Wednesday, June 30, 2010

National Museum of the United States Air Force

 The entrance to the Museum.

It has been over a week since we left Wright-Patt AFB, OH, but for some reason, it seems much longer than that.  I have been thinking about the AF Museum since we left and how I could adequately describe what we saw.  I have come to the conclusion, I cannot, by any means, provide the description it deserves.   The Museum is one of those places that encompasses so much history it's hard to take it all in.  I felt very humbled and blessed as we walked through all the airplanes and exhibits.  I wish all of America would take the opportunity to visit the Museum.  It is free -- yes, I said FREE -- to the public and is open seven days a week 9:00-5:00, except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.  Volunteers man the many desk areas, provide tours, etc, in four-hour shifts.  What an honor it was to stroll through history and appreciate those who made this Museum possible.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is the world's largest and oldest military aviation museum.  More than 400 aircraft and missiles are on display, most indoors, and draws over 1.3 million visitors every year.  The Museum dates back to 1923 when the Engineering Division at Dayton's McCook Field began to collect artifacts for preservation.  In 1927, it moved to Wright Field and in 1954, as the Air Force Museum, it moved to its first permanent facility -- Bldg 89 of the former Patterson Field -- which had been an engine overhaul hangar.  At that time, many of the aircraft were parked outside and exposed to the weather.  In 1971, the current facility was opened.  The Museum has more than tripled in square footage since then and includes three  buildings, plus an IMAX Theater. 

The Museum contains many aircraft of historical and technological importance to aviation, as well as memorabilia and artifacts relating to history.  One area that especially captured my attention was the Holocaust area.  Almost 36,000 Army Air Force (AAF) personnel were confined in prisoner of war  (POW) camps in Europe.  Under the 1929 Geneva Convention, these POWs had certain rights, but these rights were not always honored by the Germans.  Conditions varied widely from camp to camp and officers usually fared better than enlisted personnel, who faced beatings and malnutrition.  The treatment of Jewish POWs ranged from being ignored or segregated to brutality and even death.

One such Jewish-American prisoner was Pvt Alvin L. Abrams from Philadelphia, PA.

Pvt Abrams was sent to the Berga concentration camp where he was subjected to hard labor and barely survived the death march after the Germans evacuated the camp in April 1945.  In the above picture, he is being cared for by American forces at a hospital in Germany. This was just one of the many stories portrayed in pictures and words in the Museum -- from WWI to the current war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Alan was on a mission to find the two main aircraft he worked on while on active duty -- the C-130 at Little Rock AFB, AR, and the F-111 fighter plane at Cannon AFB, NM.  

The Lockheed C-130 Hercules -- affectionately referred to as "The Herk" is a four-engine turbo-prop military transport aircraft.  Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medical evacuation and cargo transport airplane.  The versatile airframe has found many uses, including as a gunship, for an airborne assault, search and rescue, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance, aerial refueling, maritime patrol and aerial firefighting.  It is the main tactical airlifter for many military forces worldwide.  Over 40 models serve with more than 60 nations.  In 2007, the C-130 became the fifth aircraft to mark 50 years of continuous use with the Air Force.

The Herk was the first aircraft Alan worked on while on active duty at Little Rock AFB, AR.  The model shown here is an AC-130A

While stationed at Cannon AFB, NM, Alan worked on was the F-111 fighter jet.  The following aircraft was assigned to the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing at Lakenheath, England.


Originally known as the TFX (Tactical Fighter X), the F-111 was conceived to meet the Air Force's requirement for a new tactical fighter bomber.  The Air Force's F-111A first flew in December 1964 and the first models were delivered to the Air Force in 1967.  In all, 566 F-111 of all models were built...159 of them were F-111As.  Although the F-111 was unofficially referred to as the "Aardvark," it did not receive the name officially until it was retired in 1996.  An interesting feature of the aircraft was its wings.  While in the air, the wings could be swept forward for takeoffs, landings, or slow-speed flight, and swept rear-ward for high-speed flight.  The F-111 could also fly at very low level and hit targets in bad weather.  Maximum speed is 1,452 mph. 

I fondly remember the loud noise this aircraft displayed on takeoff -- they rattled the windows of the courtroom at Cannon, making it difficult to hear.  Oftentimes, court would pause until the F-111 was actually in the air.

The following F-111 actually came from Cannon AFB, NM and depicts the ejected capsule where the pilot and co-pilot sit.

Following is the commemorative quilt in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the United States Air Force.

Little Rock's patch

Although you cannot read Cannon's patch, it shows the NM symbol and F-111 and we wanted to include it.

