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ISSUE 294 - October 2013
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Palm Springs Air Museum - Part I

By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer
Watford, Ontario, Canada

Out in front of the museum, near the entrance, is a beautiful tribute to former "airmen."

Tucked away on the east side of Palm Springs International Airport you can find an assortment of former US military jet aircraft, sitting outside along the Gene Autry Trail, such as the F-14, F-18 the Intruder and others.  It's not necessarily an unusual thing to find aircraft sitting on display outside an airport except these aircraft mark the spot where the Palm Springs Air Museum sits, housing some wonderful pieces of aviation history, many of them still in flyable condition.

The Grumman A-6 Intruder out in front of the museum, left, and the Consolidated PBY Catalina parked on the airport side of the museum, right. 

In fact, the museum has one of the world's largest collections of flyable aircraft, each and every one accessible by the museum visitor.  You'll find no aircraft roped off here and  you'll walk around in air conditioned comfort allowing you the opportunity to browse at your leisure.  However, I'd recommend arriving early in the day and taking in the aircraft outside the museum before the heat of the day has you second-guessing yourself about the decision to venture out into the hot California sun!

If aircraft are the heart of a museum then the volunteers are the blood coursing through the museum's veins.  The PSAM volunteers are no exception and are there to answer your questions.  They are more than happy to spend time telling you about the aircraft, exhibits and the museum.

When entering the first 'hangar' you get a sense of just how much pride the volunteers have in the museum.  The floors are almost spotless, as are the aircraft, and the volunteers are well dressed and very well read when it comes to the aircraft and the history around them.  If you have an opportunity to spend time with one of the volunteers it is highly recommended as they are a wealth of knowledge and information and they're more than happy to, shall we say, bend your ear for as long as you are prepared to listen.  Walking around with one of these ladies and/or gentlemen is well worth your time!

The Grumman Wildcat, left and Hellcat, right, two of the US Navy and Marines top aircraft during the Pacific war.

Among the first two aircraft you'll likely come across when you enter the southern hanger are two iconic Pacific Theatre fighters, the Grumman Wildcat and Hellcat.  The F4F Wildcat, used by the US Navy and Marines, was their most effective fighter during the first 2 years of the war, until the F6F Hellcat came into service.  By the end of the war Hellcat pilots held a 19 to 1 kill ratio flying against the enemy.

A Royal Navy TBF/TBM Avenger, left, an effective torpedo bomber used by several countries during World War II.  The Link Trainer, right, used by many countries to train pilots, including more than 500,000 US pilots.  

Moving past the 'cats, the next aircraft you'll come to is a TBF/TBM Avenger painted in the colours of the Royal Navy.  This famous torpedo bomber flew with many countries during and post-war including the US Navy, Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal New Zealand Air Force, among others.   Following around the perimeter of the museum hangar you'll find an old Link Trainer, once used to train many World War II pilots in many countries.  In fact, just in the United States, more than 500,000 wartime pilots were trained on the Link.

The sleek and magnificent looking Grumman F7F Tigercat, left,
and the brute but speedy Grumman F8F Bearcat, right.

One of the rarest aircraft in the Pacific Theatre collection is the Grumman F7F Tigercat, one of the slickest twin engine aircraft of its time.  Though the Tigercat never saw combat during the war, it was used as a night fighter trainer and a night fighter during the Korean War.  Sitting near the Tigercat is another magnificent Grumman aircraft, the big brute F8F Bearcat.  Though the Bearcat was another that never saw wartime combat during World War II, it was used by an assortment of countries including France, Vietnam, Indo-China and Thailand.  A modified racing version of the Bearcat set a non-jet world record speed of 482.5mph!!

Known as the T-6 (Texan), the Harvard in Canada and the Wirraway in Australia, but the US Navy flew the SNJ (Texan), left.  The beautiful and deadly F4U Corsair, one of the most loved fighters in the Pacific Theatre of War, right.

One of the most venerable aircraft in this section of the museum is the US Navy T-6 SNJ (T-6 Harvard Navy version).  The SNJ/Texan was used to train thousands of pilots in the United States Navy and the United States Army Air Force well into the 1950s.  The aircraft, known as the Harvard in Canada, was used by the Allied forces in British Commonwealth Air Training Plan at dozens of bases across Canada training allied pilots from Australia, New Zealand and Canada to name but a few.  Sitting near the SNJ is one of the most beautiful of the Pacific Theatre aircraft, the F4U Corsair, gull-wing fighter.  Flying with the Marines, the Corsair first saw action against the Japanese in 1943 on the Solomon Islands.

The museum also has several naval models including a large model of a battleship, aircraft carrier and a submarine that is partly cutaway showing interior detail including the bunks where sailors would sleep, left. There are also small hand-carved model aircraft representing those that would have been found on aircraft carriers of the day, as well as recon aircraft that flew from other US Navy ships, right.

There are also a number of ship and submarine models offering the museum patron further history lessons and a unique perspective on what it would have been like to have served on a ship as a pilot and/or sailor. These extremely well built and highly detailed models include the USS Missouri (battleship), the USS Lexington (carrier) and the USS Rasher (submarine). The carrier, if you'll pardon the pun, is decked out with an assortment of well made, hand-carved aircraft models.

The big radial engine T-28 Trojan, left, and the powerful Naval jet, the F4 Phantom, right.

Rounding out the Asia and Pacific Theatre hangar collection is a super looking T-28 Trojan just sitting in the hangar awaiting a pilot.  The T-28 was a post-World War II aircraft meant to replace the T-6 as a training aircraft and was used as a counter-insurgency aircraft during the Vietnam War.  Also in the hangar is a beautiful US Navy F-4 Phantom painted in the livery of the USS Midway.

Entertaining the troops was one of the most endearing things that the American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines loved about Bob Hope.  The museum pays tribute to the famous comedian and actor.

Along with aircraft there are many other assorted artifacts and displays including a tribute to a wartime American icon, funny-man, Mr. Bob Hope.  Though he was one of several celebrities of the day who entertained the troops, Bob Hope had to be the most well known and loved of them all.

The supersonic and movie famous F-14 Tomcat, left, one of several aircraft that sits outside in front of the museum.  One of several murals along the top, outside walls of the museum hangars, right.          

This week we've had a look at the Asia and Pacific Theatre of War section of the Palm Springs Air Museum in Palm Springs, California.  Next week we'll return to the museum and have a look at the European Theatre of War hangar as well as a restoration the museum is undertaking. 

Next week we'll take a look at the aircraft that comes with this lovely piece of nose art.
By Kevin Moore, Contributing Editor & Photographer

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