NAVAL AVIATION MUSEUM (Part 2)

NAVAL AVIATION MUSEUM (part 2)

(As I mentioned in the first article on the museum, there is no way to talk about all the exhibits. However, there are a few more that demand a comment) 

Upstairs, in the main museum, there is a small section called, ‘The Home Front.” I spend most of my volunteer time in this section. It depicts a street in a small town, in 1943. There is a small ‘corner store’ there that visitors can go into and learn more about life in the 40’s.

The average salary in the early 40’s was around $2000 a year. That works out to less than $170 a month. Money was tight, and rationing was imposed. It was not just food that was rationed. For instance, if you lived in the city, gasoline was rationed to 3 gallons a week. In my family, that meant the car was used for going to church, and emergencies. Shoes were rationed to one pair per person per year. You have to think back to the 40’s and remember that there were no synthetic products. Shoes were made out of leather, or canvas and rubber – all of which were in high demand by the military. Speaking of rubber, tires were impossible to find, so you weren’t going to drive much even if you could get gasoline. Also, sugar, chocolate, and coffee were strictly rationed. Amazingly enough, chickens and eggs were never rationed. That is because so many people had chickens in their backyards, even in the city. 

The early 40’s were certainly an interesting time in which to live, and I enjoy visiting with people and telling them what I remember from that era (yes, I do remember the 40’s)

Downstairs, on the main floor you can see the island and a section of the wooden flight deck from the USS Cabot, the last relic of over 100 light aircraft carriers from World War II. The Cabot was commissioned in 1943 and served until 1947. She sailed from Naval Air Station Quonset Point with Air Group 31 aboard. Her consistently high quality of war service won her a Presidential Unit Citation. She launched plane strikes on Roi, Namur, and the island stronghold of Truk, aiding in the neutralization of these Japanese bases as her part in the invasion of the Marshalls. The deck that you see in the pictures is a section of the actual flight deck of the Cabot. There is not room here to tell all about her exploits, but you can check out USS Cabot on Wikipedia.

This PB2Y-5R Coronado was brought into the museum and put on display in 2011, after 13 years of restoration. It had been the better part of half a century exposed to the elements. During the restoration process, every inch, inside and out, was brought back to near operational condition. One engine, however, was left untouched so it can be compared to the reworked engines. The Coronado’s height is over 27 ft., and its wingspan in 113 ft.  It is interesting to note that the inboard engines have 4 bladed propellers, and the outboard engines have 3 bladed propellers. That is because the diameter of the 4 bladed reversible pitch propellers is shorter. This shorter diameter on the inboard propellers prevented erosion from saltwater spray during take-off.

The PB2Y Coronado entered service in 1940. It was used primarily as a patrol aircraft during World War II. On Christmas Eve, 1941, Ensign Frank DeLorenzo was part of the crew of a PB2Y Coronado Flying Boat that was assigned to fly Admiral Chester Nimitz from San Diego to Hawaii, to assume command of the U. S. Pacific Fleet. Toward the end of the 17.2 hour flight, the pilot invited Admiral Nimitz into the cockpit to observe the damage and destruction inflicted by the Japanese.

“We made wide circles over Pearl Harbor, as well as Hickham Field. He was seated in the left hand pilot’s seat and he just kept shaking his head and clucking his tongue. We were looking at the West Virginia, the California, the Utah, and the Arizona, all crumpled hulks. We were looking at skeletons of what were once hangars and flight lines filled with junk of what were once military planes,” said DeLorenzo. “As he (Admiral Nimitz) disembarked, he took the time to shake the hand of every member of the crew and thank them for a comfortable flight, and apologize to each for having taken them from their families on Christmas Day!”

This airplane embarked Rear Admiral Forrest P. Sherman, Nimitz’s deputy, and other personnel for a flight from Guam to Japan, where it was among the first Navy aircraft to land in Tokyo Bay for the surrender ceremonies on board the Battleship Missouri (BB 63) that ended the war, in 1945. The airplane remained in the Far East until November 1945, flying support for the occupation of China. During that time, it almost sank in a typhoon while at anchor in the Yellow Sea. The crew applied patches which enabled it to be flown back to the United States. 

