Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Midway Museum Love – Part Three

Midway Part 3

Now that we’ve seen the helicopters that the flight deck has in store for us, let’s start talking airplanes. You know, things that don’t have to spin to a deathly revolution before being able to leave the earth in flight.


Oh my goodness. I think we’re in the right place for airplanes. I feel like I’m at Oshkosh all of a sudden…but with much less humidity!


This Douglas A-3 Skywarrior was one of the biggest airplanes on the aircraft carrier deck today. I love this airplane, and not just because its nickname is “The Whale.” For many years, this was the heaviest airplane to utilize an aircraft carrier for landings and takeoffs, which earned it such a nice nickname.


This jet pretty much did it all. The Air Force used it as a B-66 Destroyer, while the Navy used it as a reconnaissance airplane, strategic bomber, and an aerial fuel tanker.

The Navy’s primary purpose for it when the Skywarrior entered service was that of a bomber. It was convenient to have an airplane on board that could carry so many dangerous weapons.


True to form in those days, the Skywarrior used two low-bypass turbojet engines. These things sucked tons of fuel and were so loud. I can’t imagine being so close to one on the flight deck and not being able to avoid the immense sound that it made on its takeoff roll.

This airplane was utilized in the height of the Cold War, so I’m sure it gave everyone warm fuzzies knowing that it was on our side.


And this thing is old. During World War II, demand began for larger bombers capable of carrier up to 12,000 pounds of arsenal or a nuclear bomb from aircraft carriers. The A-3 was the result of such design demands, and it was wisely scaled down from a 100,000-pound weight to 68,000 pounds so that it could be used on present-sized carriers (rather than waiting for the approval and building of super carriers, which actually never came into existence).

After about four years of developmental testing, the Skywarrior entered service in 1956. Production ended just five years later. It served through the Gulf War before entering retirement, making it one of the longest-running airplanes ever in service by the Navy.


Meow! This is the F-14 Tomcat, which was made famous by starring in the 1980s movie Top Gun. The Tomcat came into existence after the failure of the F-111 project, which is one of my favorite airplanes. Failure isn’t always ugly!

After being first flown in 1970 and entering service in 1974, the F-14 led to the retirement of the F-4 Phantom, which had been heavily utilized during the sixties and early seventies. We get to see a Phantom later on this aircraft carrier.


I love that this particular F-14 was based on the USS Enterprise Aircraft Carrier. It just makes me smile thinking of all those Star Trek movies we watched as kids with Mom.

The Tomcat was designed to be a long-distance, high-endurance interceptor to protect our birds from the Russians. But it also needed to be a spry fighter jet to accommodate fighting MiG Russian fighters used against us in Vietnam. The F-14 successfully delivered on all of these requirements and was finally retired from the military in 2006.

The only F-14s still in use today are by the Iranian Air Force, which received Tomcats from us in 1976. Makes sense to me! *snort*


This is the portion of the flight deck that is used to help the airplanes land visually. Several carrier crew members use this little box to the left of the arriving runway to help the pilots know if it’s safe to finish their landing.

These telephones can connect to down below, since this area of the ship is also one of the two aircraft elevators that can put airplanes below deck and out of the way of flight operations.


It’s been too long since I’ve seen Top Gun, but this is the part of the ship that gives those visual and aural cues to the pilots when landing. You can see that they have all sorts of sophisticated technology to help out.

Just behind these monitors, you can see some of the wire fencing surrounding the ship. In case everyone on deck needs to bail because of a runaway airplane, they can safely jump “overboard” into these awaiting chain link fences. I hope that they were covered in something softer than chain link fences back in the day.

Although, if it’s between life and death, maybe jumping onto some harsh wire wouldn’t be so awful?


I just liked this view off the side of the ship. It is overwhelming to me how massive the USS Midway really is.


Well, hello, Mr. MiG. Just kidding. This is one of our F-18 Hornets painted in the Russian MiG colors. This was used in training exercises to teach our pilots how to spot and shoot down enemy planes.

