Warner Robins, GA – Yesterday I took a trip to see the new additions to the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB. They’ve recently acquired a B-17G, P-51H, and a MRAP. I was particularly interested in seeing the B-17G and P-51H, both of which are still undergoing restoration. It turned out to be a great day to visit because unbeknownst to me when I planned the trip, today was the day the restoration crew was putting the propeller on the P-51H!
The B-17G Flying Fortress (44-83690) that the Museum of Aviation recently acquired was formerly at the Grissom Air Museum in Peru, IN. It had been on outdoor display there for 54 years and was moved to the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB by the Air Force Museum Program because they could display it indoors. 44-83690 is an historically significant aircraft. Even though it didn’t see combat in World War II, it was part of the development of nuclear weapons during the Cold War. It was delivered on 9 May 1945 and initially put into storage at Wright Patterson AFB, OH prior to being assigned to the Air Material Command at South Plains, TX in November 1945 and Pyote Field, TX in June 1947. In 1951 it was assigned to Operation Greenhouse at Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands as part of nuclear bomb testing. In 1956, it was assigned to the 3235th Drone Squadron, Missile Test Center at Patrick AFB, FL. At the time, 44-83690 was one of the last B-17s on active duty in the US Air Force and was removed from the inventory in August 1960. 44-83690’s final flight was in 1961 when it flew to Grissom AFB, IN for display.
It is currently in its new home, the Museum of Aviation’s World War II Scott Hangar, where the museum’s B-29 is also displayed. Awaiting assembly, it reminds me a lot of when the Mighty 8th Air Force Museum in Pooler received its B-17 in January 2009. Just as the Mighty Eighth has, the Museum of Aviation will be restoring 44-83690 in the public eye, in its place in the hangar, instead of hiding it then bringing it out fully done. I’m looking forward to making periodic visits to track their progress!
The P-51H Mustang (44-64265) was formerly at the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum in Rantoul, IL. Unfortunately the Chanute Museum is closing and the Air Force decided to move 44-64265 to the Museum of Aviation. The Museum of Aviation already has a P-51, but it is a replica. For it’s “real” Mustang, this aircaft is a great acquisition; as an H-model, it is a rare Mustang the 105th of H models produced. Only six P-51H aircraft remain in existence and 44-64265 is the only one on public display. Although it shows “kill markings” on the fuselage, 44-64265 never saw combat service; instead it has been painted to resemble the aircraft Ace Claude Crenshaw flew in World War II, “Louisiana Heatwave.”
44-64265 is currently in the Century of Flight Hangar at the Museum of Aviation, next to the SR-71 and under the RQ-4A Global Hawk. Just as they’re doing with the B-17G, the P-51H is being restored in public, but eventually it will be moved to the Scott Hangar after the aircraft there are rearranged so it can fit. It is much farther along in the restoration/assembly process and will certainly be finished first. As I mentioned above (and seen in the photos above), today happened to be the day that the propeller was being attached to 44-64265. I happened across the crew getting ready to start while touring the museum and spent about a half hour watching them work and using my phone to take some video:
Also in the Museum of Aviation’s Century of Flight Hangar is an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle). This MRAP is a Force Protection, Inc. Cougar A2 Cat I, USAF registration number 08L00124, which saw service with the Air Force Office of Special Investigation in Afghanistan. In January 2014, 08L00124 struck a mine in Afghanistan; the vehicle did its job – none of its occupants were seriously injured – and was returned to service after repairs. The Museum of Aviation has long told the story of the Air Force’s history in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, and Vietnam, but with the addition of aircraft like the RQ-4A Global Hawk and vehicles like the MRAP, they’re now telling the story of the Air Force in our more recent wars.
Over the next few days, I’ll post some more photos of other aircraft and displays, but I wanted to limit this post to the new acquisitions. It’s worth mentioning that on this visit, I did something a bit different; instead of carrying the Canon DSLR around I took all of the photos and video with my Samsung Note 4 smart phone. It looks like it didn’t do too bad.