Saturday, August 24, 2019

My Patronus Is an Airplane: The Fighting "I"

Old Salt


Her keel was laid down just days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The aircraft carrier USS Intrepid was launched 26 April 1943 and would survive World War II after being torpedoed once and struck by four kamikazes, picking up the nickname "Decrepit" as a result of frequent stints in dry dock for repairs. After modernization to launch jets, she was recommissioned in the 1950s, fought in the Vietnam war, and served as a recovery vessel for Mercury and Gemini astronauts returning to Earth. After her final decommissioning in 1974, she was resurrected in 1982 as a floating museum moored on Manhattan's west side.

The Bear Is an Intrepid Explorer

It was my third visit to the Intrepid in the last 20 years and The Bear's second. Kristy has probably lost count of the number of visits she has made after travelling annually to NYC with the high school groups from southwest MI years ago.

The biggest changes since our previous visit were the Shuttle Pavilion (closed due to Hurricane Sandy damage on our previous visit) and recent paint on many of the deck-bound aircraft.


Is this Lockheed A-12 Blackbird using acne cream?


Many of the aircraft types displayed on the Intrepid actually flew from her deck during different eras of her military career (with obvious exceptions like the Lockheed A-12 and the Shuttle Enterprise). This Douglas Skyraider is a prime example and was the aircraft type flown by John McCain when he served on board the Intrepid.


A Soviet MiG-17 with an eye-catching paint scheme. Usually, I see these aircraft dressed only in bare metal and I wondered about the unusual scheme. It is authentic, reflecting the colors worn by MiG-17s that fought for the North Vietnamese air force during the Vietnam war.


In 1966, a group of Intrepid-based Skyraiders (see above) tussled with four MiG-17s and succeeded in shooting down one and damaging two others. Not bad for piston-driven WWII hold-overs in the jet age.


I always thought that the distinctive MiG-21 was a great looking airplane. This is a relatively new paint scheme for this particular airplane and I could not locate any information about it, but as camouflage, it makes a lot of sense.


Within the Shuttle Pavillion, we came nose-to-bulbous-nose with the Enterprise. The last time I saw the Enterprise, it was in the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center.


I spent some time talking with The Bear about the shuttle program that was under development when I was her age, but was discontinued while she was quite young.


A Vought Crusader and a McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom.


A tribute to the role Intrepid once played in the space program.


The VTOL Harrier is still a cool looking airplane.


We watched an interesting 3D movie about the space program. The Bear was a little dubious about her glasses, though.


The Intrepid had a Batphone!




I suspect that this does not meet current New York state building codes, with or without the sign.



"Steady as she goes, Mr. Sulu Bear."

Notice the "I am only doing this to humor you" expression on The Bear's face.




"Me and my shadow..."



Evidently, these windows were added much later during Intrepid's service. That must have been a breezy, wet place to work at times.




The last time we visited, this McDonnell F3 Demon was being repainted in the restoration facility (below)

McDonnell Demon under restoration, 25 June 2013


The Demon was the immediate predecessor to the famously capable F-4 Phantom.



The Grumman Tracer features a not-so-subtly concealed radome capable of detecting aircraft over a 250 mile radius. I wonder how much lift is provided by the aerodynamic shape of the radome?




I have always found the Grumman Intruder to be both compellingly eye-catching and strikingly ugly.


There will be no more buzzing the tower for this Grumman F-14 Tomcat.


A Grumman Avenger (left) in the Intrepid hangar deck with a North American FJ-3 Fury (right), the latter being a naval version of the F-86 Sabre with folding wings and stouter landing gear.


Heineman's Hot Rod, the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.


Recently returned to Earth in their modified Gemini capsule, The Bear and Kristy were thankful that the Intrepid was still equipped with that capsule recovery sling.

See that splotch on The Bear's right leg? That was a direct outcome of a breakfast mishap from prior to our launch out of Sodus that morning. The nickname "Butterpants" might have been used a few times throughout the day.



The Bear and I were both very enthusiastic about this: a 1:40 scale model of the Intrepid made with approximately 250,000 Lego pieces.

Wrap Up

When I first visited the Intrepid in 2004, I loved the idea of the aircraft carrier as a museum, but was disappointed by how the aircraft on display were so weather-beaten. The whole place felt a little decrepit, to borrow the old nickname. In the years since, it is evident that a lot of care has gone into restoring both the aircraft and the ship. From 2006-2008, the Intrepid was extensively renovated and aircraft restoration continues. With the addition of the shuttle Enterprise, this has really become a first class museum.