Vintage Aviation Museum Prepares to Take Wing

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Restoration work being preformed on B-17E “Desert Rat”

There is a new Warbird museum on the block.  The Vintage Aviation Museum may be young in age but not in ambition.  Sean O’Brien is the founder and president of the Vintage Aviation Museum.  Mr. O’Brien has worked in multiple museums, including flying on tour with a B-17.  These experiences have not only prepared him to start his own museum but have also been the driving force behind the new opening.  “I got to a point where I realized that  in order to fulfill my passion and vision for vintage aircraft, warbirds, and all of the history that surrounds them I needed to start my own museum” says Mr. O’Brien. He began planning the Vintage Aviation Museum in 2014, and launched it in January 2016.  Since opening the doors, Mr. O’Brien says, “…the response has been overwhelming”.  

The Vintage Aviation Museum is busy at work.  The museum will plans to move its headquarters to Salt Lake City, Utah hopefully in 2017 when its museum facilities are completed.  The new facility will include state-of -art restoration facilities and museum spaces to be used for educational purposes.

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B-17E 41-2595 “Desert Rat”

The Vintage Aviation Museum joined forces with the Desert Rat B-17E Restoration Team, that has been working to restore B-17E 41-2595 since it was discovered in Maine decaying in a scrapyard in the 1980’s.  Mr. O’Brien has been following the B-17Es progress for a number of years and when he was in a position to help, decided to join forces with the Desert Rat team to complete the restoration sooner.  The time table for the B-17E Desert Rat’s completion is 3 to 5 years, however it is dependent on funding.  When the VAM facilities are completed in 2017, part of Desert Rat will be moved to Salt Lake City, Utah for restoration, while the remainder of the plane will stay in Marengo, Illinois to be completed.  Once Desert Rat’s restoration is completed, the entire airframe will be transported to Salt Lake City for final assembly.  After completion “Desert Rat” will be on tour across the United States as a flying museum and will be based out of Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Boeing B-17C Flying Fortress

In addition, the Vintage Aviation Museum and Desert Rat teams are joining forces to build an airworthy B-17C.   The B-17C build is in its early stages, parts are beginning to be collected.  The pace will not increase on the B-17C build until either the museum’s volunteer force increases or Desert Rat is returned back to flying condition.  Although building a B-17 can be done more quickly than restoring one, the thousands of rivets incorporated into the airframe make construction time consuming.  Once the B-17C is completed it will join B-17E “Desert Rat” on tour.

Mr. O’Brien thinks that flying these aircraft is necessary, “…so that people can see them operate in their natural element”.  VAM restoration and museum facilities will be open to the public to be used as an educational tool and share the stories behind their planes.  Mr. O’Brien believes, “It’s not just about the planes, it is also about the factory workers, the people that gave up their time to help out…” with the war effort.  The Vintage Aviation Museum wants to give people the opportunity to learn history first hand from the veterans that experienced it.

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Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress

“We try to do things where we are a little outside of the box, we don’t want to be like everyone else…we want to create our own path… and be able to reach people not just local to the museum but across the country”, says museum president Mr. O’Brien.  An example of this being the “Night With Dick Cole” event that the museum hosted.  Unlike other events, VAM kept the event to a group of 100 people in order to allow people to personally interact with Mr. Cole, the last surviving Dolittle Raider and have their questions answered from a man who is walking and talking history.

Keep your eyes open for the Vintage Aviation Museum’s future projects, which include:

PV2 Harpoon D-Day C-47 F9F Panther
BT-13 Valiant A-26 Invader B-25D Mitchell
TBF Avenger

Interested in donating to or volunteering to  restore the B-17C and B-17E “Desert Rat” to flying condition? Contact the Vintage Aviation Museum and check out their Facebook Page

Photo Credit:

-Vintage Aviation Museum

-Desert Rat Restoration Team

-B17bomber.de

 

The Last Liberator Film Project

b-24cf“This is not simply the story of the B-24 Liberator, but the story of the men and women who designed, built, maintained and flew it. If is the story of a Nation united, allies focused and determined. It is the story of thousands of individuals who played their parts in defeating an enemy.  Its story is but one powerful symbol that illustrates the story of victory”

“The Collings Foundation, a non-profit, Educational Foundation (501c-3) has recovered and restored many of the true landmark aircraft that built the world aviation history, in order to meet its mission of organizing and supporting living history events that enable Americans to learn more about their heritage through direct participation.

Included in their collection is the world’s only flying B-24J , which continues soaring through its native skies as part of the annual Wings of Freedom Tour with its sister ship, the B-17 Flying Fortress.

Now, with a mission of capturing the recollections of the real people behind the machines, the Collings Foundation, in conjunction with Inversion Films and Inland Sea Productions is proud to present The Last Liberator a one-of-a-kind story of World War II as told through the eyes of veterans who were responsible for building and flying the Liberator. The foundation and the producers are determined to capture their story in their own words and marry those memories to the most powerful medium on the planet, the giant screen theater, creating a legacy that will engage all Americans in remembering, learning and honoring.  It will indelibly sear their lessons in the archives of American heroism.

