Friday, June 15, 2012

Postcards From Ohio - Stealthy Stuff!

We are happily continuing on our adventures through Ohio, and having some good times and seeing some mighty interesting stuff.  Parts of yesterday and again today were spent at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, in Dayton, Ohio.  My 84 year old father-in-law, Dick, is a retired air force man who worked at the Area 51 Test Site (Dreamland) in Nevada long ago, and we wanted to bring him to see the museum and especially the aircraft he worked with during his active service at Area 51.

Aerial view of the main part of the museum
The museum is free to visit, is huge, and contains an extensive collection of aircraft and interesting aircraft-related memorabilia.  So, if you plan to see it, allow lots of time.  It is divided up into three main hangers of exhibits, and a fourth smaller hanger of space travel displays.  My husband and I had visited this museum several years ago, thoroughly exploring all of the hangars of exhibits.

This time, we went in through the main entrance and made a beeline back to the "Cold War" hangar so we could show Dick the SR71 (Blackhawk) aircraft.  During Dick's enlistment, he worked as an air traffic controller at Area 51, bringing in these highly classified aircraft on a regular basis.  He was moved by the memories that came back to him as he looked at this mammoth, stealthy piece of equipment from so long ago.

Here is Dick, standing next to the aircraft that he kept secret for so many years.
He told us that from the air traffic control tower, he could see how massive these vehicles were, but actually standing next to one of them gave him such a feeling of awe that he could barely explain it.

I took the following picture from under the rear of the Blackhawk looking toward the front wheels, just to try and show how immense this aircraft is.  Unbelievable.

A short drive took us to another display hangar on the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, where we were able to see two other collections, one of them the Research and Development exhibit.  There Dick was able to see the other stealthy aircraft from his memories, the YF-12A.  This aircraft was actually the  design experiment prior to the SR71 (Blackhawk).


The final exhibit we explored in the same hanger was the Presidential Gallery.  Four presidents' planes were displayed - Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy.  We were able to climb a set of stairs into the front of each plane, walk through the passenger area to the back, and exit out the rear down another stairway.  It was interesting to see how the planes progressed through the administrations in size and luxury.  

President Kennedy's plane, the largest on display here
We learned that Jackie Kennedy ordered a new paint design on this plane because she didn't care for the previous ones.  She also paid about $1,000,000 out of her own purse to have this new color scheme designed and applied.  

When Kennedy was assassinated, Jackie and the other U.S. leaders did not want his body carried in the cargo area of the plane, and so some of the seats in the rear of the plane were removed in order to place his coffin there for travel.  Jackie sat across the aisle, accompanying his body on the trip.  His coffin was placed in the area just inside and to the left of the stairway you see here:

All in all, it was a good time of exploring some major parts of the United States Air Force history, and learning many new tidbits and interesting facts.  We are grateful that we had the opportunity to bring Bob's father to see once again the aircraft with which he worked.  Seeing them again seemed to take him back to a time he is very proud of in his life.  I am grateful for men and women like him that have so bravely served our great country.

No comments:

Post a Comment