During our recent visit to Kalamazoo, we spent a morning at the Air Zoo, where I once filled my Saturdays giving tours. While we were there, we got to spend some time with Nate, Tamra, and my former partner in crime, Dar. The museum appears to be thriving and they have added on a new display space for World War II aircraft.
The Bear led the way through the cloud tunnel and into the museum proper.
One thing I like about the Air Zoo collection is the perspective it provides on the first century of flight. An exact scale replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer seems to soar over the museum's F-14 Tomcat.
This Grumman Mallard is a classy addition made to the collection since I moved away from Kalamazoo.
The one of a kind Curtiss XP-55 Ascender (Ass-Ender) is finally on display in the main building. I remember when the aircraft first arrived from the Smithsonian years ago, dirty and in pieces.
I like how these pseudo-adversaries are paired off. The foreground aircraft is a Hispano Buchon, a Spanish version of the Bf-109 with a different engine (this one is right side up, making it easy to differentiate from the inverted inline German engines used by Messerschmidt). In reality, the P-47 Thunderbolt would have fought against Bf-109s, not the Buchon. Interestingly, this Buchon is a movie star. It portrayed a Bf-109 in "The Battle of Britain".
A Pratt & Whitney J-58 high bypass turbo ramjet engine - the power behind Lockheed's amazing SR-71 Blackbird. This is one HUGE engine.
The Bear tries to blend in with the World War I scenes in Rick Herter's magnificent Century of Flight mural.
Stepping through a new doorway in the back of the main gallery leads to the new World War II hangar, where I came face to face with the Air Zoo's Corsair.
The space is dominated by the C47 Skytrain, arranged as though it was towing a CG-4A glider. Years ago, I used to take kids into the airplane, have them snap imaginary static lines to the steel cable running along the ceiling, and talk about the terrifying prospect of leaping out of the airplane at night over war torn Europe. Sadly, the C47 is no longer open to the public.
My old friend, the T-28 Trojan. I still vividly remember than hot afternoon many summers ago when I went aloft in this awesome airplane. It's still painted up in the well-done, if inauthentic, Blue Angels paint scheme.
Every time we revisit the Air Zoo, we stop to pay our respects to Sue.
After three hours, a few rides, a scavenger hunt for The Bear, and a tour of unfinished display spaces coordinated by my friends, it was time to seek lunch.
Good bye again, Air Zoo. We'll be back.