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Dover AFB’s Air Mobility Command Museum

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According to the Air Mobility Command Museum’s web site, Dover AFB has an interesting and varied history. From an Army base that, in part, hosted experimental rocket research in the 1940s, to a fighter base during the 1950s through the 70’s, to the current Air Mobility Command duties, the base has risen in importance due to its mid-Atlantic location. Today, it is home to the 436th Airlift Wing, and the Air Force Reserve’s 512th Airlift Wing. Base facilities include what is known as the “Super Port”, where cargo from around the world is collected and shipped. The Wings operate the C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III, but the base sees all sorts of airlifters operating from its runways. One of the original aircraft hangars, after a restoration in the 1990s, has become the home of the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover. Hangar 1301 has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places too. The museum is home to close to 30 aircraft, including fighters (the base also served as a P-47 training base during World War II), bombers, air refueling tankers, and trainers. However, the majority of the aircraft are transports, which has been the focus of the base for over 60 years. In 1952, the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) began building up the base for a global air transport mission that remains today.

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The museum’s collection include many large aircraft, including a C-5A Galaxy, a pair of C-141A and -B Starlifters (the first and last airframes built!), a KC-135E, plus a C-9A Nightingale Medivac and a VC-9C VIP transport… all jet powered. The larger piston and turboprop transport collection is definitely a highlight… C-54 Skymaster, C-7 Caribou, C-119 Flying Boxcar, C-121 Constellation, C-123 Provider, C-124 Globemaster II, C-130 Hercules, C-131 Samaritan, C-47 Skytrain, C-133 Cargomaster, and a KC-97 Stratotanker. World War II aircraft of note include a C-60 Lodestar, B-17 Flying Fortress and A-26 Invader, plus PT-17 Kaydet and BT-13 Valiant trainers and TG-4A and CG-4A gliders. Cold War “relics” include an HH-43 Husky helicopter, F-101 Voodoo and F-106 Delta Dart interceptors, and even a Soviet Bloc-built AN-2 biplane.

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The aircraft, as you can see in our photos, are well preserved and presented both outside, and indoors in Hangar 1301. There’s even a control tower, used at Dover AFB until six years ago, for viewing and listening to airport traffic control. Written by Ken Kula. Recent photos by Bob Finch as noted, and a pair by Walt Bauer taken many years ago.  

MCAS El Toro 1992: Hey, I Remember That!

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MCAS El Toro’s 1992 air show had quite a line up, with plenty of jet-engined performers. The 1991 Gulf War’s wind down allowed many combat veterans and their aircraft to be displayed at the show, but there were a few older warbirds that attracted quite an amount of interest too. The Marines’ AV-8B Harriers were in the midst of an equipment upgrade; some had already sprouted FLIR bumps in the bridge of their noses, and some were sporting lower visibility gray color schemes which came into vogue during the lead up to the conflict. OV-10 Broncos were slowly being phased out, replaced by more F/A-18Ds.  An Air Force F-117 - the “Stealth Fighter” – was shown on static display, as was a B-52G Stratofortress.

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Another static display jet, an Idaho Air National Guard F-4G “Wild Weasel”, was one of a few types that would soon finish its fighting career as the U.S. military retired many Vietnam War-era types in short order. Another type parked on static display was an Army OV-1D Mohawk, a Vietnam workhorse but soon to be retired too. A local West Coast – based F-14A Tomcat, operated by the flamboyant VF-114 “Fighting Aardvarks” was supported by plenty of crewmembers, and their sharp orange and black bus; VF-114 would be disestablished the following year. My standout jet during the Friday and Saturday shows that I attended, both for the practice show and first day of the airshow, was a Thunderbird Aviation F-8K Crusader. The jet was for contractor test flight missions, and while it flew in the hazy Friday afternoon skies during the practice show, it never took off on Saturday, much to my chagrin. A few museum pieces, including a MiG-15 and C-119 Flying Boxcar, were arrayed on the ramp too.

