|• American Air Museum In Britain|
|• Commemorative Air Force|
|• National Museum Of Naval Aviation|
|• National Air And Space Museum|
|• United States Air Force Museum|
|• Como Zoological Society|
|• Nature Conservancy|
|• Minnesota Historical Society|
|• Minnesota Public Radio|
|• Minnesota Zoo|
|• Smithsonian Institute|
|• National Space Society|
|• The Planetary Society|
|• Science Museum Of Minnesota|
The American Air Museum In Britain is a tribute to the enormous effort and sacrifice expended by American air crews during WWII, and the impact that the large American presence had on England. The museum has recently opened on the grounds of the historic Duxford airbase in a spectacular display building that features dozens of aircraft suspended from a glass dome arranged around a mammoth B-52 bomber.
While the fund raising for the museum building is complete, we still need to raise money to restore many of the historic aircraft that will fill the museum. Join Prince Andrew and myself as founding members. The Museum needs your contributions to finish the project.
What has 90 wings and flies? The Ghost Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force. Headquartered in Midland Texas, the CAF owns 140 World War Two era military aircraft, of which 100 still fly on a regular basis. There are 90 CAF Air Wings spread across the US and world-wide that work to restore, maintain, and operate these historic aircraft.
The most famous CAF airplane is the magnificent B-29 Stratofortress named “Fi-Fi”. During WWII, B-29’s delivered the heavy tonnage directly to the Japanese mainland and devastated Japan’s ability to wage war. Then, in August 1945, two B-29’s and two bombs suddenly and dramatically ended World War Two. After the war, Fi-Fi was given to the US Navy, which used her as a bombing target in the California desert. Once the CAF learned of her fate, they assembled a team to recover the B-29 and fly her to Texas. With help from the Navy and Air Force, a CAF recovery team worked for a month in 100+ degree desert heat to return Fi-Fi to the air. Once Fi-Fi arrived in Texas, CAF Colonels spent a year and a half restoring Fi-Fi to flight-worthy status. Since that time, Fi-Fi has performed for millions of people all over the world. Recently, Fi-Fi underwent a major rebuild, thanks to a group of hard-working retired Boeing workers. Thanks to the support of companies like Boeing, Fi-Fi will continue to fly well into the next century.
Visit the CAF Home Pages to learn more about the Commemorative Air Force:
The Southern Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force is home to Miss Mitchell, the most complete and pristine B-25 restoration that is currently flying. In addition, the Southern Minnesota Wing flies a PBY-6A Catalina (one of only 4 Catalinas in the US), Harvard Mk 6, BT-13 Valiant, and a L-5 Sentinel. A P-51C Mustang, the “Red Tail”, recently emerged from a total rebuild. This rare Mustang is painted in the colors of the WWII fighter unit of the famous Tuskegee Airmen, an all-Black unit that never lost a bomber under escort to enemy fire.
The National Museum Of Naval Aviation is located in Pensacola, Florida, on the grounds of Pensacola Naval Air Station. It is open to the public 7 days a week and is one of the largest tourist attractions in Florida.
The Naval Aviation Museum features an indoor aircraft carrier display with a simulated flight deck, a dramatic formation of Blue Angles airplanes hanging from the ceiling, an F-14 Tomcat guarding the entrance, and a large collection of retired Navy aircraft. A space display commemorates the Navy contribution to the US space program. The space display features Apollo, Mercury, and Gemini spacecraft. A new IMAX theater recently opened at the Museum featuring the movie “The Magic Of Flight”, which allows you to get up close and personal with a F/A-18 Hornet and the legendary Harrier.
The Smithsonian National Air And Space Museum is the most visited museum in the world. Located on the National Mall in Washington, DC, the NASM maintains the largest collection of aircraft and space artifacts of any museum in the world.
Included in the collection is the Wright Flyer (the first powered and manned airplane to fly in controlled flight), the Spirit Of Saint Louis (flown by Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic solo), the Enola Gay (dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima at end of WWII), and the Apollo 11 Command Module (from first space flight to land on the moon).
The Air And Space Museum maintains extensive restoration facilities at the Paul E. Garber facility in Silver Hills, Maryland. This facility is open to the public for tours, but each tour requires advanced reservations. NASM plans to open a new museum annex at Dullas Airport in Virginia. The annex will house several large airplanes that cannot fit in the museum building on the mall. Planes slated for the annex include the Boeing 320 (707 prototype), SR-71, Space Shuttle Enterprise, a Concord, and the Enola Gay. Future plans for the NASM include putting a glass dome over the Apollo 11 landing site on the Moon to preserve and display the first off-Earth human exploration.
