• Fritz Wolf: Badger State Ace

    Posted on January 28th, 2012 John Dorcey No comments

    The Wisconsin Veterans Museum unveiled a new World War II era exhibit, Fritz Wolf: Badger State Ace, during ceremonies yesterday afternoon, Friday, January 27. Fritz Wolf, a Shawano, Wisconsin, native and World War II naval aviator, flew with Claire Chennault and his fabled “Flying Tigers”. The exhibit includes numerous artifacts, photographs, and mementos from Wolf’s military service. A short video detailing a homecoming parade held upon his return from his AVG service in July 1942 completes the display. The exhibit will open to the public beginning Tuesday, January 31.

    Fritz Wolf exhibitThe new display is nestled among larger exhibits of the time period – Between the Wars, World War II, and Victory at Sea. This latter exhibit includes a large scale model of the USS Hornet (CV-8) outfitted with 16 North American B-25B aircraft of the April 1942 Doolittle Raid. Plans called for the B-25s to become an AVG bomber group in Chennault’s fledgling air force.

    Museum Director Michael Telzrow welcomed the score of visitors to the ceremony, sharing how the recently donated collection was obviously a labor of love for the Wolf family. He continued by saying, “It is a distinct honor to be selected as custodians of the rich and well-cared for collection.”  Wolf’s children, Catherine White, Linda Ryckeghem, and Richard Wolf, donated the collection to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum late last year. Telzrow then introduced the museum’s curator of history, Jeff Kollath. Kollath told of the Wolf materials’ depth and detail. He closed his comments stating, “The museum is most proud to exhibit the Wolf materials.”

    The Winter 2011 edition of The Bugle, quarterly publication of the museum, featured Fritz Wolf on its cover and included an article detailing his career. A reception for family and friends was held following the ceremony.

    Wisconsin Veterans Museum logoThe museum is unique in that it is a division of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. The Wisconsin legislature enacted law in 1901 requiring the state to establish a memorial dedicated to commemorating Wisconsin’s role in the Civil War and any other subsequent war. The museum meets the and exceeds the requirements of that law. Today, the museum’s exhibits include award-winning dioramas, full-scale replicas of Sopwith Camel and North American P-51 airplanes, a Huey UH-1 helicopter, and more. The current facility, located at 30 West Mifflin Street, on Madison’s Capitol Square, opened its doors June 6, 1993.The museum has 10,000 square feet of exhibit space with an additional 7,000 square feet of storage area. A gift shop, offices, lecture hall, meeting rooms, and a research area complete the museum’s facilities.

    Fritz Wolf was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) in 1989. Lance Sijan, a WAHF inductee in 2006, is also the subject of a Wisconsin Veterans Museum exhibit.

  • Beechcraft Heritage Museum

    Posted on April 22nd, 2011 John Dorcey No comments

    We have passed through some beautiful country today as we travelled from Birmingham, Alabama, to Tullahoma, Tennessee. The weather has been CAVU with temps in the 70s. Our last leg on this trip has been state highways and we have enjoyed the opportunity to see the Tennessee countryside. We passed a number of other attractions – the last being the Jack Daniels’ Distillery in Lynchburg. We saved the distillery tour for another day.

    Beechcraft Heritage MuseumThe Beechcraft Heritage Museum is located adjacent to the Tullahoma Regional Airport (KTHA). The museum is west of the Runway 36 extended centerline on the airport’s south side. The drive in to the facility was along a shady, tree-lined lane that reminded us of many Wisconsin airports. Began as the Staggerwing Museum Foundation in October 1973, the museum was given its current moniker in April 2007. The current name reflects the organization’s commitment to preserving the heritage of the entire lineage of Beechcraft.

    1932 Model 17R-1

    The museum is made up of a collection of several buildings. Our tour began in the Beech Center. We visited the gift shop and then began viewing the museum’s collection of 24 aircraft. The museum displays two firsts; the first Travel Air (1925, Model 1000) and the first Model 17 Beechcraft Staggerwing (1932, Model 17R-1). Aircraft displays provide plenty of room for close examination. Aircraft are all in pristine condition. Beyond the aircraft collection the museum holds many artifacts of early aviation.