The presidential fleet is housed in a separate hangar inside the gates of Wright-Patt AFB.  Since we have retired military IDs, giving us access to Wright-Patt, on Sunday, we were able to drive to the hangar that contains the presidential fleet -- among other aircraft.   To us, this was a very special section of the Museum.  We were able to go inside the airplanes and browse as long as we wanted.  We couldn't help but notice that the visitors who rode the bus from the Museum to this section did not have much time to explore the fleet.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first sitting president to fly in an airplane, a Pam-Am crewed Boeing 314 in 1943 to Casablanca.  Concerned about commercial airliners transporting the President of the United States, the USAAF ordered the conversion of a military plane to accommodate the special needs of the Commander in Chief.  The Secret Service reconfigured a Douglas C-54 Skymaster as a presidential transport. 

This aircraft -- nicknamed the "Sacred Cow" -- included a sleeping area, radio telephone and a retractable elevator to lift Roosevelt in his wheelchair.

After Roosevelt died in 1945, then Vice President Harry S. Truman became President.  Aboard the Sacred Cow, President Truman signed the document that created a separate United States Air Force.  He replaced the Sacred Cow with a modified C-118 Liftmaster named the "Independence," which was christened on July 4, 1947.  Presidential pilot Lieutenant Colonel Henry Myers, who also flew the Sacred Cow coined the name Independence to represent patriotism and the name of President Truman's hometown in Missouri.

The U-4B was the smallest Air Force One and the first presidential airplane to have only two engines.  It also was the first to carry the blue and white paint scheme.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower used it from 1956 to 1960 for short trips.

Probably the best-known Presidential aircraft is SAM (Special Air Mission) 26000, which carried Presidents from John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton.  This US Air Force Boeing VC-137C was the first jet made specifically for use by the President of the United States.

My presidential wave.

Built in 1962, it served many presidents over three decades, carrying heads of state, diplomats and other dignitaries and officials on many historic flights.  Because President Kennedy did not name his aircraft as previous presidents had, the news media popularized the call sign "Air Force One" as the aircraft's name.  On October 10, 1962, the airplane entered USAF service directly from Boeing's assembly line.  President Kennedy had it painted blue and white instead of the usual military colors to give it a distinctive look.  The "United States of America" was emblazoned on the fuselage and an American flag was painted on the tail.   The airplane carried eight presidents:   Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton.  In 1990, it left the presidential fleet but continued to fly government officials, including Secretary of State James Baker.

President Kennedy flew aboard this SAM 26000 to Dallas, Texas, where he was assassinated, and it was on this airplane where President Johnson was sworn in as the president. 

The crew did not want President Kennedy's body to be flown back to Washington in the cargo hold.  So, a wall was cut and removed so the casket could be placed in the rear cabin.  Two rows of seats were removed and the President's casket was placed there.  Mrs. Kennedy sat in a seat opposite the casket.

This communication facility enabled the president or other officials to remain in contact with Washington, DC, or any other part of the world.  It was amazing to see how the technology has evolved over the years.

Visitors are allowed to walk through the presidential aircraft.  Plexi-glass was installed by the Museum to protect the inside of the airplanes, which leaves only 17" where one can walk.

As we left the National Museum of the United States Air Force, we were both proud of our service to the Air Force.  It will be something we will carry with us forever.  It took a lot of time, effort and devotion to plan, organize and develop such a contribution, not only to the Air Force, but to men and women everywhere who have served this great country we live in -- the United States of America.  

There is so much more to see than I have depicted here.  Our prayer is that you will read this blog and be inspired to take a trip to Dayton, OH, to see this Museum for yourself.
Again, as we celebrate the 4th of July this week, may we continue to remember those who have served and are serving to protect this great nation.  Take a minute this 4th of July to thank a vet.

As we leave OH, may God continue to bless our voyage and our family and friends, wherever they may be.

Don't forget to check back to see where we go next.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Chillicothe, OH and Wright-Patterson AFB, OH

We were up early and on our way Thursday morning, June 17, to Wright-Patterson AFB, OH.  Our plans were to visit the Air Force Museum -- now referred to as the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

We spent Thursday night @ the Sun Valley Campground in Chillicothe, OH. The office is in the owner's home and is part of a mobile home park, but it was clean.

The only amenities are a bathhouse, which we didn't use, and a small lake for swimming and/or fishing.

The sites are gravel, but it is definitely pricey -- $29.00 for one night for elect and water -- no sewer -- and we never saw a dump.  The only discount was a 10% Good Sam, but there was plenty of room between sites. 

We were on our way early Friday morning, June 18, to Wright-Patterson AFB, OH,  just outside Dayton, where we planned to spend the weekend at their FamCamp.  When I originally called FamCamp, the little lady that answered the phone was a little snippy, but when we arrived, face-to-face, she wasn't quite so irritable.  There were no available pull-through sites and none with sewer, but at $20 a night, we couldn't complain.  We chose site 12.  There was a vacant site on each side of us, which gave us plenty of privacy.  All pads are concrete with a picnic table.

