When the Cessna 172 Skyhawks, routinely approaching Farmingdale’s Republic Airport, is reduced to shadows behind four-engine heavy bombers, World War II has either resumed or the American Airpower Museum holds one of its commemorative events to, ironically, do just that. The Legends of Airpower program, which took place during Memorial Day weekend in 2014, was one of them.
Located in the very airport that is New York State’s largest public aviation field, it was even launched after receiving a $ 250,000 grant from then-Governor George E. Pataki and located in historic Hangar 3, one of several structures built at a $ 500,000 cost during World War II, having served as the point of incubation for approx. 9,000 Indigenous Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighters considered part of the nation’s “arsenal of democracy.”
“The American Airpower Museum is an archive of artifacts that works as they did in previous years,” said Jeffrey Clyman, its president and founder. “(It’s) a living history museum … communicating across generations and to generations who will never experience the emotional intensity, the inevitable cruelty inflicted on those who could not defend themselves …”
Dedicated during the airport’s annual Pearl Harbor Day Commemorative Service in 2000, it became a living tribute to Long Island’s veteran population by honoring the past with the present and declaring its mission as “where history flies.”
“… Using the extraordinary machines shown here,” Clyman said, “(we) defended those who were defenseless.”
Colonel Francis Gabreski, who had been Long Island’s highest ranking WWII and had scored most of his victories in the very P-47 aircraft produced here, had served as the museum’s commander of honor.
Throngs of people, from infants to war veterans, occupied the ramp on the bright, almost warm summer-threshold Memorial Day weekend, explaining the unbroken chain of parked cars lining every side of the New Highway that accessed it.
Here it was resurrected by sight, sound and sensation, military aviation and the purpose the museum served.
A pair of L-39 Albartrosses, Soviet jet trainers with an engine that first flew in 1968 and contained maximum speeds of 570 km / h, emitted ear piercing seats as they waited for seats on the taxi in front of the museum, while a Dassault Falcon a business jet, a glimpse of the airport’s true general aviation purpose, thundered down runway 19, permeating the air with the smell of jet fuel.
A moment later, the threshold passed a B-17 Flying Fortress sporting its expansive wings and four radial engines, jerking concrete and braking.
Uniformed “servicemen and women” coming out of the museum’s Ready Room after their mission card arrived out of the cavernous hangar to the blinding sun as the olive-green C-47 Skytrain taxed on the ramp and disgorged its previous “parachute” complement after the propellers had stopped turning.
As the military counterpart to the Douglas DC-3 airplane – the most widely used aircraft of all time – it originally served in the Berlin Airlift and later joined the four-engine C-54 Skymaster, even the military version of the Douglas DC-4 . After eventually serving with the Israeli Air Force, the museum’s example, sports seats and parachute hookups, the troop deployment participated during D-Day operations across Normandy.
Symbolic of the era and area, the P-47 Thunderbolt itself, the largest and heaviest single-engine piston fighter at a speed of 467 mph, stood on the ramp next to the very hangar that had hatched it.
In the middle of the voice of Ronald Reagan, who told the constantly-playing documentary about the Tuskegee Airmen in the hangar, a short line of interested patrons had been formed to talk to and buy DVDs made by one of the actual pilots, which consisted of this group.
Heavy waves of motion-anticipated music from the signature “Highway to the Danger Zone” song from the movie Top Gun, the first of the two Albatrosses got its 180-degree left turn onto the runway and sported the now extended rear flap, spooling up its engine. He stepped in as a stallion detached from his starting gate and sneaked into his acceleration race, emerging skyward at a considerable angle after only seconds, leaving a trail of desert-warm, carbon-stretched exhaust and instant silence, carried by the fierce wind until a message broke it. “Last chance to claim the last seat on the Flying Fortress departure from 3 p.m.,” it advised.
The four-engine bomber, dubbed the “Yankee Lady” and currently marshaled into his parking position after his 2 a.m. flight, joined his less stable WWII North American B-25 Mitchell, “Miss Hap,” the ramp that has only half the number of power plants as its big brother.
As the fourth aircraft of the type to roll off the production line, the museum’s B-25, displaying serial number 40-2168 and the oldest surviving, was synonymous with the Jimmy Doolittle-led Tokyo raid, with 25 of them launched from decks on The USS Hornet in April 1942, demonstrating the American potential of the Pacific Theater of War.
Originally assigned to the 17th West Coast Reconnaissance Task Force, the medium-sized mission bomber offered at a speed of 284 mph at 15,000 feet and a range of 1,500 miles, but General Hap Arnold had a specific non-military purpose in that when he inspected a similar B-25 called the “Whiskey Express” used as a personal transport and decided he wanted one of his own. Choosing what would later become the museum’s example, he equipped it with an all-metal nose-placed trunk, sleeping spaces in the former bomb bay, additional passenger windows and a stern office.
He was hardly the only noted user of the type. After retiring from several civilian operators after the war, it was acquired by none other than the eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes, who flew it for his own personal purposes until it was removed from the civil registry and declared rescue in 1965. Yet it did not remove make the scrap heap.
Additional civilian owners kept it in the sky until Jeffrey Clyman bought it in 1989, and today it offers flight experiences to the museum’s “passengers” on scheduled days.
How pilots prepared for transition to medium and heavy bombers like these were indicated by another type in the museum’s collection, the pink, two-seater, open cockpit Waco UPF-7 biplane that first flew in 1923, but was widely employed in World War II civilian education program.
Although the B-25 was never designed for operator-borne operations, two other shipping companies that represented aircraft on the museum’s list were the Grumman TBM Avenger and Vought FG-1D, which are designed for torpedo bombing and combat roles, respectively.
Other conflict-associated aircraft, all powered by pure-jet engines, were also on the ramp that day, including the Republic of F-84 Thunderjet, one of the earliest fighter and attack bombers still sporting piston memories of straight wings and complete with range extension of tipping tanks; the swept-wing Republic RF-84 Thunderflash, in the 720 km / h photo camera type and the first equipped with cameras capable of taking photos from the horizon to the horizon; the sleek and swept Republic F-105 Thunderchief capable of speeds of 1,390 mph; and General Dynamics F-111, a long-range, all-weather, supersonic, variable-geometry strike aircraft originally deployed in Vietnam.
All were on loan from the Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
Shortly retained behind the fence until a Stuart tank rolled by, the latest uniformed “paratroopers” were commanded to “march” toward the pending C-47. Recently provided with them, the aircraft that made the short roll to the trajectory of runway 19 released the deep throaty roar from its two Pratt and Whitney engines at full throttle and surrendered to the sky with its outstretched wings, disappeared over the airport’s perimeter as it headed for the simulated beaches of Normandy on the south coast of Long Island.
World War II may not have been played out completely because of that Memorial Day, but it was resumed on air during the museum’s Legends of Airpower Memorial with the aircraft itself, which had been instrumental in the country’s first victory, and thousands who visited the museum that weekend unknowingly also hailed it.