    We spent some time in the Walter H. Beech Hangar studying materials and artifacts of aviation’s Golden Age. We moved on to the Louise M. Thaden Office and Library. Housed in a 100-year-old log cabin, the library contains many artifacts of this early aviatrix. We then made our way back to the Beech Center and the museum’s offices.

    Beechcraft Starship

    Wade McNabb, museum CEO and Curator, joined us for the second half of our tour. He took us through the Bonanza/Baron Museum that also includes a Beech Starship. Wade is an excellent ambassador for the museum and organization. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development created an excellent video on the museum.

    Our tour concluded just in time for a late lunch. Wade made an excellent recommendation – Emil’s. The 1905 home of doctor and former Tullahoma mayor Jack Farrar provides an excellent backdrop for the restaurant. When travelling in the Tullahoma area we recommend you pause for a delightful dining experience at Emil’s.

    The fifth of five aviation museums for our spring vacation proved to be a real gem.

  • Southern Museum of Flight

    Posted on April 21st, 2011 John Dorcey No comments

    Vietnam helicopter exhibit

    The timing of our visit to the Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham, Alabama, couldn’t have been better. The grand opening of a new exhibit and diorama was set for this evening. The exhibit, The Vietnam War Helicopters, was the star of the event that included a symposium, music, and light hors d’oeuvres. Nearly 400 Vietnam veterans and their families attended the gala. The exhibit features two aircraft – a Bell AH-1 Cobra and a Hughes OH-6 Cayuse. The OH-6 Light Observation Helicopter was nicknamed “Loach”.  The exhibit depicts the true story of Troop C, 6thCavalry Regiment. We completed our tour of the museum
    before the early evening event.

    Lockheed Y-12

    We started our tour at the outdoor exhibit area, located two blocks west of the museum. The 22 aircraft making up the outdoor exhibit are on the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (KBHM). Airport security fence prevents up-close viewing. A rare A-12 Blackbird is among the display aircraft.

    We then moved to the museum proper. Four wings in an X-shape house the museum’s 68,000 square foot facility. A unique feature of the museum is its dioramas. In addition to the new Vietnam Helicopters, dioramas depict the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, defection of Lt. No Kum Soc (Korea), and the Lake Murray B-25. Another diorama about crop-dusting is in the planning stages.

    Radial engines on display

    Aeronca K1 Scout

    The museum displays a nice collection of early general aviation aircraft and radial engines. The museum is also home to the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame. Biographical plaques tell the stories of those Alabama aviators who made aviation history. Related to the Y-12 aircraft, the CIA’s Project Oxcart is detailed in a museum exhibit.

    The museum has many opportunities for youngsters. They provide four different Alabama School Course-of-Study Tours and workshops for both Girl and Boy Scout badges. In addition, a classroom for hands-on work and a 70-seat theater are available.

    A little off the beaten path, you’ll need to closely follow the plentiful signs directing you to the museum, or use a GPS. A nice aviation museum.

  • Air Force Armament Museum

    Posted on April 20th, 2011 John Dorcey No comments

    A quick review of our Spring 2011 museum/history tour. We left Wisconsin on Friday, April 15. An RON in Paducah, Kentucky, set up our first history stop at the Shiloh National Military Park. After an early departure Saturday morning, we arrived at Shiloh about 3½ hours later. We toured the Interpretive Center, watched the 1950s era movie, Shiloh: Portrait of a Battle, and visited the bookstore. After a picnic lunch we toured the battlefield. We then continued south to Birmingham, Alabama, for our next overnight. After Ft. Rucker we drove to Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida on Monday. We toured the National Museum of Naval Aviation yesterday.

    Entry at AF Armament Museum

    Plans for today called for a drive east to Eglin Air Force Base and the Air Force Armament Museum. Today was our third day in Florida and the Armament Museum is our third military aviation museum of the trip. The Air Force Armament Museum is located adjacent to Eglin AFB, just west of the main gate.

