadia, Michigan, on May 11, 1875, Harriet Quimby became the first woman in the United States to be awarded a pilot’s license in 1911. On April 16, 1912, she became the first woman to successfully pilot an airplane across the English Channel – an event which earned her the moniker of “America’s First Lady of the Air”. As a journalist, Quimby described her experience in detail and it was printed in the New York-based magazine she wrote for – Leslie’s Weekly.

While working for the magazine in New York City, in 1910 Harriet attended the Belmont Park International Aviation Tournament on Long Island, where she met aviator and flight school operator John Moisant and his sister Matilde. She took a series of flying lessons and on August 1, 1911, passed her pilot’s test to become the first woman to obtain an aviator’s certificate from the Aero Club of America. (The second woman to earn her aviator’s certificate was Matilde Moisant.)

Quimby’s crossing of the English Channel, from Dover in England to a beach in Hardelot-Plage in France, took 59 minutes on April 16, 1912. Her intended destination had been Calais, but primarily due to poor visibility, she landed on a beach about 25 miles from Calais after considering, and rejecting, the possibility of landing in nearby cultivated fields. In her account of the event, Quimby notes that she jumped from her airplane and was alone on the beach, when a French-speaking crowd of locals came rushing toward her and carried her up the beach triumphantly, no doubt realizing that they had witnessed the landing of the first woman to pilot an airplane across the channel. Although her achievement was certainly newsworthy, it was overshadowed in the newspapers by the tragedy of the Titanic sinking on April 15, 1912.

Participating in the Third Annual Boston Aviation Meet on July 1, 1912, Quimby flew her new two-seater Bleriot monoplane out over Boston Harbor before circling the airfield on her return. At an altitude of around 1500 feet, the airplane pitched forward sharply and Quimby and her passenger, William Willard, were catapulted from the plane, falling to their deaths. The plane glided down and landed in an area of mud. The reason for the accident was never established, but it sadly brought an abrupt end to the life of an adventurous aviator who made history and inspired other women to take to the skies, among them the legendary Amelia Earhart.

The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum

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Located on Miramar Way in San Diego, California, the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum offers visitors the opportunity to view a wide range of aircraft and military vehicles, along with exhibits and artifacts detailing the exciting history and fascinating legacy of the United States Marine Corps Aviation. In summer months, the museum has scheduled days during which visitors can sit in the cockpit of a static airplane, examine the controls and get the feeling of what it must be like to be a real pilot. Visitors can also take a stroll along the Walk of Memories which features memorial bricks inscribed with the names of US Marines.

Referring to a member of the United State Marine Corps, the military slang term ‘leatherneck’ comes from the leather collar of the uniform once worn by British and American marines and soldiers in the 18th century. Today the term is taken to refer specifically to a US Marine, and the dress blue uniforms of US Marines still feature the leather stock collar. Fastened by two buckles at the back, the stiff leather collar supported the soldier’s neck giving him an upright ‘military’ posture, allowing him to better aim his rifle and protecting his neck from sword blows.

Static displays at the museum include the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter known as Lady Ace 09 which flew the last Ambassador of the United States to Vietnam, Graham Martin, out of South Vietnam prior to the Fall of Saigon in April 1975. Other aircraft on display include a Bell AH-1J “Sea Cobra” attack helicopter; a Bell Model 214ST “Huey” which was captured from the Iraqi Air Force; Douglas A-4C and A-4F “Skyhawks”; a Douglas F4D-1 “Skyray” fighter-interceptor aircraft; Grumman A-6E “Intruder” attack bomber aircraft; Grumman F9F-2 “Panther” fighter bomber aircraft; Grumman F9F-8P “Cougar” tactical reconnaissance aircraft; a range of McDonnell-Douglas aircraft and Sikorsky aircraft, among others.

As the only museum in the world dedicated to preserving the history of Marine Corps Aviation, the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum has plans to extend the museum and facilities to make the visitor experience even better. Currently the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 3:30pm, with the option of making arrangements for other times. Be sure to stop in at the museum store and buy something to remind you of your visit to the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.

