Saturday, October 07, 2006

2004 Summer Vacation, Day 3

August 12, 2004

Westerly, RI to Hartford CT, and back
134 sm -- by car

Mother Nature rears her ugly head again this morning. Another line of thunderstorms is stationed across a line from Poughkeepsie, NY, through northwestern Connecticut and Massachusetts into New Hampshire. There's another line moving east out of northwestern Maine. Basically, we're trapped. We can't get anywhere, at least not with any confidence that we'll be able to get back tonight. And I for one don't relish the prospect of camping through a thunderstorm. Reluctantly, we scrub today's flight in the name of safety.

In keeping with the aviation them of this vacation, however, Dad suggests we drive up to Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, CT, to visit the New England Aviation Museum (NEAM). So, we pile into the trusty Ford Escort wagon and head out.

For the price of a couple of gallons of Avgas, you certainly get your money's worth. NEAM has dozens of priceless aircraft on display - including a fully restored B-29, named "Jack's Hack." The aircraft is so massive that it is housed in a building unto itself, with the vertical stabilizer seemingly ready to punch a hole in the roof.

Crammed into several other buildings are all kinds of flying machines, from military fighters and bombers to helicopters, civilian transports, ultralights, homebuilts, and more. There's a fascinating exhibit on the Aviation Volunteer Guard, otherwise known as the "Flying Tigers" of World War II. There's also a treasure trove of engines and other aircraft accessories. One of my favorites was a prototype "zero-gravity toilet" intended for use aboard the International Space Station.

Parked outside the buildings are about a dozen or so vintage aircraft, most of them military in nature. Among the standouts are a Grumman Albatross flown by the Coast Guard, a MiG fighter, a Skycrane helicopter, and a Grumman E-1B, an early form of AWACS aircraft. One of my favorites was a Sud Caravelle VI-R sporting an Airborne Express livery that you can enter and explore. That cockpit has so many more switches and dials than my 172. I can see why flight crews used to include a Flight Engineer!

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