Tuesday, March 5, 2013

One Final Florida Siteseeing Trip

It's finally time to say farewell to the sunshine state, but not until I visited one place I've had on my list for a long time: National Naval Aviation Museum.  You might know it better as Naval Air Station Pennsacola or better yet, the home of the Blue Angels.  In fact, the interstate overpasses at the exit off of 10 are decorated with the Blue Angel Jets just to make sure you know you're in their territory.


Airplanes to the left, to the right, even over your head!
I was surprised with all the national security measures in place that visitors to the museum simply drive up to the gate of the base, show a photo ID, declare if you have any weapons in your vehicle, and then place the visitor pass on your dash.  Amazing.  Even more amazing - it's free.  Of course donations are accepted, but even a $10 donation is well worth all the hours of history in this massive museum.  Of course I really liked all the WWII exhibits.  There was even an "on the homefront" exhibit that I scored as very accurate.  There was more WW I info than I've seen anywhere except maybe the WWI museum in Kansas City.  And most surprising thing I learned?  That makeshift carriers were used on Lake Michigan to teach pilots how to land and take off at "sea".  Of course a lot of those rookie pilots missed which means Lake Michigan is littered with aircraft ripe for the picking!

There were 2 floors of exhibits and displays: the history of naval aviation and the base, displays on famous naval aviators, even the role of navy aviation on world events.  Also included, for free, was a 45 minute trolley ride around the tarmac with a guide explaining all the aircraft.  I don't know much about airplanes but I really enjoyed all the historical displays.  I even caught the end of a retirement ceremony for a sailor retiring after 20 years active duty.  So I won't try to explain all the planes I took pictures of since I'm not sure I can.  But if someone like me who doesn't know much about planes can be enthralled here for 4 hours imagine what it's like for someone who is a plane nut?  If you ever get in the area you really should visit.  And if the budget doesn't get cut (current events don't look good for that) the Blue Angles will begin practicing here in a couple of weeks and, you guessed it, a seat to watch is FREE!
One of the first boats delivered to the Navy.  Had to empty
water out of the floats every time you landed on

Gondola for early "air ship"

Firefighters were practicing on the tarmac while we
toured.  Look closely and you'll see
the burned dummy.

Kermit is a large cargo helicopter

The top floor exhibits circle the bottom floor which means
you begin at the balloon exhibits and come all
the way around to the space race. 
Really interesting walk.

No, not a UFO.  Early radar/weather plane.


A trainer plane pulled out of Lake Michigan.

This was a very informative exhibit about using
Lake Michigan for carrier qualifications
during World War II.

I certainly recognized these in the Vietnam POW

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