    The idea for an armament museum was approved by Eglin command staff in early 1974. Much like the Army Aviation Museum, a lack of facilities slowed the development process. Two years later, in 1976, the museum opened its doors for the first time, in a former Enlisted Club facility. The Air Force Armament Museum Foundation was established that same year. The on-base facility was closed in 1981 and the museum was again without a facility until 1985. In mid-November 1985 the museum again opened its doors, this time in a new 28,000-square-foot facility. The museum was now home.

    Gun Vault

    There are 25 aircraft displayed outside and four more inside the museum. In addition to the aircraft there are hundreds of munitions. A gun vault houses not only airborne guns but hundreds of pistols, rifles, carbines, and other munitions. Missiles and bombs are also well represented. A video tells the story of Eglin AFB and its role in munitions development.

    B-52G with Hound Dog

    The outside display included a Boeing B-52G Stratofortress or “BUFF” with a North American AGM-28B Hound Dog missile alongside. I spent six years working on the B-52H/Hound Dog system at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota. The missile is displayed on a storage/transportation trailer but without the pylon (adapter between the missile and the bomber’s wing).

    AC-47 "Spooky"


    Other unique aircraft displayed outside include: Douglas AC-47 Gunship “Spooky”; the first Lockheed AC-130 Gunship “Spectre”, AF Serial No. 53-3129; a Martin B-57 “Canberra” and a Boeing B-47 Stratojet. Outside aircraft are a little weathered and suffer from bird droppings but these are minor distractions.

    AC-130 "Spectre"

    Inside exhibits include tributes to USAF Congressional Medal of Honor recipients including Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) inductees John Jerstad and Lance Sijan. Another exhibit was a tribute to the Doolittle Raiders. The “Raiders” did training and their aircraft were modified at Eglin early in 1942 prior to their April 18, 1942 Tokyo Raid. WAHF inductee Richard Knobloch was the copilot on Aircraft 13 – “The Avenger “.

    F-105 with munitions

    We enjoyed our time at the Air Force Armament Museum. Some of the displays are in need of minor repair while others are beginning to show their age. These are minor discrepancies and should not deter anyone from visiting.

  • National Museum of Naval Aviation

    Posted on April 19th, 2011 John Dorcey No comments

    We arrived at Naval Air Station Pensacola (NAS-P) yesterday a little before noon. Check-in procedures were straightforward – after a paperwork review and vehicle inspection we were given our housing credentials and key. We were walking the very short distance from our “cottage” to the beach less than 45 minutes after arriving at the gate. Our long-time friend and host Tom Thomas had facilitated the process and made our extended visit possible.

    We spent some time on the beach. It was, after all, still winter back home in Wisconsin. We then took a brief tour of the air station. Our tentative plans for today were to watch the Blue Angels demonstration in the morning and then visit the museum. Forecasted low ceilings threatened the air show portion of those plans. After drinks and snacks with Tom and his family we returned to our cottage to dream of learning more about naval aviation and its history.

    National Museum of Naval Aviation

    It is right that we should visit the National Museum of Naval Aviation this year as it is naval aviation’s centennial. Four significant milestones in naval aviation history occurred in 1911.Eugene Ely landed aboard the USS Pennsylvania on January 18; Lt Theodore Ellyson flew with Glenn Curtiss in a hydroaeroplane on January 26; Captain Washington Irving Chambers drafted specifications for the Navy’s first aircraft on May 8; and the Navy’s first aircraft, the Curtiss A-1 Triad, first flew on July 1. May 8, 1911 is recognized as US Naval Aviation’s birthday.

    Blue Angels' demonstration flight

    The weather folks were correct. Today dawned with a fog that rose slowly to a low cloud base. The visibility increased only slightly faster. After breakfast and a wistful look at the gulf we headed to the flight line and what we hoped would be an air show. The US Navy Blue Angels call NAS Pensacola home. During the air show season, they practice to the delight of hundreds of adoring fans on an almost daily basis. Today was one of those days. Today’s flight demonstration (low, due to those pesky clouds) was unlike any of the other three we have seen previously. There is something about performing (playing) at home.

