Saturday, February 27, 2010

Naval Aviation Museum

The Naval Aviation Museum is located on The Pensacola (FL) Naval Air Station. It is about a two and a half hour drive from Panama City Beach depending on the route that you take. Access to the Navy base only requires a valid drivers license. Admission to the museum is free. This area and the Navy base sustained substantial damage from hurricane Ivan. All of the aviation "A" schools are located on this base. When I was in the Navy, the "A" schools were located on a landlocked Navy base in Millington, TN near Memphis. The "A" schools were shut down due the damage for a period of time. This did cause some problems in the fleet as the pipeline of qualified sailors was disrupted. The Pensacola Lighthouse is located on the base along with Fort Barrancas both of which can be visited. There is ample parking and the museum does attract a large number of visitors.

This Navy jet fighter is just outside the main entrance. Bronze statues of a plane director are part of the display.

Just inside the main entrance is an A4 Skyhawk. This is a later version of the aircraft that was in my squadron when I was a plane captain. This is also the type of plane that Senator John McCain was flying when he was shot down over Viet Nam.

Another view of this aircraft.

This is the cockpit of the Skyhawk. The real seat has been removed. Originally it had a RAPEC seat which was a rocket assisted personnel ejection control. The picture does accurately depict the size of the cockpit. I spent many a cold night sitting in the plane waiting for the flight deck crew to finally spot the plane after flight ops were over for the night. I still believe part of my knee problems were caused by the cramped position in the cold. I was on two winter med cruises.

This is a cut a way of the Pratt & Whitney J-65 jet engine. This was the engine I was specifically trained on in "B" school which was in Jacksonville, FL. I actually spent more time as a plane captain than I did working in the jet engine shop. I was always happier working the line crew as we were called.

These are two views of the main floor taken from the balcony.

There are quite a number of Naval aircraft from the early days to present.

The Navy Blue Angels team flew a version of the A4 Skyhawk for a number of years and these planes are suspended from the overhead in formation.

Throughout the museum there are many items of Navy memorabilia. One room is dedicated to painting of Naval aircraft and carriers throughout the years from WW I to present. Carol and I took a "simulator" of an actual carrier takeoff and a mission flown in Desert Storm culminating in a carrier landing. This was our third visit. The first when we were dating. The second on our honeymoon when we were unable to enjoy the entire museum because the King and Queen of Spain were coming. There is a wonderful and very colorful cafe inside the museum. The walls are filled with plaques of Navy squadrons from all time with the mascots. We were the "Roadrunners" Naturally we finished our visit in the gift shop.

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