Across the street was the working military dog section of Security Forces.

And to the left was Munitions Storage.

There was also a lake close enough to walk to and around.

And groundhogs were everywhere -- even in the campground.

There was a bath house and laundry facilities nearby -- a dollar to wash and 50 cents to dry -- 50 cents for an hour of drying -- that's experience speaking:)

There is so much history at Wright-Patterson AFB -- referred to as "Wright-Patt" -- that it is difficult to organize, understand and present it without writing a book.  Wright-Patt is the headquarters of the Air Force "Materiel" Command, one of the major commands of the Air Force and is one of the largest, most diverse, organizationally complex bases in the Air Force.  It has a long history of flight testing -- all the way from the Wright Brothers to the Space Age.  And it's all reflected in the Air Force Museum.  We will attempt to discuss more about the museum in a later post.
Wright-Patt's history as a military installation dates back to World War I, but its aviation history began in 1904-1905 when Orville and Wilbur Wright used an 84-acre plot of land, known as Huffman Prairie Flying Field for their experimental test flights.  The base's origin began with the establishment of Wilbur Wright Field on May 22, 1917, and McCook Field in November 1917, both established by the Army Air Service as World War I installations.  McCook Field was used as a testing field for aviation experiments and Wright was used as a flying field and renamed Patterson Field in 1931.

Wright-Patt AFB was established in 1948 when Patterson and Wright Fields merged.    The base is named after the Wright brothers and Frank Stuart Patterson, son and nephew of the co-founders of National Cash Register -- also based in Dayton, OH -- who fatally crashed on June 19, 1918, during a flight test of a new mechanism for synchronizing machine gun and propeller at Wright Field.  A tie rod broke during a dive from 15,000 feet, causing the wings to separate from the aircraft.
Wright-Patt has worn many hats over the years.  Currently, the base has three primary mission areas:  operating the installation -- which includes over 5000 personnel and 60 associate units; deploying expeditionary Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism; and defending the base and its people. 

Following is a picture of a F-15 and F-16 on static display at the main entrance to Wright-Patt AFB.

One of the associate units is the 445th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve Command, which flies the C-5 Galaxy, which is the Air Force's largest transport aircraft of personnel and equipment.

Wright-Patt also has a major Medical Center and the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) is located at Wright-Patt.   AFIT is the Air Force’s graduate school of engineering and management, as well as its institution for technical continuing education.  There are three resident schools: the Graduate School of Engineering and Management, the School of Systems and Logistics, and the Civil Engineer and Services School. Through its Civilian Institution Programs, AFIT also manages the educational programs of officers enrolled in civilian universities, research centers, hospitals, and industrial organizations. Air Force students attending civilian institutions have earned more than 12,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees in the past twenty years.

We were surprised  how you go out one gate, drive down the road and go through another gate on the opposite side of the road to get to the BX and Commissary.  There were multiple gates but only two are open on the weekends -- the main gate and the gate to the BX and Commissary, which means going and coming to FamCamp sends you around the flightline.  By the time we left on Monday morning, we pretty much knew our way around:)

On Friday night, we discovered our coach AC was not working.  Alan investigated every possible thing he could think of but was unable to identify the problem.  Since it was hot and we were parked facing the West with no shade, we decided to just stay away as long as we could.  Since it was the weekend, we assumed any attempts to find someone to check it out would be futile.  We even considered purchasing a portable unit but decided not to.  So we bought another fan and stayed away.

We started our Saturday visiting the Wright Brothers Memorial.

We took a picture of the photograph of the dedication of the Wright Brothers Memorial on display at the memorial.

I know it's probably impossible to read the inscription on the photo, so here is what it says:

 "On August 19, 1940, Daytonians joined
some of the Wrights' earliest student 
flyers, including General Hap Arnold 
(right), then the commander of the 
Army Air Corps, to dedicate this 
memorial.  It was Orville Wright's 
(second from the right) 60th birthday."

Later in the afternoon, we moved on to the National Museum of the United States Air Force.  There is so much to take in that it took us Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday to see it all.  Therefore, our visit to the Museum will be a separate posting.  So stay tuned as we continue to sift through the numerous pics we have and attempt to organize our thoughts.

As we continue to make our way to South Dakota, we continuously think of our family and friends.  I keep saying how blessed we are, but it's true.  We are blessed to live in the United States of America  and the freedoms we enjoy and oftentimes take for granted.  As we approach July 4, may we remember our brave men and women that serve and protect this great country every day and the awesome sacrifices they and their families encounter on a daily basis.  May we never forget those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure we remain the greatest free country in the world.

May God continue to bless our voyage and may God continue to bless our family and friends, near and far.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pipestem Resort State Park, WV

On Wednesday morning, June 16, we headed to WV.  I had decided I wanted to take the opportunity to visit three sisters and a brother I had not seen in 32 years, as well as, to visit my dad's grave site.  My parents divorced when I was very young and my mother returned to AR from NC with my brother and me when I was only three months old.