In addition to training our own flight crews, this airplane could do it all! It was heavily used in tactical air-to-air fights as well as a air-to-ground target attacks and missile interception.


Look at those engines!

If the Hornet doesn’t look familiar to you, just imagine it in navy-blue and yellow paint. Since 1986, this has been the preferred-airplane-of-choice for our Blue Angles Navy flight demonstration team.


Like all Navy airplanes, the F-18 made a great carrier jet because of its ability to adapt in size while being stored on board a ship. See how these wings fold up? The wings are pretty tiny to begin with, so this was always a welcome addition on a carrier.

That, and it’s just a really awesome airplane.


Good afternoon, Mr. Phantom! I’ve already mentioned you above, but now you deserve your own boasting. What an incredible machine this McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom was!

The Phantom was such an adaptable and useful airplane that it was also used by the Air Force and Marines, though originally designed for the Navy.


Wow, it’s beautiful. Not only is this jet fast (2.2 Mach, anyone?), but it can carry almost 20,000 pounds of arsenal on board! The Phantom changed its day when it began flight testing in 1959…breaking all speed and altitude records held previously.

Perhaps its most important roles were played during the Vietnam War, where is not only participated in ground attacks but in all-too-important air reconnaissance as well. The Phantom was king in the Air Force and Navy throughout the 1970s and 1980s until eventually being replaced with the F-15 and F-16 in the Air Force and F-14 and F-18 in the Navy.


It was even used by the Wild Weasel Squadron during the Gulf War before finally entering retirement in 1996. That is quite an impressive lifespan for a military jet…over forty years!


I’ve always really liked the Phantom, and it was a true treat to see it in person today.


This pretty plane is the F9F Panther made by Grumman in 1947. It was the company’s first fighter jet and was the Navy’s first successful carrier-based jet fighter. Though it came into existence too late to help in our World War II victory, the Panther was critical shortly after when it scored the first air-to-air kill of the Korean War.

With almost 1,400 of these guys flying over 78,000 sorties during its lifespan, the F9F was a wonderful addition to our military fleet until it was pulled from the front line in 1958. It continued to serve in small numbers throughout the 1960s.


Another cool thing about the Panther is that it was the first jet airplane to be used by the Blue Angels. Despite its slow speed, it managed to shoot down several Yak and MiG fighters during the Korean War.

The wings could tilt upwards to save room on board an aircraft carrier, where it spent most of its service. Can you see the hinges?


“T” stands for Trainer, and this T-2 Buckeye was heavily used in that capacity during its life in the US Navy. The Buckeye was built as the introduction jet airplane for student naval aviators.

Originally starting out in 1959 with just one engine, it was upgraded to two Pratt and Whitney engines with almost 3,000 pounds of thrust each just a few years later.


Every single jet-qualified Naval aviator from the 1950s to 2004 flew this airplane at some point in his training. The Buckeye was only just replaced completely as an intermediate trainer in 2008 by the T-45 Goshawk. 

That’s a pretty impressive run of service, if you ask me.

This is the C-1 Trader, built by Grumman in the early 1950s as an anti-submarine aircraft aiding the Navy. Soon it was given an even more important job.

Thought it wasn’t much to look at and the pilots were often teased for not flying one of the glory jets, the Trader played a crucial role in the United States Navy since it carried mail and supplies to and from the aircraft carriers.


Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, this workhorse carried up to 3,500 pounds of cargo and up to nine people from sea to shore. It wasn’t retired until 1988. I bet all of those fighter pilots feel pretty silly now, huh?


Built to be a cargo operator, the body is rather frumpy compared to other things on the deck today. But look at the size of those engines! This thing could haul!


While enjoying these beautiful airplanes today, let’s not forget that we are actually located in one of the busiest transportation and shipping bays in the world. This gigantic cargo ship came in while I was checking out cool airplanes.


And, to end today’s tour of just a few airplanes on board the USS Midway, we have a gorgeous view of some pretty airplane butts next to downtown San Diego.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the tour of the ship. Are you?

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