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Another warbird parked on the static line was a Grumman HU-16A Albatross amphibian, which was later sold, and moved to Australia. One more interesting aircraft was at first look, a DC-3 in stylish colors.  Upon further research, this transport was once a VIP C-47 (VC-47D to be precise), one of only a few modified as a staff transport for the USAF.

MCAS El Toro 1990: Hey, I Remember That!

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Springtime in 1990; a large amount of military aviation history was about to be written about the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations in the months ahead.  Many Marine aircraft were still in vintage (well, vintage nowadays) dark color schemes, in preparation for operations in Europe or the Pacific, not in a desert environment. Soon, airframes like the A-4 Skyhawk, F-4 Phantom, and OV-10 Bronco would be phased out either just prior to the Gulf War, or a few years after it. Specifically, the Marine RF-4Bs would be replaced by F/A-18D ATARS-equipped aircraft before the Gulf War.  The A-4M Skyhawk and F-4S Phantoms that were operated by Reserve squadrons and would be replaced by early model F/A-18 Hornets. The OV-10A and -D Broncos would serve during Desert Storm before being retired; replaced by more twin-seat F/A-18D Hornets. A lot of squadrons, many with storied histories, stood down as these aircraft left the inventory.

At West Coast Master Jet Station MCAS El Toro, the home squadrons of F/A-18 Hornets welcomed other Marine aviation assets like KC-130s, AV-8 Harriers, OV-10 Broncos, and numerous helicopters from nearby MCAS Tustin and Camp Pendleton, for a weekend of air show excitement.  Drawing more than half a million spectators at the event, a few of these aircraft types would be displayed for the last time before they were parked in the Boneyard.

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A large draw to this  show was the Marine Combined Arms demonstrations, where different types of aviation assets were brought together to show how the Marines used their varied types of planes and helicopters together.  From fast jet reconnaissance to scouts parachuting from OV-10s, to air refueling Harriers and Hornets behind a KC-130, the air was filled with the "sounds of freedom".  Booming pyrotechnics added to the realism and excitement.

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Non-Marine Corps aircraft included in the static display featured the California Air National Guard, Air Force, Navy and Army examples. Flight demonstrations included the F-14 Tomcat and F-16 Fighting Falcon, plus the Blue Angels.  Warbirds and civilian performers shared the stage too.  Even a few retired non flyable Marine aircraft were included in the large aircraft static display that was manned by enthusiastic crewmembers. During past and future shows, the Thunderbirds, Air Force F-15 Eagles and others were featured performers.

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MCAS El Toro would be shuttered in 1999, but not before some awesome air shows were held at the Orange County base.  This is the first of three El Toro air show reviews, with photos of some of the military and warbird participants at each one.  Here's a look back almost a quarter century ago, to southern California and its rich aviation heritage that was presented during the early 1990s.

Copperstate Fly-In 2015 Recap

2.jpg Photos and Article By Dale Moody Recap of Copperstate Fly-In from 24 October, 2015 A milestone for me was marked in 2015 by my 50th year of attending the EAA Fly-In Convention at Oshkosh, WI, now called AirVenture. (My first time was when it was held at Rockford, IL.) With this in mind, it could be argued that I would describe the recent Copperstate Fly-In in relative terms, but that wouldn't be fair. The Copperstate Fly-In at Casa Grande was very organized, while still maintaining a relaxed atmosphere of like-minded attendees, unlike AirVenture in some respects. I have so far been unable to learn any official figures on both the number of aircraft and/or spectators over the three day fly-in. I’ve been told by fly-in officials that the number of spectators Thursday and Friday may have been slightly lighter than 2014 while Saturday’s paid attendance was estimated to be at least on par with last year’s results of just over 7,000. I was also told that the number of aircraft on the ramp in 2014 was about 525, and my gut feel was for at least that many this year. The accompanying car show was expanded considerably this year. Having attended the Copperstate Fly-In every year for the past ten or twelve years, I feel safe in saying this year’s event was perhaps the best ever in the number and variety of aircraft—from homebuilts to warbirds and everything in between.