The Legendary Flying Flapper of Freeport

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Referred to as the ‘Flying Flapper of Freeport’, Elinor Smith (1911-2010) obtained her pilot license at the age of sixteen, going down in history as the youngest licensed pilot in the world. Her aviation career had many interesting highlights, including the unsanctioned activity of flying a Waco 10 under all four of New York City‘s East River bridges – reportedly the only person ever to do so, and for which her license was suspended for fifteen days. Unknown to Elinor, fellow flyers had been taking bets as to whether or not she would undertake the venture, and whether or not she would succeed. To document the event, they had alerted the press who set up newsreel crews at each of the bridges and caught the stunt on film for posterity.

Elinor Smith was six years-old when she and her brother Joe had their first ride in an airplane – a Farman pusher. She was so enamored with the experience that by the age of ten she was taking flying lessons from American aviator and aerial stuntman Clyde Pangborn. Her legs were too short to reach the rudder pedals and blocks had to be tied to them for her to operate them, but she clearly had a gift for flying. She later took lessons from Frederick Melvin Lund and Bert Acosta. Her father was also a keen student of flying, and he bought a Waco 9 and hired a pilot to train them both. At that time, Elinor was prohibited by her father from taking off and landing the airplane, but when her father was out of town, and following intensive session of instruction, her mother lifted her father’s prohibition. Elinor Smith flew solo for the first time at the age of fifteen, and at sixteen years of age became the youngest US government licensed pilot. The following years saw Elinor make and break speed, endurance and altitude records. She also became the first female test pilot for aircraft manufacturers Fairchild and Bellanca.

After settling down with her husband, Patrick H Sullivan, and raising four children, Elinor Smith went back to flying. She piloted the T-33 Shooting Star Jet Trainer and C-119s during paratroop maneuvers. She became the oldest pilot to succeed in a landing of NASA’s Space Shuttle vertical motion simulator and in April 2001, at Langley Air Force Base, Elinor piloted an experimental C33 Raytheon AGATE Beech Bonanza – she was 89 years old. Elinor Smith died in Palo Alto, California, on March 19, 2010, having left her indelible mark on American aviation history.

Wings of Freedom Tour – Promoting Aviation History

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Founded in 1979 the Collings Foundation undertakes to organize and support what they describe as ‘living history’ events to encourage Americans to discover more about their heritage through the various exhibitions and events arranged by this non-profit organization. Events organized by the foundation include airshows, historical reunions, barnstorming, joint museum displays, Vietnam Memorial Flights and the ever-popular Wings of Freedom Tour which travels to numerous destinations in the United States, bringing ‘living history’ to the public.

The Wings of Freedom Tour started in 1989 with the goal of honoring the sacrifices made by war veterans on behalf of American citizens, as well as educating the public, with the emphasis on young people, about American national history and aviation heritage. In its 22 years of operation, the Wings of Freedom Tour has made more than 2,600 visits to airports throughout the US, including Alaska. With an estimated 3.5 to 4 million people viewing the warbirds each year, the Wings of Freedom Tour is certainly keeping American aviation history alive.

Visitors to any of the Wings of Freedom Tour events have the opportunity to enjoy a Flight Experience on the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-25 Mitchell, or the B-24 Liberator, spending 30 minutes aboard one of these classic airplanes from start-up to shut-down. Flight Experience bookings should be made in advance and participants should arrive at the venue one hour prior to the scheduled flight to allow time to get acquainted with the crew and the aircraft. Following a briefing on aircraft safety, passengers will be seat-belted for takeoff and once airborne will have the opportunity to walk about the aircraft and view its various features, with the crew on hand to answer questions. Passengers must be seated for landing and must remain so until the engines have been shut down.

Apart from the Wings of Freedom Tour, the Collings Foundation has a number of aircraft that can be booked as part of other airshows or events. These include a Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk, Grumman TBM Avenger, North American B-25 Mitchell, Cessna UC-78 Bobcat, Boeing PT-17 Kaydet, McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator.

Located in Stow, MA, the Collings Foundation coordinates the Wings of Freedom Tour and the Vietnam Memorial flights and oversees the onsite aviation museum and vintage automobile and racecar collection which can be viewed by appointment. Up to 25 events are hosted at the foundation each year, many of which are fund-raising events for non-profit organizations. The foundation is actively involved in restoration projects and relies heavily upon volunteer participation and donations. So check the Wings of Freedom Tour schedule on the Collings Foundation website and be sure to support the event if it lands near you.

