Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Up, Up, and Away....

Gulf Shores, AL     High:  66    Low:  48

Off to see what's new at the Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum....Two years ago, we were there and thought it was one of the most fantastic aviation museums in the country that we had ever seen. We still think that. It's FREE, and not to be missed. So many cool planes, BIG, HUMONGOUS planes, with their engines displayed right next to them. Aircraft hanging everywhere! Wonderful exhibits to learn and videos to watch. Sparky especially enjoyed sitting in one little theater section and learning about how some of the ace pilots in Viet Nam outwitted the fighter jets chasing them.

There are some new things in the museum since our visit in 2010 that we were looking forward to seeing.
Hangar One as you walk in the door....
One was the Hangar One addition to the museum...You have to take a brief walk from the main building to Hanger One...Lots of cool stuff to see in the new addition.....The Presidential helicopter from the Nixon and Ford era...
There's an aviation building called the "Ambition" on the grounds. It's part of the Navy Aviation Academy. It has 102,000 square feet of space devoted to a hands on approach for middle to high school students to teach science, technology, math and engineering. It's an immersive, role playing, serious game environment to help foster a superior learning environment in the sciences. Each "deck" or story replicates each deck on a modern aircraft carrier. We don't know if tours are offered, but it would be really cool to see the inside of this structure!

We saw the very moving exhibit of the Viet Nam prisoner of war camp...Sparky had really very little knowledge of the intimate details of the suffering and torture that happened to our servicemen...It was very sad and upsetting to view the exhibit, but she felt it was important to learn about it. So she and Eldy spent quite a bit of time in this part of the museum at this particular exhibit....There were very graphic drawings that a serviceman P.O.W. drew to reveal the terrible tortures that many American prisoners suffered at the hands of the enemy. The treatment of our servicemen was atrocious.

There were lots of interesting things to learn about how the POW's coped....

Remember the P.O.W. bracelets? These were started as part of a young student campaign back in 1970.

After seeing all the fabulous aircraft in both sections of the museum...

And reading lots of stories behind the servicemen, their tours of duty, the planes' years of service, the amazing qualities of each aircraft and performance stats, seeing the navy's dedication to their flying machines, we decided to take a FREE trolley tour of the "boneyard", where more aircraft are displayed.
Personalized aircraft signs
And we were glad we did! An old codger, by the name of Dave, we're thinkin' he was about 71, gave us a 45 minute tour of the aviation parking lot behind the museum that holds yet more aviation history and relics of the past, with all kinds of planes in all kinds of conditions, waiting to be restored.

Dave was a HOOT! He was hilarious! Hard to understand, he talked so fast and slurred his words together, but after awhile, we figured out pretty much what he was telling us.

Dave saw Sparky trying to take some photos. So he proceeded to remind us about picture taking rules the museum has...(Uh-oh..Here's where Sparky gets into trouble, explains E.) Not exactly..The rules were:

1) You can take pictures anywhere you want, but don't take them off the walls.
2.) You are not allowed to take any Stealth bomber photos. Dave made a big deal of telling us there was a new prototype of Stealth bomber out in the field right beyond the trolley bus and under no circumstances were we to take a photo. ;-)  Of course, there wasn't any Stealth bomber but he had a few people going for a minute. A couple of people actually did the swivel neck thing to see where the bomber was. And no, Sparky was not one of them! (Yes, she was, don't let her fool you for a minute. Sparky is VERY gullible, offers Eldo.) Geesh! Didja have to tell them that? (Sure! Sparky has told LOTS of stuff about me, turnabout is fair play, dontcha think?)   Sigh......

He had another story about the PT-2 aircraft on an endurance flight from Perth, Australia to Washington, D.C. with a baby kangaroo on board. The kangaroo was a gift from the Australians for the D.C. zoo. The flight took 55 hours, and needless to say, the kangaroo wasn't potty trained. Dave made a crack about how "gamey" the flight must have been! Thanks, Dave, for a terrific tour! We will definitely go again on the trolley tour is Dave is running it.

The museum is an awesome place to spend hours to learn, watch, eat, shop, and appreciate our navy's aviation history...We love it and will go back each time we are here in the area.


  1. I've read so many blogs about this museum and everyone seems to love it. One of these days we'll get there.

    The POW part reminded me of an excellent book we both read. It's called:
    Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

    The author is Laura Hillenbrand. It's a true story about a guy who was an Olympic runner when WWI broke out. He enlisted, was shot down and captured as a POW. It was an amazing story and she is an AMAZING author. I think you'd like it. It's been on the best seller list quite a while....very well written.

  2. Thanks for the tip on the Museum, a must do for us when we are in the area.

  3. Haha, we had Dave too. Very hard to understand, but what we did glean from his stories made the tour exceptional :)

  4. I'm with Karen - I've read so many great blogs about this museum and I really want to see it. Thanks for the tour. We'll have to ask for Dave.

  5. What a great place to visit. That one fighter plane sure looks mean!!!
    I wanted to ask you if you see many camphosts at the this state park?
    We were curious about that. Thanks for any help.

  6. Sparky is right. The Navel Air Museum is well worth the trip. When you take the trolley trip, you go right by where the bleachers are for the Blue Angels shows.

    I suggest that if the Navel Air Museum is interesting, you also visit the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio. It is larger (allow a day and a half, two days if you watch all the Imax movies) and has a section devoted to Bob Hope's Christmas shows. You can board a bus (ID required) that takes you on the base to a building that houses several of the past Air Force One planes that you can walk through. You'll be surprised at how crowded they are. They are many experimental, one off, planes here including the XB-70 bomber.