For the past several years, I have been corresponding with three sisters -- Cheryl, Janet and Christiana and brother, Keith.  One sister, Johnnye -- the youngest of the girls -- died of breast cancer six years ago.   Since I had not been in WV since 1978 when our dad died, I wanted to take the opportunity to stop and meet with Janet, Christina and Keith.  So, we started searching for a campground nearby and made the decision to stay at Pipestem Resort State Park, a few miles north of Princeton.

We had a beautiful, cool drive across the southwest corner of VA into WV.  We didn't even need the AC.

We did pass through not one, but two tunnels -- our favorite thing to do in a 38' MH and towing -- NOT:)

You can see how narrow it is, but at least we didn't have water flowing over us like we did when we crossed Chesapeake Bay last April.

After we exited I-77 at Exit 14 in Princeton, we turned on to a narrow, winding road that would lead us 14 miles to Highway 20 where Pipestem Resort State Park is located.  As we were driving along Highway 20, low and behold, on the right-hand side of the road, was a local drive-in -- haven't seen an operational drive-in a very long time.  The movies are shown on weekends only and they also have a flea market on Sundays.

We turned into Pipestem Resort State Park.

We were curious about the name "Pipestem" and figured it had something to do with early Indians in the area, but that was not the case.  The name was derived from a narrow leaf, meadow-sweet local shrub used for making pipe stems.  WOW, I would have never guessed that.

We stopped at the office.  I had attempted to make reservations online, but you cannot make online reservations for less than two days.  It was early in the day on  Wednesday, so we decided to just take our chances. 

They told us the available sites, to go pick the one we wanted and to come back and let them know.  They do have pull-thrus but not many.  Site 11 was a pull-thru but it was not level.  Instead we chose site 22, which was a back-in.  We unhooked the car and I returned to the office to inform them of our selection and to pay the $22 for water and electric.  Returning to the MH, I began helping Alan get set up.  We had previously made the decision that when we are only staying one night, we would only put the bedroom slide out.  One of the young girls from the office knocked on our door and told us they were sorry but site 22 was reserved and we would have to move.  We were disappointed.  We drove around and finally settled on a pull-thru, site 35, with only elect -- 50 amp.  The cost then went down to $18.  The pull-thrus are narrow and are all aligned with the road.  One of the rangers told Alan these sites used to be tent sites.  There were wooden platforms for the tents, but the wood rotted, so they turned them into pull-thrus.  We didn't plan on being there except to sleep, so we were thankful we had a spot.

It was pretty secluded.  There were three pull-thrus in a row. This was the scene directly across from our site.

This was the view directly in front of the MH.  As you can see, there's somewhat of a drop-off, making it a very narrow site, but, like I said, it was only for one night.


We then drove back to Princeton to search for my dad's grave.  Both Cheryl and Christina had given me directions.  As we drove through the cemetery, I was very surprised to see the name "Pennington" on several headstones.  Since Pennington is my mother's maiden name, I had to take a few snapshots.  

I couldn't help but wonder if these were some of my ancestors and wished I knew more about my genealogy.  I know the Penningtons came from England,  but I'm not sure if they first settled in NC or PA, then crossed Tennessee into Missouri and Arkansas. 

Unable to locate dad's grave marker, I asked the office for help.  They were very kind, looked it up and actually took us to it.

We then drove to the Texas Steak House where I met Keith (bottom right), Tim (Janet's husb), Janet and Christina, sitting next to me.

We ate and visited and laughed and just had an awesome time.  We then drove back to Janet's house where we continued to talk and laugh and talk and laugh.

As I stated in an earlier blog, Cheryl lives about 45 minutes from Alissa in Clayton, NC, and I visited with her at Sarah's graduation pig-picking.  We can't wait to return to WV, where Christina promised a cook-out at her house:)

The following morning, we took a tour of Pipestem Resort State Park.  The park is located in the gorge of the Bluestone River.  The park has two hotels, one of which can only be reached by aerial tramway to the bottom of the gorge. 


 There are also 26 fully-equipped wood cabins.


There's also a regular and a 3-par golf course...not sure what the difference is, but maybe you do.  There are several restaurants, tennis courts and even a horse stable.


We also saw some of the wildlife.  We saw this doe in the back of the hotel -- someone was throwing apples and carrots to it.

Pipestem Resort State Park encompasses 4,050 acres and is beautiful. 

We hope to return one day for a longer visit, but we will make reservations for site 22 -- the back-in site.

In the meantime, we roll on to our destination in SD, feeling very blessed -- again -- that we have this opportunity to see so much of God's handiwork.  Again, we ask God to continue to bless our voyage, as well as our family and friends.