    Vought F4U Corsair restoration project

    After the air show, we slowly made our way past the nearly 50 aircraft displayed on the ramp between the flight line and the museum’s restoration hangar. The flight line is open for only a short period before and following the Blue’s demonstration. Other times a 20-minute trolley tour is available. The trolley departs from the museum’s main entrance. Sadly, tours of the restoration facility have been suspended.

    Curtiss A-1 Triad, the Navy's first aircraft

    The museum is open 9:00 to 5:00 daily. We arrived about 9:45, missing the initial crush. Guided tours are available throughout the day. The museum is, in a word, spectacular. The museum has nearly 300,000 square feet of exhibit space on a 37-acre campus. From the building’s architecture to the more than 150 display aircraft, from the I-Max Theatre to the simulators and trainers, the museum is educational, interactive, and inspiring.

    We had an early lunch at the Cubi Bar Café. The café is a recreation of the Cubi Point Officers Club in the Philippines that closed in 1992. More than a place to grab a quick sandwich and rush back to museum exhibits, the café provides visitors a unique glimpse of naval aviation history.

    Curtiss / Navy NC-4

    The museum has added an annex building, Hangar Bay One, displaying additional aircraft while a building that will house the National Flight Academy is nearing completion. We spoke with a number of docents and other volunteers. They were all, for the most part, Navy or Marine retirees who were happy to share their passion and knowledge of naval aviation and its history. We stopped at the Flight Deck Store and purchased, among other items, the soft-covered book, National Museum of Naval Aviation, the Aircraft Collection. We highly recommend that purchase.

    Blue Angels exhibit

    We ended the day sitting on the beach watching waves march tirelessly to shore, the shorebirds dodging the water as it slides up the sand, and navy aircraft returning to base after a training mission. US Navy aircraft have been in the pattern at NAS Pensacola since 1914, almost as long as naval aviation has existed. We can’t say enough about the National Museum of Naval Aviation. You must visit the museum and, if at all possible, visit the facility this year. Celebrate US Naval Aviation’s 100th year by experiencing its history firsthand.

  • US Army Aviation Museum

    Posted on April 17th, 2011 John Dorcey No comments

    US Army Aviation Museum Ft Rucker, AL

    This is the first of five aviation museums that we will visit during our aviation history research trip through the south. We spent last night in Birmingham, AL and then enjoyed a slightly over three-hour drive through the heart of Alabama this morning toward Enterprise. We travelled south on I-65 to Montgomery, continued south on US Highways 231/82, and then on Alabama Highway 167. The weather was perfect – clear skies, light wind, and temps forecast in the mid 70s.
    Boeing CH-347 Chinook

    Boeing CH-347 Chinook

    Entrance onto Fort Rucker was straightforward. Stopping at the fort’s main gate, we explained our day’s mission. We were directed to an inspection area where security staff reviewed our photo IDs, car registration, and insurance papers. After the paperwork passed muster, the vehicle was inspected. We were provided directions to the museum and were driving away with less than 15 minutes having elapsed.

    Ryan XV-5B Vertifan

    Ryan XV-5B Vertifan

    The US Army Aviation Museum was established April 17, 1956 but did not open its doors to the public until November 26, 1968. Since that time, the museum has grown to include the main exhibit building (completed November 1989) and three storage buildings. The exhibit building’s 70,000 square feet provides display area for 50 aircraft, a Vietnam Memorial, the Army Aviation Hall of Fame, and several art galleries. The museum also contains an aviation research library containing more than 1,600 technical manuals, 2,000 films, and nearly 95,000 photos. The museum has more than 160 aircraft in its collection.

    Sopwith F.1 Camel

    Sopwith F.1 Camel

    The museum opened at noon on this beautiful spring Sunday. After a picnic lunch on the museum grounds we walked among a memorial garden and then toured the outdoor aircraft exhibit area. Eleven aircraft were on display outside. There were four rotor-wing, including a rare Boeing CH-347 Chinook. The seven fixed-wing aircraft included the experimental Ryan XV-5B. A positive addition would be description panels for the aircraft displayed outside.

