Sunday, December 30, 2012
Yesterday, I checked out the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, California. It is next to the former Castle Air Force Base. The base closed in 1995 after the Cold War ended. The base specialized in tankers and cargo planes. My original plan was to visit Beale Air Force Base, but that will have to wait.
A couple of disclaimers. First, it was cold and drizzly, so I didn't take a lot of time setting up my shots. Also, I know next to nothing about planes, so please chime in if I made a grievous error describing something.
First up is a Consolidated B-24M Liberator. The B-24 was the only combat aircraft used in every theater of operations in WWII. 18,481 of these were built, more than any other. The Indian Air Force used old RAF hand-me-downs all the way to the 1970s.
Boeing KC-97 StratoFreighter. 816 of these were tankers. 74 were cargo planes. It can offload 15,000 gallons (56,781 liters) of fuel. Jet engines were added on the outboard wings in order to take off on short runways.
Avro Vulcan. These bombers were used by the RAF from 1952 into the 1980s. This was the first bomber to use a delta wing. They were used in the Falklands war and for a time held the record for the longest bombing raid.
North American B-45A Tornado. This was the first jet bomber put into production. These 1950s era planes are almost like works of art.
Avro-Canada CF-100 Mark V Canuck. This is a long range interceptor and the first aircraft entirely designed and built in Canada. The Canadians used it to defend against trans-polar bomber attacks.
The Boeing B-52D Stratofortress was obviously the biggest thing there. During Vietnam, B-52s dropped 9 million tons of bombs. This particular plane was based at Utapao Royal Thai AFB and bombed North Vietnam. 94 B-52s are still in service.
This Kawasaki KAQ-1 remote controlled drone was one of my favorites. It was produced in the 1950s. The 72 horsepower engine allowed it to reach speeds of up to 220 mph and fly over 250 miles.
Beech YT-34 Mentor trainer.
This was my favorite. A two-rotor Kaman HH-43B Huskie. It was used for base crash rescues because it could get airborne in 30 seconds. The counter-rotating rotors' downwash actually helped suppress fires.
More B-52 greatness.
North American F-86H Sabre. This was the Air Force's first swept wing jet fighter. It was the star of the Korean War. The Sabres shot down 792 MiG-15s and only 76 Sabres were lost. All 36 allied jet aces in the war flew these. It was also the first plane to fly over 700 mph.
I don't recall what this was.
Consolidated-Vultee RB-36H Peacemaker. It had sixteen 20 mm remote controlled cannons in the nose, tail, and retractable fuselage turrets. It could carry 72,000 pounds of conventional or nuclear bombs.
The propellors were behind the wings, which I had never seen before.
View of wing from front.
20 megaton nuclear bomb. 1 of 200 made. Could only be carried by the Peacemaker.
McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle. These were the planes of my childhood.
Vought RF-8G Crusader. This particular plane was used on photo-recon missions during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Peacemaker from afar.
Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker. This particular plane was used in Vietnam and Desert Storm. The wings and lower fuselage could hold 31,200 gallons of fuel. I really dug the boom.
The small museum had some interesting artifacts. This is a Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp 18-cylinder air-cooled radial engine. This 2,000 hp engine was used widely in American and British planes during WWII.
B-52 cockpit. The pilot and co-pilot sat here. The rest of the crew sat below deck.
This movie was filmed at Castle. There are photos of Natalie Wood riding in a Thunderbird and Karl Malden riding a Vespa around the set.
And finally, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. I finally got to see one in real life. I surreptitiously touched a tail fin. Apparently, to withstand the heat at Mach 3, the skin is 85% titanium, 15% carbon composites. The titanium was sourced from the Soviets, ironically.
The plane was long and flat and smaller than I imagined.