Thursday Doors – New England Air Museum

Main entrance
Museum Entrance

Last Friday, our boss decided to close the office at noon to let us get an early start on a long holiday weekend. One of my coworkers was in town for the week from his normal remote office in Chicago. He was heading home Friday, but not at noon. Since I live at near the airport (BDL), I usually drive him to the airport. We often leave early enough to enjoy an adult beverage once we get close, however, we didn’t want to spend an afternoon sitting in a bar. We decided to have lunch and then tour the New England Air Museum (NEAM) which is located on BDL’s perimeter road.

While we were still at work, his airline called and offered him a chance to get out on an earlier flight. Our weather was taking a turn for the worse, with severe thunderstorms and a possible tornado entering the forecast. We still had time for a quick tour of the museum, but I felt compelled to point out a little irony of which, I was pretty sure, he was unaware.

As far as I know, Windsor Locks has had two tornadoes. One very minor one a couple of years ago, and one very powerful one in 1979. The one in 1979…destroyed…the Air Museum. What a great place to go hang out during a storm watch. Here are some pictures from 1979.

Like most air museums, NEAM is fairly small but chockablock full of planes and artifacts of the history of flight. In addition, due to the proximity of Sikorsky and Kaman corporations, NEAM has more than the normal compliment of helicopters, including some very early models.

Restoration Hangar
Restoration Hangar

We arrived at the museum with barely an hour before I had to get my buddy to the airport. I told him that, since I’ve been there before, we could look at anything he wanted to see, but that we had to leave 15 minutes to see the B-29 Superfortress. “Jack’s Hat” had been acquired by the museum before the tornado, but in the aftermath of the tornado, staff and volunteers were too busy rebuilding the museum to start a major restoration. Work began in 1999, and for years, we waited. We followed the progress in the local papers, and one tour that I took included a look inside the restoration hangar. When they started building the B-29 Hangar, we started to get excited. We were not disappointed, the volunteer crew had done a marvelous job.

Looking at some of the early planes, and considering that people have been flying for only a little over 100 years, the progress is truly amazing. Some of those early contraptions look absolutely scary. When you stop and think that, at some point, a person had to climb in there and “take it up” you just have to wonder how we ever made any progress.

So, here’s to the aviation pioneers, the people who designed, built, tested and flew us into the age of flight. Here’s to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard aviators who protect this country during peacetime and during war. And, here’s to the volunteers who locate, research, restore and repair these relics so that we can look, learn and imagine.

This post is part of Norm Frampton’s door-addiction-support-group, known as Thursday Doors. If you have the urge to add a door, or just a desire to see even more doors, hop fly on over to Norm’s place. Check out his door(s) and click the little blue button.

In keeping with the theme, I focused mainly on doors. That said, if you’re an airplane, helicopter or mechanical buff, the second gallery includes photos of some of the other exhibits

82 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – New England Air Museum

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    1. Thanks! I’ve taken many people through NEAM. I never get tired of seeing the exhibits. They have several planes outside as well. Now I have to get to Chicago with enough time to tour the Museum of Science and Industry.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Many great memories here, and in the other wonderful aviation museums around the country. I had the pleasure of building a career selling to the great manufacturing companies in New England and spent a lot of time on the manufacturing floor of Sikorsky Aircraft, United Aircraft (now United Technologies),Pratt & Whitney Engines, Kaman Aircraft, Grumman Aerospace and Boeing.

    My most memorable sales call was a at Sikorsky Aircraft when my customer had to take a confidential telephone call – so I stepped out into the hall. I began to explore the immediate area when I felt a gun at the back of my head and stern instructions to stop and turn around. I was face-to-face with a not too happy U.S. Marine guard. It seems I had wondered down to a classified area where they were performing maintenance on Marine One, the president’s helicopter. You can imagine the embarrassment when my customer had to come down to retrieve me and validate who I was and why I was in the building that day!

    On a more friendly day at Pratt & Whitney I had an opportunity to stand inside the engine cowl that was destined for a Boeing 747 aircraft . . . I looked like an ant.

    I also had the pleasure of providing our donated services to microfilm and scan the important documents and engineering drawings associated with the restoration of the 1945 Corsair aircraft produced by United Aircraft for a project undertaken by former employees. The project was called “Restoring Connecticut’s State Aircraft to Flight.”

