So I went back the next day, got there before the doors were open, and was the third one to get his name on the list to take the bus out to the Experimental and Presidential Planes area. It’s a little unfair that you only get to spend an hour out there in that IMHO the experimental part is the most interesting (and essential) part of the museum.
I suppose I could have included this with yesterday’s post.
Before my 9:30 tour bus left, I went back and re-considered the museum’s WWII wing, including this C-47 Skytrain.
An Me-262. First second one of these I’ve ever seen in real life (and one of only three currently on display in the US).
‘Course there’s one of these in *every* flight museum, so no need to comment I figure.
It’s not the original X-1, but it’s still a pretty unique plane to have around.
It’s an XB-70 Valkyrie — sort of the museum’s centerpiece (even though it’s a long ways away from the rest of the table). They only ever built two and the other one crashed during a photo shoot. Here’s a photo of one not crashing.
I overhear a lot of conversations. While looking at the XB-70, I overheard:
- “Of course, the Soviets had one of these as well.” (No they didn’t — the movie you’re thinking of is Firefox and it starred Clint Eastwood.)
- “They were also going to build a Concorde, but they never got around to it.” (Yes they did — the plane you’re not thinking of is the Tu-144 “Concordski”.)
Some days I wish I were deaf. Moving on…
I’m guessing the forever-entombed XB-70 and the YF-23 share a sort of kinship. Kind of like the one Teddy Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh had, only without the murderous criminal aspect.
One of two surviving X-15 space planes. A couple of times these guys went into actual outer space (the plane was dropped from a B-52 at Pima Air Museum, although the B-52 was not at the museum at the time of the dropping). Pretty slick.
The cockpit window on the X-15. If you stare at it long enough, it winks at you.
A couple of Air Force Ones before they were called that.
And the props that, well, propelled them.
And a C-119 like my dad used to fly in the USMCR.
Phew. Posting photos on here often feels like hard work. Slow-ish connection and all. You understand. Glad I went back for the second day and the other hangars, wish I’d have arrived in a more plane-centric mood the day before. And that there hadn’t been all those runners.
If anyone’s thinking of going, I thought it might be useful to assemble a list of the must-see planes there:
- The B-29 (Bockscar) — It’s not as famous as the Enola Gay, but it’s got its place in history.
- The Me-262.
- The B-2 — Still not an airframe you’re used to seeing at eye level.
- The FA-117 — Ibid.
- The XB-70 — Worth a visit in its own right.
- The X-15.
- The X-1B.
So if you only got, oh, three hours or so, that’s probably the list to attack. IMHO. If you got another couple hours beyond that:
- The Doolittle’s Raid exhibit.
- The Vietnam POW stuff.
- The B-36 — Not a lot of these left and it *was* the first inter-continental nuclear bomber we ever had.
- I dunno — everything else, I guess.
It’s a good day-long museum, unless *important* running events force you to alter your plans. They made some weird choices at the museum. A lot of the plaques for planes are hard to find, which I haven’t really experienced before. I think they may also have too many airplanes for their current capacity — those hangars feel cramped and I’m guessing this may add to the plaque-finding problem.
And then I was a little baffled as to why they didn’t make a much bigger deal out of the WWII B-17 flights. That’s gotta be the most iconic thing the (Army-) Air Force has ever done, but it felt like a footnote next to Doolittle’s Raid (which was, of course, pretty cool). For that matter, more explanation of the nuclear bombings would’ve been a good inclusion. Maybe they’re just bitter they didn’t get the Enola Gay.
It’s hard to compare flight museums and say where they rank. I’ve been to all the major ones in the US now (Smithsonian, USAF, and maybe Boeing make up the Holy Trinity — feel free to suggest others) and they’re all unique enough. The USAF museum feels a little more biased than the other two — but then, it *is* the Air Force’s museum. I dunno. I think if you combine the stuff on the mall with the stuff at Dulles, the Smithsonian probably wins. But I’m not sure it’s fair to do that. I wish the USAF exhibits had been outside (granted, it’s not December) so you can walk around them more and get a better sense for the plane (the Pima museum is the champ when it comes to that). It’s a shame you can’t get a sense for the XB-70 as a whole due to all the visual and physical “clutter” in the way.
All is well, all is well.