So, to kick things off: we flew out of the Rochester airport early Saturday morning and, after a layover in Minneapolis-St. Paul (our favorite airport, along with Detroit's), arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah early in the afternoon. Donna and Jonathan had made the 3-hour drive down from their home in Idaho Falls and met us at the SLC airport. We went for a nice picnic lunch in a local park, and then we drove north toward Ogden, Utah and Hill Air Force Base outside that city. There we stopped for a visit at Hill Aerospace Museum, which boasts a truly impressive collection of aircraft from World War II through the jet age, housed in two hangers and a large outdoor park. Donna and Jonathan apparently wanted to make sure we did some things I'd especially like, and they hit a home run with this one!
The collection at Hill is competitive with those at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, and even the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. It includes rare items such as WWII's "fork-tailed" Lockheed P-38 Lightning; the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, which dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the Republic-Ford JB-2, an American copy of the German V-1 "buzz bomb"; and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which recently retired from service as the fastest and most advanced strategic reconnaissance aircraft in the world. My only complaint was that the museum's two hangers still aren't large enough for its extensive indoor collection, resulting in insufficient space between the planes to permit good viewing and photographing. We didn't have nearly enough time before closing to explore the place as thoroughly as I would have liked, but I still got good pictures of some of the world's most breathtaking and historically significant aircraft. I've gathered some of my favorites below:
This is the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, the aircraft that leveled Japanese cities with incendiary and atomic bombs in WWII.
The other most famous American bomber of WWII was the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. The Hill Museum's B-17 was just too big to get a good picture of, but here are Donna and Jonathan standing beneath its open bomb bay door (don't let that thing fall on your heads!).
The North American B-25 Mitchell , an American twin-engined medium bomber used in every theater of WWII, first gained fame as the bomber that carried out the 18 April 1942 Doolittle Raid, in which 16 carrier-launched B-25Bs attacked mainland Japan four months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I love all those guns bristling from its nose!
The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk was an American fighter and ground attack aircraft used in several theaters of WWII. Built at Curtiss-Wright Corporation's main production facility at Buffalo, New York, the P-40 gained fame in service with the "Flying Tigers," an American volunteer unit of the Republic of China Air Force in operations against the Japanese.
The Republic-Ford JB-2 "Loon" was a United States copy of the German V-1 flying bomb. Developed in 1944 and planned to be used in the United States invasion of Japan, the JB-2 was never used in combat, but played a significant role in the development of more advanced surface-to-surface tactical missile systems.
The distinctive nose of the North American F-86 Sabre, which gained distinction in fighting the Soviet MiG-15 during the Korean War.
The North American F-100 Super Sabre was a jet fighter aircraft that served with the United States Air Force from 1954 to 1971, and was the first USAF fighter capable of supersonic speed in level flight. The F-100 flew extensively over South Vietnam as the Air Force's primary close air support jet.
The Republic F-105 Thunderchief was a supersonic fighter-bomber which bore the brunt of strike bombing over North Vietnam during the early years of the Vietnam War. This two-seat "Wild Weasel" version was developed for use in the specialized Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) role against surface-to-air missile sites.
A little more up-to-date: the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon (or "Viper," as its pilots like to call it) is a multirole jet fighter widely regarded as the most nimble and versatile fighter aircraft in the world.
If you're ever out in the Salt Lake City area, be sure to set aside a few hours to linger at the Hill Aerospace Museum and experience aviation history first hand!