    You can see one of the documents we microfilmed on their website:

    http://www.connecticutscorsair.com/pages/Connecticut%20Corsair%20restoration_project.htm

    Thanks for bringing back many wonderful memories of Connecticut and the critical role they have played in United States aviation history. This summer I will make my fifth trip out to the Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB to see the new building and displays that opened in June.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Bob. You had a very rich experience during your career. Unlike so many people I knew in consulting jobs, you didn’t waste any opportunities to learn. I worked in many manufacturing plants and I always tried to wrangle a tour. I will see the museum at Wright-Patterson some day. My best so far was when one of my best friends took me on a tour of the Imperial War Museum in Duxford England.

      I’m trying to imagine two things. 1) Bob looking small in that engine, and 2) Bob speechless, facing the Marine guard :)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The only thing that would have made the tour better was a drink in the hand while wandering through the museum ;)
    Love the Skycrane – even before you said it, I thought it looked like a giant bug :)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Joanne. If they served drinks, we would have been there much longer. The Skycranes used to fly on training runs, picking up cargo, flying it around and dropping it off again. The speed and accuracy of the crews was amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Obviously, you made it to the airport in time, your friend got home safely, and nothing happened to the Air Museum. I love the Jack’s Hack plane, but only because it’s shiny and has cool art work. This is a nice twist on doors, Dan. If you like planes and ever get to my area, the EAA museum is in Oshkosh. They are getting ready for the annual air adventure festivities, where thousands of planes and people from all over the world converge. It’s a great time if you love experimental aircraft and commiserating with like minds.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. With all the things you guys have, parades, festivals, football games and now, air shows, I’m going to have to plan a long stay, or multiple trips. From NEAM website: “Gary Velasco, nationally known nose art artist, volunteered to paint the plane as “JACK’S HACK,” serial number 44-61566, which served on Tinian with the 468th Bomb Group of the 58th Bomb Wing.”

      I did get my friend to the airport. It didn’t occur to me that, since my hand was stamped, I could have gone back to the museum :(

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  4. We have our Naval Aviation Museum here and I love walking through to see the old planes. These are wonderful and such great take on doors. I hope your friend enjoyed it–and made his flight!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. In early 70’s I worked for RCA’s Government Defense Systems in Burlington, MA. One of our classified projects at the time was putting the first night vision cameras into the nose of Huey helicopters. One by one they would fly in to get retrofitted for this new technology and then head back to Viet Nam again. The person who invented the camera was one of my draftsmen (no computers or CAD systems back then) and I couldn’t get him a “special award” because he did not go to college and was not classified as an “engineer.” Larry Brown was his name, and I almost got fired when I told RCA what I thought of their recognition program – especially when we all knew what an incredible invention this was and the role it would play in the Viet Nam war I did quit a few years later – totally frustrated with large corporations and the way they think.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s a sad and interesting story Bob. People should be recognized for the value of the contribution.

          I often think about the technology available at the time certain things were made/invented/built. It amazes me sometimes.

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  5. It really is remarkable to think how we’ve been flying for such a relatively short period of time. What gets me is how we had NO airplanes of ANY kind for millennia … then the Wright brothers do their thing, and within a few decades, we not only have jets flying all over the place, but we’re on the moon, for pity’s sake. It feels like so much progress packed into a fairly short burst of time, when you think about it. Anyway, thanks for the virtual tour, Dan!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I love flight museums. Chico, CA, where I learned to fly, has lots of warbirds on their field. It was pretty cool to taxi out in my little Cessna following a Mustang or a Stearman. Hey, look, I’m a pilot, too. :)

    I also had the privilege of speaking with a man who was the belly gunner in the their flying fortress. The nerve it took to face battle in that little bubble on the bottom was awe-inspiring for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I need to make a trip to the museum. Small or large the history of aviation is amazing. Ever get a chance, come visit Udvar Hazy Air and Space museum just outside of DC. I am honored to volunteer here – a timeless place.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I always enjoy places like this. If I were about to board a plane, I’d rather have the drink, but otherwise, yes, museums over bars. Love the Waco plane, what an interesting design, I don’t think I’ve seen that design before.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. What a neat Door Theme this week, and a better choice than the bar.

    When I saw the first big cargo helicopter and read your comment about it looking like a bug I thought of that part in the Book of Revelation where in the battle of Armageddon there are flying bugs shooting fire creating all sorts of devastation or something like that description..anyway, I thought while reading that as a teenager that those were helicopters. I have no idea why that popped into my head looking at that helicopter, but it did.

