Tuesday 11/17/2009 Day 5: VAC Warbird Museum
On Tuesday, after the shuttle launch we decided to head up to Titusville to visit the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum. It looked pretty neat on the web site, and looked pretty small on the google map, so we decided to stop in. It turned out to be a really awesome museum, and we got a really great personal tour. The museum is located next to the Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville. Our guide, Erik Kramer, told us this was one of the busiest helicopter flight schools in the country, and there was a steady stream of take off’s and landings as we toured the hangers.
We started our tour of the main hanger, which was just full of airplanes from World War 2 to the Vietnam era and beyond. Shortly we met up with our guide Erik Kramer who did a just masterful job of telling us all about every single plane in the museum, and about his background. Erik is a volunteer at the museum, and a former prisoner of war by the Japanese army in World War 2. His family owned a plantation in the the Far East and were imprisoned for not helping the Japanese war effort. He spun a fascinating story of survival, and was an extremely nice man to talk to.
This ME208 was used as a transporter for members of the German military in World War 2. It is shown in period colors.
Our guide told us this plane doesn’t belong in the museum and should really be taken out and destroyed :). It is a kit plane, a smaller scale model of a P51 Mustang. The fighter used by the USA extensively in World War 2.
This plane, the Grumman F4 Wildcat has an amazing history. It was recovered from the bottom of Lake Michigan, where it was once used in aircraft carrier take of and landing practice. The plane had to ditch in the lake. It was recovered from the lake, and restored at the museum. With the tail number identified, they were able to find out all the history, and have the pilot who crashed it come visit for the unveiling of the restored plane. The engine could not be restored because of the decades of under water corrosion, but it sits nearby on display. Like many planes used by the Navy at the time, it is painted blue, and has fold up wings for carrier operations.
Next we viewed a fully functional B25 Mitchell Bomber. It is in working condition, as can be seen from the oil pans beneath the engines to catch any dripping oil. There were actually quite a few of these oil pans and rags about the museum, as they try hard to keep as many planes as they can in flight condition.
Next we walked over to the restoration hanger where we got to see the C-47 Skytrain Tico Belle being restored. This was truly an amazing aircraft. Its history includes glider operations for D-Day and Operation Market Garden at Arnhem, ferrying of supplies for the battle at Bastogne, and crossing of the Rhine into Germany. She participated in the Berlin airlift, and was latter transferred to the Royal Danish Air Force as part of the lend lease program. In the 80’s she was retired and came into ownership of the VAC. In 2001 she crash landed and is nearing completion of her rebuild.
Also being restored in the hanger is an Avenger aircraft. This plane is really large, and has folding wings for aircraft carrier service. Our guide told us that general Motors would sometimes just rivet up all the electrical access hatches rather than leave them open, so it is quite a challenge for the men restoring the plane. There was electrical system restoration work going on at the time we were there, with lots of schematics out. The guys even had an old style radio playing nearby, really looked authentic.
Additional planes undergoing restoration included an Vietnam era F4 Phantom. This T2 Buckeye trainer sat outside on the tarmac at the museum.
While we toured the hangers, we could hear the sounds of heavy gunfire in the distance, which was from a nearby army training facility in the woods. It was some heavy caliber guns, and added to the classic World War 2 feeling of the air museum. A nice unexpected touch!
Returning to the hanger we saw the F-86 Sabre jet. Heavily used in the Korean war, the F-86 scored a 10:1 kill ratio over the russian made Mig-15. It is a really nice plane, in great condition, and still flying.
Following the Sabre and Mig jets we viewed some other Vietnam era helicopters and jets. The UH-1 Huey, and A6 Intruder. We saw the F-101B Voodoo, and a NASA/DARPA test jet with an odd nose cone for testing different shaped nose effects on breaking the sound barrier.
We saw an actual F-14 Tomcat up close, an F-8 Crusader, A-4 Skyhawk painted up in the Blue Angels colors, an A-7 Corsair, and lots of other neat engines and helicopters.
As always, larger pictures of our full trip to Florida are available from my Flickr photo gallery.