Saturday, January 30, 2010

Visit to U.S. Air Force Museum, Dayton - 16 January 2010

I came to know of the largest military aviation museum located in Dayton, about 80 kms north-east of Cincinnati when Amit, my son-in-law, told me that the National Air Force Museum was one of our proposed week-end visits during our stay in Cincinnati. After checking the weather forecasts, we decided to make a day trip to the museum on January 16th when weather, though cloudy, was expected to be free of rain and snow.

It took us about an hour from Cincinnati to reach Dayton in a foggy morning. Being a week-end, we got the parking space at the far-end of the parking lot compelling us to walk for 10 minutes in a cold and breezy morning to reach the gate of the museum. There is no entrance fee for the museum but one is interested in visiting the hanger where planes used by the former US Presidents are on display and also the military planes used for research and developments, one needs to register with the museum authorities with photo identity cards and passports ( for non-US citizens).

There are four big inter-connected hangers where military aircrafts are displayed in a chronological orders : 1. Aircrafts used during World War-I, 2. Aircrafts of World War-II, 3. Aircrafts of Cold War periods, 4. Modern aircrafts. In addition, there is a separate hanger located away from the museum requiring a bus ride of about 10 minutes in which past US Presidential aircrafts are on display on the one side and the aircrafts used for research and developments on the other side of the hanger. The museum has also a large collection of non-aircraft related exhibits including some rare photographs and uniforms.

If one is interested in the history of military aviation, US Air Force Museum at Dayton is the place to visit. Incidentally, Dayton is the town where Wright Bros. invented their airplanes. I had visited aviation museums located in Washington and Houston but Dayton museum is far bigger than the Washington and Houston ones with more than 200 military aircrafts - from Wright Bros. to Flight to moon, on display. Our six hours of walking did not do enough justice as there was so much to see and read the details of each and every aircraft on display.

Photography is permitted inside the hangers. But due to inadequate lighting and clustering of aircrafts on display, I found taking good quality pictures a difficult task. Below are some of the pictures with detailed captions which I shot during our visits to the aircraft museum.

Approach to Museum entrance

Museum concourse

The Standard Aircraft Company's J-1 two seater primary trainer used by the US Army Air Service. Maximum Speed : 72 mph; Range : 235 miles; Maximum Altitude : 5800 ft.

The two blade propellers of most of the single engine aircrafts shown above were made of wood.

In 1917, Charles F Kattering of Dayton, Ohio invented the unmanned Kattering Aerial Torpedo nicknamed the 'Bug'. The Bug's system of internal pre-set pneumatic and electric controls stabilised and guided it towards a target. After a pre-determined length of time, a control closed an electric circuit shutting off the engine. Then, the wings were released causing the 'Bug' to plunge to earth where its 180 pounds of explosive detonated on impact.
Maximum speed : 140 mph; Range : 75 miles.

The Observation Basket. The basket with two observers and communication equipments lifted by hydrogen-filled balloon were used during WW-I to see the troop movements up to 40 miles behind the enemy lines. The observers will direct artillery fire through communication. The balloon could lift up to a height of 4000 ft. in good weather condition. The balloons were produced by Goodyear Aerospace Corporation, Akron, Ohio.

These type of gas tankers carrying gasoline were used for supplying fuel to the aircrafts during WW-I.

Ca-36 multi-engine heavy bombers. These aircrafts were mainly used for attacking Austrian airbase targets during WW-I. The aircraft had two mounted machine guns and carried 1760 lbs. of bombs. These aircrafts remained in Italian Air Force service till 1929.
Maximum speed : 87 mph; Range : 372 miles.

Ford Model 'T' Ambulances were used during WW-I for ambulance services. The light wooden body was mounted on Model 'T' chassis with 4-cylinder 20 horsepower engine had to be cranked by hand. The transmission used belts rather than gears and had only two forward speeds and the reverse. The ambulance carried 4 seated patients with two more sit with the driver.

The wooden propeller blades of the engines were replaced by metal ones in the later versions.

One of the many single engine aircrafts on display

Bombs used in 1930s. The white one is a 25 lbs practice bomb. The yellow ones are demolition bombs of 50 lbs and 100 lbs respectively.

North American BT 14 Aircraft. Maximum Speed :177 mph, Range :880 miles, Service Ceiling : 21600 feet, First Flight : 1935.

North American Aviation's O-47B Observation Aircraft. Can sit a crew of three under its long canopy. The aircraft was used for observation during inter-world war years but later used for coastal and anti-submarine patrol. Maximum speed : 227 mph; Maximum altitude : 24000 ft.

This aircraft was used for President's short visits

This aircraft was used for President's short visits.

Lockheed VC-140B Jetstar used by Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan. This was not the primary presidential aircraft.

Cockpit of Lockheed VC-140B Jetstar

One of the four engines of Lockheed Super Constellation ''Columbine III" used by President David Eisenhower from 1954 to 1961.

The cockpit of Super Constellation

One of the four engines of VC-118

Cockpit of VC-118

The cockpit of Douglas C-54C Skymaster aircraft which was used by Presidents Roosevelt and Truman during 1945-47.

One of the four turbo-propeller engines of DC-54C Skymaster.

NC-131H - Total In-flight Simulator. The second cockpit was added to the nose of the cockpit of C-131B aircraft and renamed it as NC-131H. The crew sat in the main cockpit while the computers simulated handling characteristics of various aircrafts.

Boeing X-40A unmanned aircraft. It was used for the first phase flight test vehicle for Space Maneuver Vehicle (SMV) programme, X-37 which began in late 1990s. It made the first successful flight in 1998. Later the aircraft was loaned to NASA for whom it made the first successful flight in 2001.

Ryan X-13 Vertijet. This Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft was designed to operate without a conventional runway. The aircraft completed its full scale test flight in 1957 taking off vertically from a mobile trailer and descending slowly to land on the mobile trailer.

Douglas B-18A BOLO Bomber Aircraft. Maximum Speed : 215 miles mph, Range : 2100 miles, Service Ceiling : 24000 feet, First Flight : 1935.

Some of the smaller WWII aircrafts on display

B-24 Liberator. Maximum Speed : 303 mph, Range : 3200 miles, Service Ceiling : 28000 feet, First Flight : 1931

De Havilland DH98 nicknamed 'Mosquito'. Maximum Speed: 415 miles, Range: 1955 miles, Service Ceiling : 42000 feet, First flight : 1940

German rocket powered defensive aircraft used during WW-II

K-1 Ohka Japanese plane used for suicide bombing of allied ships during WWII. The pilot detached and ignited the rocket to dive the aircraft into the ships.

A B-29 Bomber aircraft used for dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The landing gear of B-29 Bomber

Inside a B-29 Bomber Aircraft

DC-124C Globemaster military transport aircraft. Maximum Speed :320 mph, Range :2170 miles, Service Ceiling : 34000 feet, First Flight : 1949.

The astronaut's dress is a favorite with the visitors.