Pearson Air Museum

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As one of the oldest continually operating airfields in the United States, Pearson Field is the perfect venue for a museum dedicated to the history and development of aviation. The Pearson Air Museum pays tribute to the milestones in aviation history that took place at Pearson Field and provides interesting information on aviation in the Pacific Northwest, along with displays of vintage aircraft, including the world’s first bomber, an interactive science center, aviation movies and a flight simulator lab.

The museum offers visitors a glimpse into the early years of aviation, when pioneering pilots in their open-cockpit aircraft were the dare-devil heroes to pave the way for future developments. Exhibits include a 1913 Viosin III (one of only three worldwide); a 1941 DeHavilland Tiger Moth; a 1932 Fleet II; a 1941 Ryan Recruit; a 1941 Boeing Stearman; a 1942 Myers OTW; a 1943 AT-6D/SNJ-5 Texan; a 1979 Baby Great Lakes; a Formula One Air Racer; Piper L-4 Grasshopper; a reproduction of a Fokker DR-1; and a 1953 Cessna 170 which flew around the world in 1956-1957.

Visitors can view the world’s first bomber and the 1918 wooden hanger which is the second oldest of its kind in the United States. The reproduction World-War I-era Fokker DR-1 Tri-plane is the same type of aircraft flown by the infamous Red Baron. Exhibits include a variety of aviation paraphernalia including priceless Russian Transpolar Flight memorabilia. Aircraft in the hangar are all in working condition, with many having served as World War II trainers for beginner and advanced pilots.

With the theme of “Learn from the past. Prepare for the future.” the museum encourages class field trips and an educational coordinator is on hand to discuss program options and reserve a date so that both teachers and students gain as much out of the experience as possible. The optimum size for a group of students is less than 20 students, but up to 40 can be accommodated.

The Pearson Air Museum is operated by the nonprofit organization, Fort Vancouver National Trust. Site hours are Wednesday-Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Helpful and informative volunteer museum guides are on hand to answer questions and offer additional information on the exhibits and the fascinating world of aviation.

College Park Aviation Museum

Affiliated with the renowned Smithsonian Institution, the College Park Aviation Museum in the State of Maryland provides educational exhibits, programs, tours, and special events for the general public, school groups and tourists. Located on the grounds of the airport where Wilbur Wright gave flight instruction to the very first military aviators in 1909, the museum was opened in 1998 and is dedicated to researching and promoting the history of the development of aviation.

The state-of-the art building covers an area of 27,000 square feet, with areas large enough to display original and replicated historic aircraft along with a host of artifacts and multi-media information – making the world of aviation both entertaining and educational. Interpretive areas and hands-on activities ensure that children of all ages come to appreciate the wonders of flight, and exhibits change on a monthly basis to keep visitors coming back time and again. The museum offers a venue with a difference for children’s birthday parties, and events such as the Model Rocket Workshop can be enjoyed by all ages.

With more than a century of aviation history, College Park Airport is the oldest continually operating airport in the world. In addition to its association with the famous Wright Brothers, the airport has been home to some significant milestones in aviation history. For example, in October 1909, Lieutenant Frederic Humphreys was the first military pilot to fly solo in a military airplane after receiving flight instruction from Wilbur Wright. In 1911 the first Army Aviation School was opened at the airport, and in the same year the first bomb-aiming device was tested when inert bombs were dropped from the air, using a bomb-sight invented by Riley E. Scott. In 1912, a Lewis Machine Gun was fired from a Wright B airplane, and Lieutenant Henry “Hap” Arnold achieved the first mile-high flight. The first US Postal Air Mail Service operated from College Park Airport between 1918 and 1921, and in 1924 the first controlled helicopter flight was successfully carried out. Between 1927 and 1935 the Bureau of Standards developed and tested the first radio navigational aids.

Today aviation seems to know no bounds, with new innovations taking place at breath-taking speed. The College Park Aviation Museum recognizes these innovations, while paying tribute to the pioneering adventurers who first took to the skies.

2011 Vintage Aircraft Weekend

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The Historic Flight Foundation’s restoration centre was the host of the 2011 Vintage Aircraft weekend, which was held for the fourth time. The restoration centre is located at the Paine Field, which is situated just outside of Washington. It was a wonderful opportunity for aviation enthusiasts to get to know aircraft of the past, watch them fly and even hear from a number of celebrity guests of honor. It was a weekend for the entire family to enjoy, filled with education and excitement.

