November 30, 2014

Photo Essay: In Praise of the Flightless Planes at Palm Springs Air Museum

Even after having spent weeks at a time living in Joshua Tree, there are still plenty of places I haven't yet visited in the area – from the High Desert to the low.

It's not that they're new – after all, the desert doesn't change so quickly – but that there's just never enough time to do everything.

I've been aching to spend some time down desert, but my current budget doesn't allow for much travel or even one overnight stay, so I decided to make Palm Springs a (200 mile, five hour) day trip.

On my way to Robolights (which, honestly, was worth the trip), I had just enough time... check out the collection of warbirds at the Palm Springs Air Museum...

...which includes a Grumman A-6 Intruder and a Douglas A-4 Skyhawk on their front lawn alone.

You can get up close and personal with many of these historic fighter aircraft of the various Armed Forces efforts of the 20th Century... the McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet...

...and a Grumman F-14 "Tomcat."

Once you actually pay admission and enter the museum, there are two hangars full of planes...

...the North/European...

...and the South Pacific...

...devoted to World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, respectively.

Outside on the tarmac, adjacent to the runways of the Palm Springs Airport, there's a Sikorsky H-34 helicopter...

...which was designed and built for the Navy in 1954 but was also used by the U.S. Army and, lastly, the Marines during the Vietnam War.

The museum closes at 5 p.m., but during the winter, that's too late.

You've got until about 4 p.m. before the sun dips behind the mountain and you lose all the light.

But just before you lose the sun, the light is fantastic...

...illuminating planes like the Navy's 1958 Grumman C-1A Trader "Blue Ghost #6"... well as other fantastic tail art...

...and glimmering off the propellor of the F4U Corsair.

Many of these plans operated from relatively small carriers, like the Grumman F8F Bearcat ("Bob's Bear").

A few of the static planes have been displayed showing a cross-section of their wings or other parts...

...but some of these planes (like perhaps the "Simply Wicked" Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 jet fighter "Notorious Natasha"?) have been completely refurbished, and can still actually fly.

A surprising highlight of the museum is the Fairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcar" from the Korean War, built in 1950 by Kaiser Aircraft Company.

This particular model was left abandoned in Alaska...

...and then purchased with the intention of creating an educational exhibit in honor of the fallen soldiers of the war.

Its condition was kept as original as possible (with some restoration for comfort and safety) and you can actually go into it and sit in the cockpit and walk around.

But this puppy won't ever fly again – what was salvaged had been cut off from the rest of the plane, just in front of the wing.

For those that are grounded forever, basking in the golden sun, it's a good life in Palm Springs, where they can be restored and stay that way, not exposed to the humidity or other weather elements that tend to erode and age historic artifacts like this.

I guess not all birds have to fly.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Blackbird Airpark, Before Open Hours
Photo Essay: The Proud Bird Restaurant, Before Closing
Photo Essay: Long Beach Airport's 90th Anniversary Fly-In
Photo Essay: Planespotting at Santa Monica Airport
Elegy for the Flightless Bird

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