The United States Air Force Museum is dedicated to collecting and displaying the history and heritage of the United States Air Force, and its predecessors, the United States Army Air Force and the Signal Corps. The displays are housed in four gigantic hangar buildings at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
A visitor interested in aviation can easily spend two days at the Museum. I recommend that you pace yourself and see the museum in 2 hour increments, with a movie or meal to break up your visit. Trying to see everything in one shot will leave you exhausted, and you will miss a great deal. If you want to take pictures in the museum, you will need fast film and a good flash. The museum is relatively dark inside.
My favorite displays at the USAF Museum include:
Please consider becoming a friend of the USAF Museum. It only costs $20 per year, and your money provides essential funds to keep the museum open, and to help preserve these historic airplanes for future generations to see.
The Como Zoo is located in the Como Park on the north side of Saint Paul, Minnesota. What the Como Zoo lacks in size, it more than makes up for in quality. The Como Zoo features two world class exhibits, a primate center and a wonderful big cat facility.
The Como Zoo is open every day, with the buildings open from 10AM to 4PM. While in the area, you may also want to visit the Como Conservatory, which exhibits plants from around the world, and features a monthly flower show.
The Nature Conservancy is committed to preserving our environment by purchasing large tracts of land, then returning that land to a wild state.
The Minnesota Historical Society has been collecting, preserving, and displaying the history of Minnesota for 150 years.
For the most part, Minnesota is a radio wasteland. There is only one good rock radio station in the state, KQDS in Duluth, and there are no talk radio stations (no, KSTP doesn’t qualify because all of the shows are hosted by fruitcakes). The one real highlight is Minnesota Public Radio, perhaps the best public radio system in the US.
Here are official links to MPR and NPR:
The Minnesota Zoo, located in Apple Valley, Minnesota, (just south of the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Airport), is the second largest zoo in the US. The indoor tropics exhibit is one of the most spectacular zoo exhibits in the nation. The special focus at the Minnesota Zoo is providing habitat for the animals that is as close to natural as possible. And big cat fans will love the Siberian Tigers. The Minnesota Zoo is a leader in the Siberian Tiger species survival program.
BTW, those who go to a zoo to see the lions and elephants will be very disappointed by the Minnesota Zoo. This place is not a series of animal pens. If you want to observe and enjoy animals behaving as they would in the wild, this is the place to go.
Often referred to as the “Nation’s Attic”, the Smithsonian is a collection of museums that were endowed by a grant from a British scientist and now supported by the US government. A majority of these museums are located on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
Here are my top ten favorite Smithsonian places/things:
Show your support of the Smithsonian museums by subscribing to the Smithsonian Magazine. I find the Smithsonian Magazine rewarding even if I only read one article each month.
The National Space Society believes in a future where people will live and work in space, and is actively working to make this vision a reality. The NSS was founded in 1974 by Wernher von Braun, the legendary rocket designer that built the Saturn V rocket that carried American astronauts to the moon in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
The NSS includes the former L5 Society. L5 had a vision of putting up a space station at the L5 La Grange point, an area of space where the gravity pull from the Earth and Moon are equal, and thus a space station would be in a stable position without station-keeping or navigation engines. The vision of L5 by ’95 did not materialize, but the spirit lives on.
The Planetary Society encourages the exploration of our Solar System and the search for extraterrestrial life (SETI), but not necessarily by putting humans in space. In most cases, machines can collect the data much more efficiently than people can. The Planetary Society was founded in 1980 by a trio of space pioneers including Carl Sagan.
For the most part, the Science Museum Of Minnesota is your basic generic science museum. There is one gallery of traveling exhibits, a politically correct permanent exhibit, a kids science discovery exhibit, an exhibit on local natural history, and some rocks. The one exhibit that really stands out is the recently completed Dinosaur fossil exhibit, featuring a huge Diplodocus (spelling?), the first that is displayed in the newly theorized correct position with the tail rigid and sticking out off the ground.
The Science Museum Of Minnesota is a world leader in producing OMNI-Max movies. Seasons, Ring Of Fire, and Tropical Rainforest were produced partly or fully by the Science Museum of Minnesota. I believe that The Beavers and To The Limit were also produced locally. The OMNI-Max theater has daily showings from 10Am to 9PM. Weekday evenings are usually the best time to visit.
Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2012, all rights reserved.
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