When executed properly, with accuracy and authenticity as the overriding mission, the marriage of the highest caliber information with the state-of the art tools of entertainment deliver a powerful and relevant tool in education. The Last Liberator is an edutainment program, designed to reach today’s audiences on multiple levels, many times, in an accurate and lasting manner. It will be a catalyst for ongoing learning and leave an indelible mark on the viewer.”

To help the make this project successful, make a tax deductible donation to the Collings Foundation  and for more information visit The Last Liberator.

Photo Credit: Collings Foundation

Information Credit: Collings Foundation/ The Last Liberator

A Terror of the Pacific, Hellcat Pilot Lt. Bill Gorden

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Lt. Bill Gorden in his Navy dress whites. Photo Credit: MAAM

Many of us remember where we were when we heard that the World Trade Center Towers fell in Manhattan. The Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was a similar event for the Americans who came to be known as the Greatest Generation. Bill Gorden was 18 years old when he heard President Roosevelt announce to the nation, that the United States had been attacked for the first time since the War of 1812. Mr. Gorden knew that, being of military age, he had two options; to wait for the draft; or, to enlist in the service. He chose the Navy Air Corps, and was taken into training by the Navy in February of 1942. He was sent to a school in Worcester, Ohio, where he spent six weeks learning basic navy skills such as communicating with ships. He did not receive a uniform until almost three weeks into his training, due to a shortage at the time.

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USS Hancock Photo Credit: MAAM

After Basics school, Mr. Gorden was accepted into training as a Naval aviator and began his flying in the Navy at the controls of Piper Cubs and Aeroncas while he was stationed in Kalamazoo for about four weeks. Following his first taste of flying he was transferred to Iowa where he went through preflight and primary flight school flying Navy Stearmans. Upon completion of this training, he was stationed at NAS Corpus Christi where he flew the North American SNJ, the Navy version of the famous T-6 Texan. While at Corpus Christi, the main focuses were formation flying, communications with flags from the cockpit, and bombing and shooting practice. Mr. Gorden received his instrument training in the SNJ in Beeville, Texas. After completing his training, he received his wings at Corpus Christi, and was ready to take the controls of a frontline fighter. He picked up his F6F Hellcat in Daytona Beach, Florida. Mr. Gorden flew his Hellcat for about three weeks, and practiced the skills necessary to land on an aircraft carrier on land. Shortly after he successfully made his first trap on an aircraft carrier in his Hellcat. With some time off to briefly visit his family in Detroit, he received orders to report to San Diego and was assigned to squadron VF-7.

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An F6F Hellcat on final approach to the USS Hancock CV-19 in 1944 Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Upon shipping out aboard the U.S.S. Hancock, CV-19, and Essex Class Aircraft Carrier, Mr. Gorden spent the last 6 months of the war flying strafing, escort, and bombing missions in the Philippines, Okinawa, and Japan. The tactic that they used was to pursue Japanese planes and do their best to get home themselves. Mr. Gorden had countless close calls and had hits on his aircraft, but was never shot down during his time in the Pacific Theater. At the conclusion of the war, Mr. Gorden left the Navy, and rejoined and was a part of the Navy Reserves as a “Weekend Warrior” shortly after. In the reserves he flew Hellcats on the weekend for four years where he and his squadron worked on bombing, strafing and formation flying. When Mr. Gorden moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, he was forced to resign from his squadron at the rank of Lieutenant. Shortly after his retirement, The United States became embroiled in Korea. He had a family to raise but he seriously considered signing up again before his squadron, VF-7 shipped out to Korea. Mr. Gorden has not taken the controls of an aircraft since.

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A Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat from VF-7 making and emergency landing after takeoff from the USS Hancock on July 6, 1944 Photo Credit: crash-aerien.news

Mr. Gorden is one of the finest examples of the Greatest Generation, who answered his country’s call in one of its greatest times of need. He fought against the Japanese during their most vicious point in the War as they were being pushed back to mainland Japan. Mr. Gorden is a true American hero. Upon questioning him about whether or not he and his squadron mates knew that they were a part of history , he stated, “you just wanted to keep someone from killing you (and just) think about what you needed to do”. The heroes response…

 

 

Interview and Article By: Thomas Reilly

Doc’s Kickstarter Campaign A Success

100docDoc’s Friends have announced that they have secured the necessary funding to complete their newly restored B-29’s flight testing.  As of October 22, 2015 over $140,000 out of the necessary $137,500 for flight testing has been pledged by almost 800 backers on Kickstarter.  With over $60,000 pledged in two days.  Doc’s Friends expressed their thanks to their supporters by saying “We DID IT: Words cannot express the excitement and gratitude felt by our team right now.”  With a week still remaining, all pledges over the goal will go towards maintaining Doc as a flying museum. Visit: Doc’s website and Facebook page for more information

