29 May 2008

Wings over the Piedmont

Ok, so this is the Carolinas Air Museum, an amazing little gem of a museum in about the last place you would expect to find one, just west of Charlotte, NC. My dad and I found this by accident on the way back home from Cowpens. While its collection is small, in relative terms, it is certainly bigger than you would expect for a rural little airport museum, and it has some real treasures you would never expect. For example, this beautiful example of a DC3. I am in love with this plane! I really like the DC3/C47 in general because they look so classic and elegant, but this one is just so nice! By the way, it is also in flying condition and does regularly fly to shows. For this post, I have only put up my favorite pictures and the most interesting stuff, but almost all of my photos from the museum are on my new Dropshots account. <---Click the link if you want to see them. It's easier than putting them on here. Also, luckily for me, they weren't really busy, and one of the museum staff (a former Air Force pilot) walked us around, telling some of the aircraft's unique stories and showing things most people don't see. So to start, a few photos of this amazing DC3, including two of the inside, just one of the things our guide showed us.

This strange looking critter is a 1962 Gyrodyne remote controlled anti-submarine helicopter. Note the torpedoes slung underneath.
This is a real rarity, a Douglas Skystreak, one of only three built (and one of them crashed.) It was built in 1947 as a joint venture between the Navy and NACA (predecessor of NASA) to test high subsonic flight speeds. Sorry the picture is not great, the plane is kind of crammed in the back and difficult to photograph.
Another unique find is this small flight simulator form the 1930s (?). Well before anything electronic came along.
A gorgeous example of a PT17 Kaydet Navy WW2 trainer
Everyone loves a Tomcat, right? This one is my dad's favorite, but he also worked on them for many years. I also included it because of its story as related by our guide. When the pilots flew it up to the Charlotte airport for the museum, they knew it would be their last time to do anything in the Cat, so they got permission from the tower, and buzzed the airport a few times. The people in the terminals loved it! When they landed and the plane was brought to the museum, they also signed the crew ladder and had their photo taken (below.)

A nice C47 painted in DDay colors, but in need of restoration. This one actually is a war veteran, but not of DDay. It flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force out of Burma in WW2. Since then it had a colorful military and civilian career, until it had a landing accident in 2000 at the Charlotte airport. Shortly after, Saber Cargo Airlines, which had been operating it, went bankrupt, and the plane became part of the museum.
Just a nice overall picture including the museum hanger. Aircraft tails visible left to right are the A7 Corsair, AV8 Harrier, F14 Tomcat, F101 Voodoo, and F102 Delta Dagger.
This Sea Knight helicopter is a true piece of history. Because its story is worth being told in full, here it is from the museum website: "The Museum's CH-46 is extreamly historic. On January 31st, 1970, US Marine Corps Pfc. Mike Clausen, Jr. earned The Medal of Honor, this country’s highest honor, for his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in Vietnam at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Pfc. Clausen was a crew chief of a CH-46 helicopter named “Blood, Sweat and Tears.” While participating in a helicopter rescue mission of a Marine platoon that had inadvertently entered a mine field south west of Da Nang (the "Da Nang Barrier" mine field) while attacking enemy positions. Pfc Clausen skillfully guided the helicopter pilot to a landing area cleared by one of several mine explosions. On the ground, 20 Marines were surrounded – 11 of them already wounded.
Clausen repeatedly left the safety of the chopper to get them home alive. Despite the ever-present threat of further mine explosions, he continued his valiant efforts, leaving the comparatively safe area of the helicopter on 6 separate occasions to carry out his rescue efforts. Clausen was the only enlisted member of Marine Corps Aviation to win the Medal of Honor during Vietnam.Now this historic helicopter resides at the Carolinas Aviation Museum. This helicopter not only saw combat in Vietnam but in Iraq also. It received combat damage in Iraq and was considered uneconomical to repair. Because of the historic significance of this particular aircraft, the U.S. Marine Corps would not abandon it in Iraq. With the assistance of a US Air Force C-5A crew, it was taken apart and flown back to Cherry Point Marine Corps Base, North Carolina."
Helicopter row including left to right a Sikorsky Dragonfly, Kaman Huskie, Bell Cobra, and Sikorsky Jolly Green Giant.
This oddity is a Fogle Skycat. Built in 1982 and first displayed at the Dayton Air and Trade Show in Ohio, it never actually flew, but was built to displat the tiltrotor concept that would later be part of the V22.
A small towed anti aircraft gun
A Sheridan tank used by airborne troops
The museum's A4 Skyhawk and Regulus missle greet visitors to the museum, along with the flags of the US, South Carolina and North Carolina, and the view of Charlotte in the background.

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