Howard Hughes purchased this aircraft after it was stricken from the Navy’s inventory in 1946, presumably to be used in his training to fly the famous “Spruce Goose.”

Just a little over a year ago, the museum opened Hangar One, a new section of the museum, and it, too, is filled with aircraft and memorabilia. 

The first thing that greets you as you walk in the door is President Nixon and President Ford’s helicopter, designated Marine One.

As you continue walking, you come to the Navy’s last Flying Boat, the SP-5B Marlin.

This mammoth flying boat is over 32 ft. high, and has a wingspan of 118 ft. The first version was put in service in 1952. This airplane is the 2nd version, the SP-5B (originally P5M-2). It differs from the SP-5A most noticeably in that it has a “T” tail. 

Most of the early aircraft flown by the Navy were Flying Boats. They did not need to rely on airfields, which made them beneficial to operations with the Fleet. Also, they could fly long distances. In addition to their work as antisubmarine missions, the Marlins supported Operation Market Time, which monitored shipping traffic in the waters off South Vietnam. 

In the late 1960’s, the Navy decided to retire the Flying Boats, ending an era in Naval Aviation. This particular aircraft made the last flight by a Navy Flying Boat in July 1968. It was given to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and eventually made its way to the Naval Aviation Museum, by barge, in 1977. 

Below are some random pictures taken in the museum. If you would like to take a look at the cockpit of some of these airplanes, please visit:

http://www.navalaviationmuseum.org/explore/exhibits-and-collections/virtual-tour/26-explore/exhibits-and-collections/virtual-tour/90-cockpit-panoramas

The dictionary definition of ‘truculent,’ is: “savage and cruel, fierce, disposed to fight, pugnacious and defiant,” hardly descriptive of a turtle. However, it certainly describes this P2V-1 Neptune aircraft, the Truculent Turtle, which set a world endurance record on October 1, 1946, when it flew 11,235.6 miles, without refueling.

Admiral Nimitz wanted to put the Navy’s newest patrol aircraft to the test. He wanted to find the range of the P2V Neptune, and test the crew’s stamina at the same time. He planned a flight from Perth, Australia to the Bermudas. For the flight this aircraft was modified, including an extension of the nose, removal of all armament, and the addition of an internal fuel tank. In addition, he had a soundproof bunk room installed for the crew member’s rest.

The flight began on September 29, 1946. The airplane was loaded with 8,467 gallons of fuel, a crew of four, and one stowaway baby kangaroo. The gross weight of the airplane on take-off was 85,575 lbs, which required a Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) in order to get the plane off the ground! Unfortunately, the flight encountered bad weather over the western part of the United States, which caused it to use more fuel than planned. It landed in Columbus, Ohio, having spent 55 hours and 17 minutes in continuous flight. 

In addition to the Museum itself, there is the National Academy of Flight, which opened its doors this spring. It is a dramatic, multi-day, immersion experience in the ‘Magic of Flight.’ It is designed for kids in Middle and High School. The NFA takes a revolutionary hands-on approach to teaching the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects and reaches beyond the ordinary, to really inspire young minds. If you have children of those ages, I urge you to go to www.nationalflightacademy.com, to learn more. The fast paced simulations and missions challenge students and enrich their understanding of STEM principles. Students leave the Academy inspired to pursue further STEM studies and careers.

“I hope these 2 articles about the Naval Aviation Museum have whetted your appetite to come to Pensacola to visit this fantastic museum. I assure you, that you will enjoy every minute that you spend there”… Captain Nancy

By, Captain Nancy W. Aldrich, Aviation Writer

Make a Joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing out the Honor of His name; Make His praise Glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are Your works!” Psalms 66:1-3

To purchase Her Book “Flying My Dream”

click on link this”  www.captaingramma.com

Nancy is Available for speaking engagements

Contact her at her website (click link above)

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