Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum

While in Denver, I visited the Wings Over the Rockies museum housed in one of the hangars of the former Lowry Air Force Base. As first impressions go, there is something about a pristine B-52 Stratofortress sitting on pylons outside the front door that portends an excellent museum experience.

Near the entrance, visitors can enter the "Harrison Ford Theater", that runs a brief film narrated by Indy himself.  The film introduces general aviation (in general) and the museum in particular. There is some high quality aerial photography of Ford flying his Beaver out of Denver and into a quiet mountain strip along with additional air-to-air video of Stearmans and other aircraft. It is a terrific, well-made, introduction to the museum.  Too bad it was actually the last thing I did on my visit.

The first artifact that greets visitors is this 3/4 scale X-Wing Starfighter.  The replica is one of seven created in 1996 to celebrate the release of the Star Wars Special Editions.  The X-Wing periodically travels around the country to Lucasfilm-supported events.

That is just an odd juxtaposition.  I don't suppose anyone ever used a Christen Eagle to bulls-eye wamp rats back home?

This 1926 Eaglerock Biplane was manufactured by Alexander in Englewood, CO (a suburb of Denver).  I was particularly struck by the wooden, scimitar prop.  A true work of art.

Given the origins of the museum, it is not surprising that there is a strong emphasis on Air Force fighters like this 1963 Convair F-102 Delta Dagger.

Other "Century Series" jets on display included this immaculate Republic F-105 Thunderchief...

...Lockheed F-104 Starfighter (something about the intake really caught my eye), as well as the North American F-100 Super Sabre (not pictured) and McDonnell F-101 Voodoo (also not pictured).

Yup, I'm still a fan of the F-4 Phantom!

Ah!  Now we're getting somewhere - round engines!  This odd-looking ship is a 1938 Douglas B-18 Bolo, a bomber developed from the DC-2

This one of a kind research craft is the Ball-Bartoe Jetwing.  It could blow air from the engine compressor over the wing beneath a secondary airfoil ("augmentor").  This endowed the Jetwing with the ability to remain in controllable flight at exceptionally low speeds (40 mph).

This is the first General Dynamics FB-111 Aardvark I have ever seen.  It was the first production swing wing fighter and, though the Navy abandoned the design, the F-111 program significantly informed the development of the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.

Speaking of which...  I wonder if this Tomcat felt out of place among so many of its Air Force cousins?

Despite being cavernous, the space is dominated by this hulking 1970 Rockwell B1-A Lancer.  The legs on this airplane are so long that other large airplanes (note the F-111 Aardvark) are displayed beneath it.  This aircraft is the third of four prototype B1-As built and one of two B1-As on display in museums.

My favorite photo of the day: a Beech UC-45 Expeditor (a militarized Beech-18) silhouetted against the hangar door.

As usual, this is just a sampling of what the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum has to offer.  I really enjoyed visiting this thriving museum.


  1. That brings back a few memories, Chris. I was stationed at Lowry AFB in 1974-1975. Nice article, great photos. Thanks.

    1. Hi Ed - I didn't realize that! If you ever find yourself back in the area, it's a nice museum. A part of the museum that would probably appeal to you in particular is a photo gallery showing several of the base structures as they appear now juxtaposed with the way they looked years ago (going all the way back to the 1940s in some cases). Much of the base is actually still intact, the buildings repurposed as part of an urban redevelopment project. Clearly, some of the big hangars are still there, but many of the other buildings as well. Some of the roads follow the old runways.