Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola

Museum of Naval Aviation
Thursday, October 21, 2010

This has been a fantastic day until just now (8 PM) when I realized the log entry I typed last night for Wednesday is gone – how did that happen? Must have been operator error and I did not save it…hard to believe but I guess I did it. Oh dear, I have to try to remember! Today as everyday of our trip, we had beautiful weather. Jane hiked over to the lagoon and took some great mirror photos and then back to camp for coffee and a little breakfast.

Picnic Shelter and Canoes - Big Lagoon Park

Trees along the Lagoon - Big Lagoon Park

We were on our way the 6.5 miles to the Naval Aviation Museum by 9:10 and walked in the door at 9:30. In between was a stop at the Pensacola Lighthouse for Jane to get her “lighthouse photo”. Someday I plan to do something with all of the lighthouse photos taken over the years.

Pensacola Lighthouse

This museum is really something – equals if not exceeds the Smithsonian.

Sculpture at entrance - naval aviators from each war share stories

We signed on for an inside tour, an outside tour, and an IMAX movie. These along with our lunch at the Cubi Bar – filled our time until 3 PM!! Our inside tour guide was a retired naval fighter pilot from WWII who told us he had just celebrated his 85th birthday a few years ago with a special flight in one of the planes he had flown years ago and he had the photos to prove it. He had lots of stories to tell and helped bring to life the numerous planes and artifacts we saw. Planes that were actually at Pearl Harbor, Midway, first plane to fly across the Atlantic – no not the non-stop one by Lindbergh – but a Navy plane NC-4 flew it 1919. The trip took the aviators 3 weeks with stopping in Newfoundland, then the Azores, and on to Portugal.

NC-4 First plane to fly across Atlantic in 1919

Also very interesting was a PBY like “Strawberry 5” from the battle of Midway. It was much larger than I had imagined.

PBY restored with cutaway view

Another interesting display involved training of Naval Aviators for carrier landings during WW II. Since it was too dangerous to have carriers off either coast due to enemy subs and mines…the Navy bought two paddle wheelers, took off the tops, built a carrier top for them and paddled them around Lake Michigan and trained over 17,000 fighter pilots. They had to have 8 successful carrier landings before they could be certified as “ready”. Some of the best planes restored for this museum have come from the depth of Lake Michigan where they had crash landed. They were never recovered since they were planes that had been deemed unworthy of battle used for training. The records showed about 2 planes a week went into the drink. Several of the “one of a kind” planes in the museum were recovered and restored primarily with volunteer effort.

Outside tour - you can see trolley in distance

At the conclusion of the inside tour – we headed immediately to board a trolley for the outside tour. This tour was also led by a retired navy airman. He had flown in the much more recent past – 1967 – 1987. We saw many planes and got to visit the restoration hanger. They are currently restoring many planes including the Admiral Nimitz plane that Howard Hughes had purchased. It looks many years away from completion. The plane flown by George W. Bush was on display known as a COD (carrier on board delivery).

When we returned to the Museum we headed to the Cubi Bar for lunch. There is a story here. We lived in the Philippines from 1965-67 and were assigned to Subic Bay for 1966-67. Our son was born there at Subic Bay Hospital. The night he was born, Ben had to find somewhere to wait and eat – nothing was open at the hospital (very small) so he ended up at the Cubi Officers Club Bar! Well, it makes a good story but it is true. When we knew the Bar had been reconstructed here we had to see it… Ben remembers they were in the process of rebuilding the O Club during the time he assigned as a civilian engineer there at the OICC – Officer in Charge of Construction Southwest Pacific. The Cubi Bar here at the Naval Air Museum was reconstructed when the US did not renew the lease for Subic Bay and Cubi Point when they expired in recent years. The most famous part of the bar being the plaques left there by various commands throughout the years. We had a great steak sandwich and hunted all through the bar until we found the OICC plaque to photograph it…fun time.

Each command left a plaque in Cubi Bar
OICC Plaque - Ben was assigned to this command
Bar Scene

After lunch we had an hour and toured more of the exhibits we had not seen this morning. At 2 PM we watched the IMAX film of Red Flag – Fighter Pilots. It was a story of the Red Flag Training Program of the US for giving fighter pilots realistic training in combat but in a controlled situation. I only had to close my eyes about 10 times – not nearly as bad as the last IMAX or I am getting better at watching!

Blue Angel Planes

We looked around some more and visited the huge gift shop. Ben found a shirt, we had a dog tag made for Daniel and found him a shirt. I was very disappointed in their selection of women’s shirts – none that had a collar and only one t-shirt I would have considered and it was purple. This is just not my trip for purchases!

We barely made it to Fort Barrancas before it closed – only enough time to watch a 10 minute film, get passport stamps and take a couple photos. We will have to come back here and spend some time this is a very interesting and well preserved fort.

Drove back to camp and rested a short time before heading out for dinner – our last seafood. This time we made an excellent choice and it was 1 mile from our camp ground. Triggers Seafood- Ben had fried oysters and shrimp. He said the best of the trip and he has tried oysters 3 times. I had grouper with a shrimp Creole sauce that was fantastic. We cleaned our plates and if we were not leaving tomorrow we would go back again!

The evening was as usual – a little TV, blog writing, photo sorting, and reading. Tomorrow we start our trip home – the days have really flown by on this trip.

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