Historic Aircraft: Memphis Belle

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Constructed in early-1942, and delivered to the 91st Bomb Group at Dow Field, Bangor, Maine, in September of that year, the legendary Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, Memphis Belle has a long and fascinating history. The aircraft was second B-17 to carry out twenty-five combat missions in World War II with her crew intact. After her missions in France, Brittany, Netherlands and Germany, Memphis Belle returned across the Atlantic to carry out a war bonds promotion in the United States. Today, Memphis Belle is undergoing an extensive ‘face-lift’ at the National Museum of the USAF situated at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.

The B-17’s name Memphis Belle was accompanied by artwork of a woman originally drawn by pinup artist George Petty and reproduced by 91st Bomb Group artist Tony Starcer. The name was in honor of pilot Robert K. Morgan’s girlfriend from Memphis, and inspired by the name of a riverboat in the film Lady for a Night. The aircraft’s nose art would eventually include an image of a bomb for each mission, along with eight swastikas representing the number of German aircraft downed by the Memphis Belle crew. Moreover, the names of the crew were stenciled on the aircraft at the end of her tour of duty.

After the war had ended, the Mayor of Memphis, Walter Chandler, arranged for the purchase of Memphis Belle where in 1949 she was put on display at the National Guard armory. Left outdoors for the next three decades, the B-17 was vandalized by souvenir hunters and battered by the elements. Various restoration and preservation efforts in the years following the 1980s were largely unsuccessful and in October 2005 the historical aircraft was sent to the National Museum of the United States Air Force for restoration – a process which reportedly may take up to ten years to complete.

Wings Over Wine Country

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The Wings Over Wine Country Pacific Coast Air Museum Air Show will be an exciting event filled with great activities and attractions. The Schedule includes RC model aircraft, a Beale Air Force Base Military Flyby, mass WWII Warbird Flyby, Team Rocket, Tim Decker Pitts Special, Greg Poe – MX-2 Aerobatics, Greg Colyer “Blue Angels” T-33 Shooting Star and more. The Kids World will boast a number of activities for families and children to enjoy. Visitors will also have the opportunity to climb aboard a number of aircraft. Be sure not to miss this fun-filled event.

Dates: 20 & 21 August 2011
Time: 07:30 am
Venue: Pacific Coast Air Museum
City: Santa Rosa
State: California
Country: United States of America

Tour the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

The USS Intrepid was nicknamed The Fighting “I” and was commissioned into military action in 1942, during World War II. She was used as an aircraft carrier and was instrumental in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. After a short decommission, she underwent a modernization process and rejoined the United States Navy as an attack carrier in the 1950s. Intrepid also fulfilled a role as an antisubmarine carrier and participated in the Vietnam War. She also assisted the space industry by being the recovery ship for the Gemini and Mercury missions. Even though she was instrumental in various missions, she also spent a lot of time in the dry docks for repairs. She was officially decommissioned in 1974.

Intrepid was brought back into duty in 1982, not as the war machine she was originally but as a museum that is now known as the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. As one of the most prolific war ships in the history of the United States, it is only fitting that she would become the vessel that would educate the public and visitors on the history of war. She also stands as a monument to all the soldiers who worked aboard her, as well as every soldier who fought in the same wars she did. Almost a million visitors walk aboard the Intrepid each year, and there are exhibits for both young and old to enjoy, also providing interactive exhibits and educational programs for school groups. The A-6 Cockpit Simulator is one of the most popular attractions in the museum, as well as the Fleet Week celebrations that are hosted by the museum to honor all military personnel.

The Hangar Deck is the heart of the Intrepid. It is the major indoor exhibit of the museum, as it takes visitors on an in-depth tour of the ship that has so much historical value. The Flight Deck goes hand in hand with the Hangar Deck, as it not only allows visitors to experience the adventure of discovering the bridges and islands of ship, but has a massive display of aircraft. Visitors are also allowed to explore the restoration tent where these historical aircraft are kept in pristine condition, and a concord is amongst the collection. The Exploreum Hall is an extension of these first two decks as it focuses on the history of the Intrepid, as well as zones made especially for children where space, life on the seas and in the air is highlighted. For those who have always dreamed of exploring a submarine, the Growler Museum will give them that opportunity, as well as a look at a missile command centre that was once a top secret facility. The Gallery Deck hosts the Pilot Ready Room, information on marine berthing and a variety of combat information. After exploring this massive ship, visitors to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum are invited to get a bite to eat at the mess deck or at the Au Bon Pain Café.

Imperial War Museum Duxford

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During World War I, the need for additional airplane stations was growing, leading to the construction of the aerodrome at Duxford. This station was used to train men for service in the RFC aircrew, and in 1917 the first group of Royal Flying Corps airmen was dispatched to the Duxford station. The Royal Air Force was established in 1918, with the merger of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service, and in the same year, the doors to the Duxford flying school were opened. All this activity left Duxford with a rich aviation history and the ideal location for the Imperial War Museum Duxford.

