With a nod to Disneyland as the Happiest Place on Earth, I would like to submit my nomination for the single coolest place on the face of the earth. I hereby nominate the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.
Over the long weekend, my wife, son, and I went to visit my good friend Don in Cinncinati. Anyone who knows me knows that I love airplanes. I love them. I fly the miniature versions with my nifty little radio, and someday I will get a pilot’s license and fly the real ones. It was this fact that prompted Don to suggest a trip to Dayton, Ohio to see the Air Force Museum. I think my exact response was something like “F#*% yeah!”
First off, the complex is huge! They took 3 hangars and converted them into the museum. Each hangar could hold a football field with ease, so they had no trouble housing an incredible assortment of planes. I took 238 pictures before I had to stop, and that was only two hangars’ worth! Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you look at all the pics, but I am going to post enough here so that you get my point. The Air Force Museum is friggin’ COOL! Oh, and it’s also FREE! That makes it even better.
My favorite overall group of planes are the WWI era fighters. Okay, so they didn’t break the sound barrier or fly at 50,000 feet. They were still cool, and the men who flew them were, in my opinion, some of the bravest men on the planet. At the time of WWI, the airplane was still a new technology. Quite frankly, engineers hadn’t worked out all the bugs when it came to manned flight, and as a result a pilot’s worst enemy would often become the airplane itself. Imagine that you are flying at 10,000 feet in a wood and canvas contraption while people are shooting at you from the ground and from other airplanes when your engine decides that it doesn’t want to turn for some reason or another. Now what? The parachute has not been invented yet, and you are stuck in your plane. Adios, Amigo! Pilots in the First World War always came down with their planes, one way or another, and they knew this would be the case when they took off.
Brave souls, every one.
Here are some of the planes they flew. The pics I am posting are a very small sample of the airplanes that are on display at the museum.
The fighters in WWII were quite a bit more sophisticated. They were made of metal, for one thing, and had gas tanks that would seal themselves if hit by…I dunno…an enemy shell, maybe? By this point the airplane was no longer a new fad, and airplanes had been engineered into fantastic machines capable of over 400 miles per hour. Some of the famous fighters, like the Spitfire, Warhawk, Corsair, P-38 Lightning, and the P-51 Mustang have found their way into legend. Here are some pics.
This is, bar none, my favorite plane of any era. The North American P-51D Mustang. This is the plane that helped win the war in Europe. A legend in it’s own time and beyond, it even inspired a car. Yes, that’s right, the Ford Motor company named their iconic automobile after this plane. How’s THAT for having an impact?
That’s the last of the propeller planes we will see in this post. Up next are a few jets. I took a LOT of pictures of the jets, including many that I’m not showing here because it’s late and I wanna go to bed. But the museum has plenty of them to drool over, including this F-22 Raptor. (Bottom)
I wanted to include this pic of a Starfighter. This is an important jet because it was the first plane to break the 100,000 foot barrier and it was also the World’s Record Holder for the fastest plane in the world. This makes it the only plane in history to hold both the world speed record and world altitude record at the same time. Neat, huh?
My favorite jet, however, is this bad boy right here. 🙂
The SR-71 Blackbird is the first plane to ever reach mach 3. Mach-Friggin’-3! That’s over 2,100 mph! How fast is that? It could get you from New York to Los Angeles in less than two hours. Try THAT in a Volvo! This plane was used mostly for reconnasaince. It would fly over hostile airspace, snap pictures, and be gone before the bad guys could even launch a plane to intercept. Not that it would do any good. To put it simply, there was simply nothing on earth that could touch it. No missle could catch it, and no enemy fighter could get close. The SR-71 ruled the high altitude skies for decades before satellites made it obsolete. The USAF retired it in 1998, a fact which still makes me sad to this day.
Okay, so there you have it. Keep in mind that this is just a very small sample of the many fantastic airplanes housed at the Air Force Museum. So what do you guys think? Coolest Place on Earth? It’s got my vote.