    I’ve never flown in a Helicopter but would like to. I bet it would be a tummy tickling ride. :)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Deborah. I haven’t (yet) been in a helicopter. I think it will happen. The Skycranes are pretty weird looking when flying empty. One summer, when we had a bunch of forest fires here, they were making trip after trip carrying a water-dumping contraption. They really did look like a flying bug carting off its prey.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m so happy to read this post but sad that I can’t visit this place. I love visiting such museums where you get to see a piece of history at a close distance. Almost a decade ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Indian Army exhibition in Mumbai where army men were exhibiting the weapons, tanks, and technology that they use on the battlefield. They demonstrated how they use it (of course without firing any weapon) and luckily I got the chance to operate Bofors Gun. Later on, at some other exhibition event, I had the opportunity to see helicopters and submarines used by the Navy in the India-Pakistan War and I was so thrilled to feel it and see it from inside.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. These are great places to visit Sharukh. You really are touching history because most of these planes flew (civilian and military) for many years. I love the Bofos Guns.

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  11. Your New England Air Museum is amazing, Dan. Yours has exhibits I have never seen before!
    I have been several times to our Dayton Air Force Museum. It has some real relics and wonderful exhibits. Every time I go, I see something “new” or “in a new way.”
    My grandsons like the little planes, which fought in WWI, since one exhibit is an example of what Snoopy rode in his latest movie fighting the “Red Baron” in “The Peanuts Movie.” :)
    My ex-husbands, both Air Force men, used to take us to Air Shows at Rickenbacker Air Force Base. There is not much more inspiring than to see the air formations, turns, dives and stunts, in my mind.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Dan this is a great take on the “doors” theme. It was exciting to look at all the old flying machines. I especially liked the Waco YKC-S and the executive transport was very cool. Thanks for sharing all of them. Have a thriving Thursday. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. What an amazing place. We’ve come a long way indeed since the early days of flying. Thanks for taking us in. Have always been blown away by planes, the bigness and functions of such machines, the technology and constant advances.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I agree with you, Dan, some of those plans are really scary looking. How on earth do they even fly? You wouldn’t even catch me trying to fly in one! Really awesome pictures which I looked at for a long time. Amazing place this museum and so much more interesting then a bar. LOL <3

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t been anywhere “interesting” like a museum in so long. Once my fur babies have moved on, then I can think of doing so. My Heart is where my Home is and Home I am oh believe me, right where I am. And happy. <3

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Love air museums – In San Diego (Navy) is a great one on an aircraft carrier with many war planes. You caught some great details!
    I wouldn’t exactly include myself in the door addiction, because often am thinking – Oh, it’s Wednesday, better start looking for a door:) Me thinks I have more of a sky addiction:)
    Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Unusual but very interesting collection this week, Dan. Now I’m itching to travel up to Foynes, county Limerick, to the Flying Boat Museum. (On July 9th 1939, the luxury Pan Am Flying Boat, the ‘Yankee Clipper’ landed at Foynes, this was the first commercial passenger flight on a direct route from the USA to Europe). I’ve never been to the museum, but I’m told it’s well worth the trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Peter. On some of the really old stuff, you can actually see how those guys built everything by hand, from commonly available parts. I always find that fascinating.

      Like

    1. I understand, and I even thought about not featuring the weapons, but it’s hard to separate them out. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to link the progress we’ve made to the military nature. The girl is my daughter and she is pretty cute. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. The last time I was at an aircraft museum was in the 1980s at Lowery Airforce Base. Lowery hadn’t flown planes from it’sr airstrips since the 1950s. A few of the old hangers were designated for museum along with the land around them. Never climbed into a cockpit, though. Lowery is gone; one of the many bases that was done away with after Desert Storm.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Oh nooooo….isn’t it funny those small details that even the most detail oriented of us can still overlook? When I recently took a friend to St Augustine for the day, I parked-and paid- in our usual spot. After awhile we wanted to visit the Ice Plant distillery which was too far for us to walk without really knowing the way. After out tour and not being able to eat there as we had hoped, I said it was too bad we had moved because we would have to pay again. My friend siad, “well, he said it was paid for all day….” I still had my ticket, so back we went for a bit more shopping! I had never even thought of it. I would have enjoyed that museum too. The Aviation was my faborite Smithsonian exhibition.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Hi D – love your door slash history posts – and our local space museum used to be included access with part of the admission with our science museum membership – but yet we only went once – and I did not even go.
    Down in Florida – in Titusville (space coast) is my fav and it is a warbirds air museum – you can get inside some of them! Or you could in 92 – maybe not now —/ litigious society – wink

    Liked by 1 person

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