One of the main guests was William Boeing Jr., who is the son of the founder of Boeing. He spoke to the audience about an aircraft called the Model 40, which assisted the company to survive very hard times during 1929. There is only one of these historic aircraft still in working order in the world, and it was on display at the Vintage Aircraft Weekend, also performing a demonstration flight for spectators. Over and above this magnificent aircraft being on display, there was also another fifty aircraft on display, including the EA-6B Prowler, Beechcraft “Swaggerwing”, Grumman F-4F “Wildcat”, EA-18G Growler and B-25D Mitchell. There was aircraft from 1927 straight through to 1957. The flybys not only featured vintage civilian aircraft but military aircraft as well. Vehicle enthusiasts also had something to look forward to, as there were vintage vehicles on display. There was twenty restored military vehicles, as well as the Pacific Northwest Studebaker Club’s eight vehicles at the Vintage Aircraft Weekend, including the President, Commander and the Studebaker Champion.

Entire families enjoyed this outing as there was live music to entertain the crowds, dancing, demonstrations, World War II re-inactions, presentations and many more activities and entertainment. There were also food vendors and wonderful displays of historical uniforms and memorabilia. It was a magnificent trip back in history for aviation enthusiasts.

Aviation History: Alcock and Brown

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Aviation history was made in the year 1919 by two brave pilots named John Alcock and Arthur Witten Brown. Their achievement of performing the very first transatlantic flight, non-stop, earned them the recognition of being knighted by King George V at Windsor Castle, and the Daily Mail Prize was awarded to them by Winston Churchill. A challenge had been posted by the Daily Mail in 1913 and renewed again later in the year 1918, offering a massive reward of £10,000 to anyone who flew over the Atlantic from any point in the United States, Newfoundland, Canada, or Ireland and Great Britain. But it had to be done within seventy-two hours, and Alcock and Brown took up the challenge.

Known to friends and family as Jackie Alcock, John Alcock was born in 1892. From a young age Alcock was fascinated with aviation, and in 1912 he qualified and received his pilot license. He participated in aircraft competitions and was a shot down during World War I. Even though he became a prisoner of war, his love for aviation never faded, and after the war he decided to take up the challenge set out by the Daily Mail. He was the pilot for the expedition. While on his way to a Paris air show on 18 December 1919, he was sadly killed flying a Vickers Viking amphibian.

Arthur Whitten Brown was born in 1886 in Glasgow, and known by the nickname of Teddy by his family. He too was shot down during World War I, and was also held as a prisoner of war. He honed his pilot skills on his return home, and was asked to accompany Alcock on his transatlantic expedition by Vickers, while visiting the engineering firm. Brown passed away in 1948.

Flying in a modified Vickers Vimy bomber (from World War I), Alcock and Brown left St. John’s (Newfoundland) in June 1919, and landed in Clifdon (Ireland) within the 72 hour time requirement. The flight was not smooth sailing, as ice, fog and snow did pose some problems, seeing Brown risking his life by climbing onto the wings of the aircraft to remove ice, while Alcock relied on his experience as a pilot and skill to keep them on the correct flight path. By the time they came in to land, the aircraft had suffered massive damage, and the poor visibility led Alcock and Brown to believe that bog was a green field, but fortunately neither one was injured on landing. None-the-less, they returned home as heroes.

There are two memorials that pay tribute to the flight located near their landing area in Ireland (County Galway), a monument marks their take-off location in St John’s and another memorial is at Heathrow Airport in London, which was erected in 1954. Alcock and Brown’s aircraft, which was repaired by the Vickers Company, can be viewed in the London Science Museum.

2011 Greenwood Lake Air Show and WWII Showcase

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The 2011 Greenwood Lake Air Show and WWII Showcase will feature a number of great aviation performances by the likes of Kendal Simpson, Jane Wicker Air Shows, Kevin Russo, Kirk Wicker and North East Raiders Demo Squadron. A number of interesting aircraft will be on display, such as the L-39 Albatros, Stearman, B-25, F-4U Corsair, Nanchang CJ-6 and others. The Greenwood Lake Air Show bring history to life with a number of reenactment groups attending this event. Be sure not to miss this tribute to the aircraft of WWII!

Dates: 26 to 28 August 2011
Time: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Venue: Greenwood Lake Airport
Town: West Milford
State: New Jersey
Country: United States of America

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