One of the most significant museums in this country can be found in Pensacola. Especially if you are either a war buff or an aviation enthusiast. On the west side of town, directly across from Ft. Pickens and the National Park, lies the Pensacola Naval Air Station where the National Naval Aviation Museum stands, housed under a 291 thousand square foot dome roof. As we entered this spacious building, we were greeted by the well known statues of the five naval Marine Corp. aviators representing each of the 5 major wars since aviation began. The museum is completely privately funded and is free to the visitors. The receptionist near the door gave a brief explanation of what was available and invited us to take the next tour. We soon joined one of the 350 volunteers that just about run the show. Jim Veasey, a 20 year aviation veteran , flew the famed C-130 Hercules until 1984. For the next few hours we would wander through the hangar-sized building as he explained the ins and outs of Naval aviation along with some personal experiences and a couple of really good war stories. The planes were numerous, starting with the very first airplane the Navy acquired; the Curtis A-1 Triad which crashed in the first year of use and was never replaced. As we continued, we were introduced to the "Jenny". This was the most widely used trainer during the WWI period by the Navy. After the war this plane became the favorite of the barnstorming era when war-surplus models came into the hands of private owners. It was one of Glenn Curtis' best designs. One of my favorite stops was at the "Sopwith Camel". One of the most successful British fighters of WWI. After the war the US Navy acquired six for evaluation. One of the aircraft was fitted to a platform over the gun turrets of the Battleship Texas and made one of the first ever takeoffs from a ship in 1919. Unfortunately there was no way to land it back on the ship. Although lasting through a decade of prestigious service, its real claim to fame didn't come until the 1960s when Snoopy flew this historic aircraft up into the sky in pursuit of the Red Baron, as part of the Peanuts characters created by Charles Schultz.
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