February 02, 2015

Photo Essay: The Retired Big Boys at March Field Air Museum

The longer I'm in California, the more I meet kindred spirits who like to seize the day the way I do – planning, organizing, and routing their adventures to get maximum impact out of an excursion.

I'm also realizing that there are other people – people actually my age – who also like trains and planes and such things.

But the key to actually spending time with these kindred spirits is maintaining one's own independence: arrive together, but explore freely and separately, taking time to reconvene and compare notes, and then parting ways again, no feelings hurt, still a shared experience.

At the March Field Air Museum, I was happy to wander off from my companion – immediately drawn to the big boys out on the field...

...the huge, larger than life aircraft that seem almost impossible to fly... the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.

It is known as the Big Ugly Fat Fellow (BUFF)...

...but I think it's gorgeous.

Next to it is the Boeing B-47 Strato Jet Bomber, designed to fly at high subsonic speed and altitude...

...and the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker...

...designed specifically for aerial refueling.

Although not all of these planes have actually seen combat...

...they were all used throughout the 20th Century...

...through many wars and conflicts... Vietnam...

...and the Persian Gulf.

Some of these aircraft – like the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter – are giant enough to lift and transport large and heavy cargo.... well as precious human cargo.

It became known as the "Hanoi Taxi" after bringing home nearly 600 American prisoners being held captive in North Vietnam.

The planes were once used by the Navy, Air Force, Army, and Air National Guard...

...though now they rest at the airfield adjacent to the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, CA.

They came from all over the country for us to be able to see them here.

The big beautiful Boeing KC-97L was actually too big and too slow to refuel the new jet aircraft only 20 years after it was introduced, so it was retired in 1973.

The Boeing B-29A, used extensively in the Korean War, similarly was phased out in the advent of jet fighters of the period.

The Douglas A-26C, redesignated the B-26 in 1948, was the last aircraft to bomb North Korea in 1953.

There's a ton of history here...

...and given the condition of the aircraft... must assume that these are the ones that survived.

Many others did not.

There is so much to look at in the display of heritage aircraft at March Field, and in its Main Hangar and Restoration Hangar...

...but it's a special treat to be able to peek inside one of the historic helicopters...

...and catch the last remaining rays of sunlight reflecting off the shiny wings and windows that abound.

And then, it's time to move onto the next adventure.

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

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