After Duxford was used as a disbandment base for squadrons when the war came to an end, it continued as a flying school in 1920. Fighter squadrons were established in the following years, with Duxford becoming a fighter station, a role it fulfilled for thirty seven years. In 1969, the Ministry of Defence offered alternative plans for the airfield, such as a prison and sports centre, but none of these plans were ever carried through. It just so happened that the Imperial War Museum was looking for the ideal location to house their museum, where repairs and renovations could be done, and that would large enough to house their exhibits. So, in 1977, with the assistance and collaboration of various entities, the aerodrome was purchased and renovated and became the official home of the Imperial War Museum Duxford. As expected, the museum has an exhibit detailing the history of Duxford, and amongst its more than thirty military aircraft on display, visitors can look forward to exhibits such as Air and Sea, the Battle of Britain, Conservation in Action, 1940 Operations Rooms, American Air Museum and Land Warfare.

The Imperial War Museum Duxford also has a variety of interactive exhibits to enjoy, offering fun and education to both the older and younger generations. During the year, the museum hosts numerous air shows to raise funds, as it is a charitable organization, and any donations made by visitors are used to maintain and restore the exhibits within the museum. Visiting the Imperial War Museum Duxford is a fascinating and memorable experience, bringing the past to life and documenting the heritage of aviation in Duxford and of Great Britain.

Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum

Located in a picturesque setting alongside the Hood River at the Oregon airport, the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAAM) is home to an impressive collection, including more than 80 aircraft and over 130 automobiles, motorcycles, tractors and military jeeps, the majority of which are still in good working order. With over two acres of indoor hangar displays, a visit to the WAAAM is not dependent on the weather and is a great venue for a family outing. Moreover, on the second Saturday of every month the displays get mobile, with planes taking off and landing, and antique vehicles cranking up to go.

The restoration and upkeep of the Museum’s airplanes and vehicles is carried out by gifted and dedicated volunteers who make sure that not only are the engines in working order but they are kept in peak condition. Instead of gathering dust in a showroom, the majority of the aircraft, whether purpose built for recreation, work or military use, are regularly taken out and put through their paces in the sky.

The Museum’s ‘Crown Jewel’ is the Curtiss JN-4D. Commonly referred to as ‘Jenny’, the Curtiss JN-4D was the military training aircraft of choice during WWI and was used by both England and the United States. Following the war, the Curtiss Airplane Company refurbished the military airplanes for civilian use, where they became popular as barnstorming airplanes – travelling from town to town to entertain the locals with acrobatics and wing-walking. Other antique airplanes at the museum include a 1928 Boeing 40C, a 1929 Curtiss Robin, and a replica of a 1912 Curtiss Pusher.

The antique military vehicles at the WAAAM are often used in parades, while the military aircraft perform ceremonial flybys on special occasions. Visitors to the center on the second Saturday of the month may get the opportunity to take a drive in one of the military vehicles, with the driver ready to share a war story or two with his passengers. Among the antique military vehicles are the standard all-purpose Willys Jeep and Ford GPW, along with the two-wheeled Bantam trailer.

The pride of the antique civilian automobiles is undoubtedly the 1927 Ford Model T which was one of the last Model T’s to be built before production of this distinctive little car came to an end in May 1927. Other vehicles on display include a 1933 Harley Davidson and a 1925 Ford Model T 1-Ton Truck, which has quite a story attached to its discovery and subsequent restoration.

So pick a date, plan an outing and visit the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAAM) Website for more information.

Canadian Aviation Expo 2011

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The 19th annual Canadian Aviation Expo will feature more than 100 000 square feet of indoor exhibits. A wide variety of aircraft and related services are represented at the event, including parasails, ultra-lights, kit planes, flight schools, flying clubs, warbids, maintenance shops and government agencies. Not only is this Canada’s largest aviation trade show, but it is also the country’s most impressive fly-in. Included in the program will be guest speakers, seminars, demo flights and much more.

Date: 29 April to 1 May 2011
Time: Friday 6pm – 8pm; Saturday and Sunday 9am – 5pm
Venue: Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum
City: Mt. Hope
State: Ontario
Country: Canada

Frontiers of Flight Museum

Located in Dallas, Texas, the Frontiers of Flight Museum was founded in November 1988 by a group of aviation enthusiasts – Jan Collmer, Kay Bailey Hutchison and William Cooper – who wanted the public to have the opportunity of viewing priceless documents, artifacts and photographs chronicling the journey of aviation from its earliest days through to today’s high-tech commercial, military and aerospace craft. The majority of the exhibits at the Frontiers of Flight Museum are from the collection donated by aviation historian George E. Haddaway to the University of Texas at Dallas. This noteworthy collection has been added to over the years and visitors to the museum now have access to an extensive range of fascinating exhibits, including a number of restored and well preserved aircraft.