Photo Credit: Doc’s Friends

Pushing the Edge of a Battle Tested Envelope

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Andrew McKenna on take-off roll in his silver P-51D Mustang 44-73420, Leesburg, VA. Photo Credit: Bill Paisley

Many pilots who get bitten by the “warbird bug” like to think of themselves as having been born in the wrong generation.  Andrew McKenna was not born too late, but he probably would have fit in nicely into the middle of the last century.  As an owner and operator of two iconic WWII aircraft, a North American AT-6G Texan and a P-51D Mustang, Mr. McKenna has a keen appreciation for the generation that first flew those warbirds.   Like many warbird pilots and enthusiasts, Mr. McKenna went to airshows as a kid and visited the airport with his father often.  His dad told him at an airshow that he might be able to go for a ride in a P-51 Mustang one day, at which he responded, “I don’t want to go for a ride in one I want to go fly it!”  He soloed shortly after his sixteenth birthday, but did not have the time or the resources to continue and obtain his private pilot license.  Regardless, Mr. McKenna thought of flying every day, and worked hard in school, with the idea that he would one day finish what he had started many years before.

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Andrew McKenna flying his North American T-6G Texan at an airshow. Photo Credit: Bryce Nicely

He finally received his license at 30 years old, and operated a Cessna 400 a single engine fixed-gear aircraft for a year, after which time he acquired his first warbird an AT-6G Texan, which he named “Pamela Marie”.  “Pamela Marie” is an airshow favorite on the East Coast, and is the aircraft on which Mr. McKenna learned necessary skills that would help him graduate to other warbird aircraft.  After mastering the T-6 he transitioned into the legendary P-51 Mustang.  He first soloed Jim Beasley’s Mustang at Chester County Airport. “Sitting at the end of the runway in Jim Beasley’s Bald Eagle and putting the throttle forward on a P-51 Mustang and taking off”, is one of the highlights of his flying career.

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A close up shot of Andrew McKenna flying his P-51 Mustang. Photo Credit: Andrew McKenna

What does it take to fly high performance retired military aircraft at an airshow?  As Mr. McKenna says it’s, “practice, practice, practice”, with a heavy dose of professionalism.  He follows the lead of the pilots he looks up to like Sean Tucker, Rob Holland, Patty Wagstaff, and Lee Lauderback who are all involved in flying aircraft at the highest level. Although Mr. McKenna has a full-time job, he tries, to treat flying as it is as well.  That means “2-3 practices prior to any demonstration…what people don’t know is that I’ll be in that Mustang, five or six times before I ever show up at an airshow”.  Professionalism is of the utmost importance in the airshow flying profession. Before each airshow demonstration Mr. McKenna flies in the morning of the show, walks his demonstration through twice on the tarmac and takes between forty-five minutes and an hour in order to mentally prepare himself for his flights. He uses the extra ground time in order to assess and understand the weather and risks that are involved in flying in each airshow.  In addition, as an airshow performer, he must always be ready to adjust different situations which could occur.  When it comes to preflight rituals, Mr. McKenna is sure that he gets enough sleep, does a workout in the morning prior to the show, and goes to a quiet spot before he flies in order to, “get in the game.  One of his most important preflight rituals that he shares with other airshow performers is that all of his flight gear is arranged exactly the same way every time he goes to fly weather it is in an airshow or not.  Mr. McKenna, also stated that an important part of professionalism is being able to govern yourself and know if you are not ready to fly.  For example, due to the fact that he has primarily been flying his Mustang, he would need at least two weeks in order to become proficient with his aerobatic demo in his T-6.

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Andrew McKenna in the lead position in his North American P-51D Mustang over Washington D.C. to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of VE Day. Photo Credit: Andrew McKenna

Mr. McKenna has had the opportunity to fly in many amazing airshows and events, but one of the most meaningful for him was the flyover that he honoring USAF Lt. Col. Hoagland over Arlington National Cemetery.  Mr. McKenna was in his P-51 Mustang which was carrying Hoagland’s nose art for the flight, followed by four USAF F-22 Raptors.  Mr. McKenna is honored to be able to give back to active or former military personnel in this way.  In terms of most exciting moments flying, Mr. McKenna enjoys flying in formation with Jim Beasley, his mentor.

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Andrew McKenna flying his P-51 Mustang 44-73420. Photo Credit: Andrew McKenna

Mr. McKenna is also a strong believer in keeping his aircraft stock, “stars and bars”.  As he says, “I am a big let the aircraft do the talking” it is all about the aircraft, and he knows that he is a caretaker of history or as he likes to say the “keeper of the keys”, he is humble.  Although he is a fan of all warbirds and their pilots, he has great respect for those who choose to fly at the highest level, “flying the aircraft the way it was meant to be flown…to push yourself to learn how to fly these aircraft and to fly them to what they are capable of”. To really push the edge of the envelope…