Friday, August 31, 2007

Air Zoo, Part One

Part one of a series. Click any photo for larger version.

Here we go with another multi part series. This time I am featuring the Air Zoo, located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I recently vacationed in St. Joseph, and it was only one hour to drive from there to Kalamazoo. The Air Zoo is a very interesting museum that has in it all types of warplanes, but mostly World War Two era aircraft, which was fabulous for me to look at. Almost all of the aircraft are examples of US and British makes. It is laid out very nicely - they put this museum into a couple of old hangars right next to the Kalamazoo airport. In the entryway we find a P-40 hanging from the ceiling.

A fine example I might add, except for the color - couldn't they have chosen any color besides pink? I like the fact that they had the famous "Flying Tiger" mouth painted on the front, but this plane should have been army green all the way. Then again, it may not have been so dramatic a shot upon entering. My wife was impressed by this machine, until I told her it was really a piece of junk compared to the Japanese Zero of that time period. Man I really feel sorry for our pilots in the early days of WW2.

Upon entering the main hangar, you see this beautiful F-15. There are always debates over which jets are better by many interested in these types of things. I hear a lot of people saying the F-15 for its time was the best fighter around. I am no expert on jets, but I can say it sure looks pretty.

*Edit: Astro has corrected me in the comments, this is actually an F-14.*
Next to that F-15 is the SR71 Blackbird. I have always loved this plane. I had little Matchbox planes as a child that looked like this thing. Here is a pretty good wiki on this jet if you are interested. This plane is enormous - I could barely get back far enough to get it all in the frame.
Probably my favorite bomber of all time is the relatively small B-25 Mitchell. They had a fine example at the Air Zoo.
I think one of the most unbelievable things that I have ever read about WW2 is the practice in the Pacific theater of "skip bombing". The US pilots would take these B-25's and run them low and fast right at a Japanese ship. Then, when close (only a couple of hundred feet) they would let go a stick (a stick is usually four) of bombs and "skip" them, just like you skip a rock, into the ship. Sometimes the bombs would detonate in the ship, sometimes over the ship with an "airblast". Both produced good results. The danger involved in this is apparent, especially when you realize that these planes are typically travelling at 250 mph during these skip bombing runs. During the skip bombing runs the B-25 would also be strafing the target with its many 50 caliber machine guns. I have a book somewhere at home with my favorite all time WW2 photo of a Japanese ship with a crew on deck, and a bomb from a B-25 in freeze frame right above their heads, getting ready to kill them all. Here is some nice tail art on the B-25.


astro said...

Your "F-15" is actually a Navy F-14 Tomcat, Dan. Looks like it is painted as a Jolly Rogers jet.

Dan from Madison said...

wtf? Man I am rusty, tx for the correction.