The Dallas/Fort Worth region has long played an important role in global aviation, which is well supported by the exhibits at the museum and by the fact that it is referred to as the “Aviation Capital of the World”. Visitors to the Frontiers of Flight Museum can imagine what it would have been like to be a pioneering aviator in the airplanes of the 20s and 30s, a time period that came to be known as the “Golden Age of Flight”. It took great courage, and certainly a sense of adventure, to take to the skies at a time when aviation was just starting to spread its new-found wings. On a more serious note, visitors can get the sense of dedication and duty of the brave pilots of World War II as they patrolled the skies to protect their countries, or went on the attack as part of war strategy.

Taking pride of place in the museum is the “Lighter Than Air” collection, focusing on the famous LZ-129 Hindenburg Zeppelin which measured 803.8 feet in length, was kept aloft by means of seven million cubic feet of hydrogen, and carried 50 passengers as well as between 50 and 60 crew members and freight. It took this amazing aircraft three days and two nights to cross the Atlantic Ocean between Frankfurt, Germany, and Lakehurst, New Jersey, at an average cruising speed of 77 mph. Sadly, the Hindenburg went up in flames at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station on 6 May 1937 with 35 people losing their lives. Among the items on display at the museum is the radioman’s chair from the Hindenburg, as well as items from other airships operating at the time.

Stepping into the present, and looking toward the future, the Frontiers of Flight Museum details the rapid development of aviation since World War II, reminding us that as far as aviation and aerospace technology is concerned – the sky is surely not the limit.

Da Vinci’s Dream Come True

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Leonardo Da Vinci was born in 1452, and became one of the most well known inventors, sculptors, painters, musicians, architects, engineer and mathematicians of the time. His thoughts and ideas that are protected and conserved by museums seemed only possible in his mind, although some were the original blueprints for magnificent modern inventions. One of his drawings depicts a craft that could fly through the air with flapping wings on either side. If Da Vinci were alive today, he would proudly look upon the very first functional human-powered ornithopter with amazement and enthusiasm.

Da Vinci first thought of the ornithopter in the year 1485, and for centuries after, scientists and engineers worked towards achieving flight through fixed wing aircrafts and balloons. Even though many tried to create a craft that was human powered, the technology to create lift was not available.

Todd Reichert, from the University of Toronto, led the development of the first ornithoper, which has been named Snowbird. The Snowbird was put to the test on 2 August 2010, and proved that it was able to fly by maintaining both air speed and altitude for just over twenty-nine seconds. Reichert explained his enthusiasm in regard to project by saying: “Throughout history, countless men and women have dreamt of flying like a bird under their own power, and hundreds, if not thousands have attempted to achieve it. This represents one of the last of the aviation firsts.”

Engineering the human-powered ornithopter was a great challenge for Reichter and his team, as the lightweight aircraft had to combine perfectly with its wingspan, which is thirty-five meters. To create a lightweight craft, Reichter used carbon fiber tubes, basswood, balsa wood and foam. To power the Snowbird, Reichter explained that he made use of his legs, “which have the strongest muscles in your body. I just pushed both legs down together simultaneously, as if in a gym doing a leg press, and every time I pushed, a wire connected to the wings pulled them down.” The snowbird has proven that all dreams and ideas are obtainable, although some just take five hundred and twenty-five years to reach completion.

WW1 Air Show 2010

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The WWI Biplanes and Zeppelins Air Show, is an event that is hosted by the Military Aviation Museum, located at the Virginia Beach Aerodrome. It is a journey into the past, with restored combat aircraft taking to the skies, and being displayed on the ground, allowing the public to get insight into the world of aerial combat that took place during both the first and second World Wars. Visitors will also see military vehicles, re-enacted camps, meet collectors and take a ride in a biplane. Charlie Chaplin, the Barbershop Quartet, marching band, the Manhattan Doll, impersonators and Dual Orchestras will be entertaining visitors throughout the air show weekend.

Visit the festival website at http://www.ww1airshow.com/, for more information in regard to tickets, performances and activities.

Date: 24 – 26 September 2010
Venue: Military Aviation Museum
City: Virginia Beach
Country: United States of America

American Air Day 2010

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The Third Air Force of the United States Air Force is partially located in the United Kingdom, and to celebrate the relationship between the battalion and Duxford, dating back to 1918, the American Air Day is presented to the public. It is a family day that combines breathtaking aerial displays and activities on the ground, and the Imperial War Museum is also home to the American Air Museum, which gives visitors insight into the history of the countries and their Air Forces.

For more information in regard to the air show, visit the Imperial War Museum website at http://duxford.iwm.org.uk/server/show/conEvent.3256.

Date: 20 August 2010
Venue: Imperial War Museum
City: Duxford
Country: United Kingdom

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