Aircraft and Space Museums

I took my first flight when I was eleven years old, on a Super Constellation - four engines and three tails.  Since that time I have flown to many places, sometimes for pleasure, sometimes for work, sometimes for grief.  The cattle cars which pass for commercial airliners these days are a far cry from the early days when there was room to move, real food, and great service - I guess that is what deregulation gets you.  In any case, I never pass up a chance to visit an aircraft museum and the art which is sometimes painted on the sides of aircraft has a real fascination for me.  The photo galleries listed to the right capture some of the mystique that I feel about these conveyances of the air.

I photographed the Constellation shown above at the Planes of Fame Aircraft Museum in Valle, Arizona.  That first flight on a constellation was to Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico (the Air Force Base no longer exists).  On that flight one of the engines caught fire, a puff of smoke and the “feathering” of the flap followed.  I asked my dad what was going on, he eyed the situation and said “it’s nothing”.  As we disembarked at the hanger where my dad worked the fire trucks were on the other side of the plane spraying foam.  Down the ramp we walked to the strands of “America the Beautiful” played by the base band.

The line drawings, shown below, of the Super Constellation were created by Kaboldy and are used here under a Creative Commons license: Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.

B-52’s were stationed at Ramey.  The B-52’s and the KC-135’s that refueled them in the air were a constant feature of that period of my life.  The photograph of a B-52 shown below was taken at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona.

The main road at Ramey crossed the runway so there were traffic lights on either side.  No one ran red lights!  The aircraft would roar down the runway, during alerts there would be three - one lifting off, one half-way down, and one just starting - on the runway at the same time.  They would roar off the runway and as they flew over the cliff face which separated the main base from the ocean they would dip down below the level of the runway.  A very fascinating sight to see a great airplane accelerate down the runway, take off, and suddenly disappear from sight as it descended below the “horizon”.  At the beach below, crash boats were stationed.

Later I was intrigued by the thought that B-52’s were the “mother ships” for the X-15’s like that above, which I photographed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D. C..

During the “Cuban Missile Crisis” the Base Commander at Ramey told us that there would be no warning if the Cubans launched missiles at us, the timeframe from launch to impact was to short.  It was during that time that I enjoyed watching the U-2 aircraft which were stationed there.  

The first airbase I remember was Ladd Air Force Base (now Ft. Wainwright) at Fairbanks, Alaska.  When I was in the second grade we were taken on a field trip to see the F-89 Scorpions which were stationed at the base.  It was those same Scorpions which were scrambled to intercept an unidentified flying object coming from the north pole one Christmas Eve.  The thought that we were going to shoot down Santa Claus undoubtedly created some trauma for me at that age.  I photographed the Scorpion shown below at the Pima Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona.


© Robert Barnes 2018