Posts Tagged ‘Airplanes’

Valle of the Planes

April 5, 2011

The Valle of the Planes is located near the Grand Canyon in Arizona at Grand Canyon-Valle Airport, an old Trans World Airlines (TWA ) base and the former  Grand Canyon Airport. The museum houses a collection of more than twenty rare aircraft in one hangar and an outdoor park. The pride of the collection is a Lockheed C-121A, the military version of the famous Constellation airliner of the forties and fifties. This aircraft, built in 1949, has a distinguished history, starting with service during the Berlin Airlift in 1949-50.

            Following the end of the airlift, the aircraft was fitted with a deluxe interior for service as a VIP transport. It was issued to General Douglas MacArthur and was called the “Bataan,” after the infamous Bataan Death March which troops under MacArthur had endured in 1942. MacArthur used the Bataan during the Korean War, when he was Supreme Commander of Allied Powers. This airplane carried him to his famous meeting with President Harry S Truman on Wake Island, and to the United States after his dismissal by Truman for making political statements about the conduct of the war. In 1966, the Bataan was stripped of her interior and flown to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson. Later acquired by NASA, the airplane was fitted with computers and telemetry equipment and used in support of the Apollo moon program. Retired once again upon the drawdown of the space program, the Bataan was flown to Fort Rucker for display at the Museum of Army Flying. The aircraft was kept on outdoor display there, and was acquired the Grand Canyon Air Museum and restored to flying condition, it arrived in Arizona in April 1995. The Bataan represents the days when the Constellation was the “Queen of the Skies.” Visitors can take a guided tour of the interior of this historic aircraft.

            Another exhibit is a 1929 Ford 5-AT Trimotor, one of just three still flying in the world. Built by the Ford Motor Company, the Trimotor introduced new standards of luxury and speed. The aircraft on display at the Grand Canyon Air Museum served with various airlines in Central America, returning to the United States in the sixties for promotional work with TWA. This Ford Trimotor was used by Scenic Airlines for tourist flights over the Grand Canyon until Federal noise regulations forced its retirement.

            The museum is famous for its vintage fighter aircraft collection. The P-51A on display is one of the oldest Mustangs still flying. The F-86A is a Korean War veteran.

The Messerschmitt Bf109G-10 was captured in Germany at the end of World War II. This aircraft was flown from its base on the Eastern Front to surrender to the American forces near Munich in May 1945 because of the poor treatment of German fighter pilots by the Russians.

            During World War II, the United States alone produced more than three hundred thousand military aircraft. When the war ended, most of these airplanes were scrapped at vast disposal centers.

Tel: (520) 635-1000, Web Site: http://www.planesoffame.org/valle

Border Air Museum

January 1, 2011

Douglas, Arizona was the first international airport of the Americas. Aviation was an important part of the evolution of Douglas and was almost lost if it were not for Richard and Irma Westbrook. Richard, a 1949 Douglas High School graduate, worked for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA.) Westbrook was inducted in 1993 into the NASA Hall of Fame. The Border Air Museum was a gift to the City of Douglas by the widow of the late Richard Westbrook in 2002. Richard died before the museum was completed. The Border Air Museum houses Westbrook’s collection of air history.  

            The museum exhibits a Trojan airplane which was made in Douglas in the 1950s. Other exhibits include displays of American Airlines memorabilia, a wall of history of the Douglas Army Air Field with artifacts, an in-depth history of Douglas aviation, history of the Mexican Revolution and aviation in Douglas, Women’s Air History, and a history of Hollywood making films using the Douglas airport. There is a letter from the President Roosevelt declaring the Douglas airport “The First International Airport of the Americas.” It was the first airport in the state to have night flights.

            Douglas had the first airplane in the state of Arizona. In 1908, a group of Douglas men formed the Douglas Aeronautical Club and built a glider from mail order plans. This glider was pulled into the air by a two horse buggy equipped for release with an aerial hitch, from behind the YMCA building. A year later they added a motor and propeller and they had motorized airplane.

            By 1913 this airplane was famous locally as The Douglas Bomber. General John “Black Jack” Pershing, who led the U. S. expeditionary force to capture the notorious Pancho Villa, recruited Charles Ford and his Douglas Bomber to fly over the border and drop bombs south of Agua Prieta on the railroad tracks to stop supplies flowing into Villa’s troops. The bombs were made from lard buckets filled with dynamite, scrap metal and concrete.

            After World War I and the Mexican Revolution, Douglas became a take off point for barnstormers. These stunt pilots and aerialists–or barnstormers as they became known–performed amazing tricks with airplanes. Barnstorming was the first major form of civil aviation.  By the 1930s, the Douglas Airport was a stopping point for American Airlines, traveling from San Diego to San Antonio.

Border Air Museum,  East 10th Street & Airport Road, Douglas AZ 85607, Tel: 520-417-7344