Tuesday, November 04, 2014

A trip to the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum

This past Friday weather looked good for flying, so Aaron and I took off and headed northeast to visit the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, PA.

The flight into Reading was uneventful and took about an hour and a half under some low clouds. My camera was close to dead so I got no in-flight pictures, but when we landed at Reading and taxied over to the FBO adjacent to the museum, we got plenty.

They have this wonderful P2V Neptune there, which actually flies, or at least used to and might again with a bit of TLC.
An old Anti-submarine warplane that pre-dated the P-3 and S-2, a few still soldier on today as fire-bombers. I saw another one at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Arizona this summer. This one is in better shape though.
Supposedly they still fly this one to airshows a few times a year.
Here's a DC-3 that supposedly flies, too.
And a P-84 that doesn't, and probably never will again.
Pity. Even in decay, she's still got beautiful lines.
Their website claims that this Sikorsky HH-52A still flies, but with the rotors missing, I have my doubts.
As to the helicopters behind it...doubtful they'll ever see the sky again.

Over in the corner though is a Fairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcar".
She looks pretty rough too, but it looks like all of the big pieces are there, at least.
Most of the rest of the outdoor birds are in a condition that just kinda make you want to cry.

But their indoor collection is another matter entirely. Jammed into a way-too-small hangar is an eclectic collection of military and civilian aircraft that would make any aircraft aficionado drool. To start with, you walk in the door and nearly knock yourself out on this Grumman TBM Avenger.
This particular one flew to Thunder Over Michigan this year and we saw it there, but it didn't fly, much to my disappointment.
This one survived to be restored as it was kept in service as a fire-bomber while most of it's brothers were scrapped.
There's a B-25 Mitchell in there, too. It's shoe-horned in tight.
Beneath the wing of the Mitchell sits a beautiful Ercoupe. I thought for a while that I might wind up having to fly one of these since they have no rudder or brake pedals.
They've got a cherry 1944 Aeronca 65-TAC in there.
And they've got an N3N-3 trainer.
They've got a Vultee Valiant that lights my fire nicely.
And an SNJ.
But the hallmark of the collection at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum is this rare beauty undergoing reconstruction in the back corner:

A Northrop P-61 "Black Widow" night fighter. One of only four left in the world.
This gem was recovered in the late 1980's from a mountainside in New Holland, where it had lain since it crashed there in 1945.
It's undergoing a total restoration, (documented here) and when complete, it will be the only flying P-61 in existence.
New motor mount to hold the new engine.
New skin being fitted.
Taking shape nicely. Seeing this warbird rising like a phoenix from it's wreckage was worth the trip here all by itself.
After paying homage to the collection, we hit the gift shop then flew back home, catching a nice tailwind and making it back in about an hour. By the time we got down and put the plane to bed, some of our fellow shooters were letting me know that they were in town for the next day's shoot, so an impromptu gathering was arranged at the local Japanese Steakhouse. It was truly a good day.


  1. The MAAM is a fine place. They have a "WW2 Comemorative Weekend" every year. I have not been in a few years (The curse of the tiny business), but have seen the B25, and the R4D fly, and they usually draw some other warbirds as well. Reenactors, weapons display, and the last time I went, a military and avaition flea market. What is not to like?
    One year a while back I got to meet one of my absolute heros there, Gabby Gabreski... He was signing his book. That was a moment I will forever cherish.
    Jesse in DC

  2. Wow....I didn't know there weren't ANY Black Widows left flying!

  3. Nice collection, there. I've got to get over the air museum here again, and soon.

    1. I really enjoyed the one there in Anchorage. Take lots of pictures, ok?

  4. Anonymous11:52 PM

    Thanks for sharing these pictures

  5. Anonymous9:06 AM

    The outdoor collection reminds me of the one at the New England Air Museum (Bradley Field, Ct). Lots of fascinating bits and pieces hiding out there, some of them slowly but surely being worked on.

  6. A slight correction.
    You referred to a "Grumman TBM."
    The Avengers made by Grumman were TBFs. (The F at the end meant "made by Grumman.")
    After 1943, Grumman built nothing but F6F Hellcats. Avenger production was switched to General Motors, and the TBF became the TBM. (he M meaning "made by GM.")Also, the F4F (Grumman) Wildcat was switched to General Motors and became the FM-2.
    I know this because my late father flew 76 combat missions in the ball turret of an Avenger.

    1. Yes sir, you're right. Mea Culpa, nbut I got lazy and just grabbed the designation of the museum's own website, which lists it as a "TBM-3". But you're correct. Thanks for the catch, and thank for your father's service.

  7. Hopefully that 61 flies in the next couple of years!