Friday, August 5, 2011

Air Zoo, Revisited

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.


  1. Ahh, always a great place to visit! When were you in Kzoo recently?

    My best friend's grandpa (who passed last year) left an airplane to their collection - not sure exactly when it's supposed to go on display.

  2. Steve - We were there last weekend. It's hard to say what the museum will do with the airplane. There are a lot of airplanes in the collection that are not on display because they don't have the space. Rare/unique/historically important aircraft tend to be favored, but there are nevertheless some cool airplanes tucked away out of sight (a F-104 Starfighter and a beautifully restored MiG-21 come to mind).

  3. Great shots! Thanks for sharing, who knows if and when I would ever get to see this museum collection.


  4. Yeah, it's a homebuilt but I've also heard it's supposed to go on display. I always forget exactly what kind of aircraft it is, though.

  5. You should perhaps clarify that the Bear was searching for things in the scavenger hunt...not that we were searching for her. :)

  6. @ Gary - It's a great collection. Some of us are still annoyed with the museum for selling off a couple of airworthy favorites (a Tigercat and a Bearcat), but it does remain a great collection that is maintained in excellent condition.

    @ Steve - There are some homebuilts sprinkled through the museum here and there...maybe it's already on display?

    @ Kristy - How's that for some ambiguous writing? :-)