    Vietnam exhibit

    Vietnam exhibit

    The museum display floor consists of three sections – early Army aviation, helicopter evolution, and main display area. The exhibits were, in a word, stunning. The museum staff told a story with each major display. The early aviation section had two aircraft of interest to Wisconsin aviation history students. The museum’s replica F.1 Sopwith Camel was the type flown by Rodney Williams. He flew with the RAF’s 17th Squadron. The Curtiss JN-4D “Jenny” was flown by many early Wisconsin aviators including Roy Larson and Rellis Conant.

    Desert Storm exhibit with AH-64 Apache

    Desert Storm exhibit with AH-64 Apache

    From the statue grouping welcoming you at the front door to the air traffic control display on the mezzanine; from the Sikorsky R-4B Hoverfly I to the Boeing AH-64 Apache, the museum is first class. The aircraft, exhibits, art work, and memorabilia join to tell the story of the US Army’s aviation branch. A little out of the way but well worth the trip.

  • Visiting the Museum of Aviation

    Posted on March 3rd, 2009 John Dorcey No comments

    Museum of Aviation main gate, Robbins AFB, GA

    The day, though it dawned grey and overcast, held great promise. It was 0730 and I was boarding a bus for a two-hour ride from Atlanta to Warner Robins, GA and the Museum of Aviation. This trip was part of the Women in Aviation International 2009 Convention. My wife worked, making several presentations, and I reaped the benefits of accompanying her. While familiar with Robins AFB from my time in the USAF, I had limited knowledge of the museum. Little did I know the treat that awaited.

    North American Rockwell B-1B Lancer

    The museum sits on 43 tree-lined acres along the base’s southwest boundary. The museum complex consists of four buildings and displays nearly 100 aircraft. A North American Rockwell B-1 B, Lancer, guards the museum’s main entrance. A Fairchild-Republic A-10 A, Thunderbolt II (Warthog), parked nearby reminds me of wars ongoing. Across the main drive sat a McDonnell F-4D, Phantom II, from an earlier war, my generation’s war. My senses were now on high alert. The sun began to peek from behind the morning’s clouds and yes, it was going to be very promising day.

    We were advised to begin our tour at the Century of Flight building as an event scheduled for later in the day would prohibit our entry in that building. Good advice as it turned out. The building held prime examples of USAF aircraft. I lingered while reading information plaques and attempting a few photos.

    General Dynamics F-111E Aardvark

    I then made my way to the outside storage areas. The aircraft here are in various conditions – many are showing the affects of sun, wind, rain, and even more sun. Most had their cockpits protected by sun shades which made the canopy/window crazing all the more obvious. The F-111 E will undoubtedly suffer more than the others  – its nose art “Heartbreaker” more telling than a pilot’s lament. The airplane’s big nose cone is AWOL; the radar set sitting out in the elements.

    My pulse quickened as I approached a B-52 D Stratofortress. An early model of the aircraft I worked on for over six years beginning in the late 1960s extending into the mid-1970s. The D’s were the oldest B-52 model to carry the Hound Dog (AGM-28). This particular aircraft, 55-085, served in Southeast Asia twice. First in 1968, and later, flying out of Guam in 1972 and 1973. A number of my squadron mates would have loaded external weapons on this aircraft while serving TDY there.

    Boeing B-52D Stratofortress

    The typical in-flight lunch, served in a quiet picnic area, provided time for reflection. Years have passed since my days in blue (can it really be that many?) but the memories are still vivid. Alas, there were still airplanes to view, pictures to take, and two more buildings to visit. I had to pick up the pace, only two and a half hours to departure. The main museum building provided the more typical museum exhibits, a gift shop, and cafe. I spent a great deal of time pouring over the exhibits telling the history of Robins AFB; its development, layout and early construction. It never ceases to amaze me how much work was accomplished in the early months of World War II.

    Among other exhibits are tributes to the 507 Parachute Infantry Regiment, the Tuskegee Airmen, those CBI pilots that flew the “hump”, and the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame. The Museum of Aviation is more than just a museum; it is an education center for all ages. Artifacts of the past, reminders from yesterday, and glimpses into the future.

    Discover more about the Museum of Aviation at their website.