Jets, Missiles and Hummers

A couple days after Joanne’s 90th birthday party, (see blog here) I had the awesome privilege to drive Kevin to the Omaha Airport so he could fly to some meetings. I say privilege because I had a relaxed hour to chat with one of my favorite people, and then I could stop by the Strategic Air Command Aerospace Museum on the way back. Cool, huh?

SAC Aerospace Museum

I realize that I wrote about visiting this museum a couple of years ago, (see blog here) but I resolved to take pictures of the most interesting planes, and keep the shots to a minimum. Well, I didn’t do too well at that resolution… far to many are interesting to me!! The good news is that only 3 pictures look like duplicates of last time.

The Strategic Air Command was very impressive to me as a young boy. They had B-52 bombers in the air, 24 hours/day, armed and ready for any potential attack. This museum shows America’s air defenses over the years.

The entrance is still dominated by the magnificent SR-71. (They will never move this – it’s pretty well built into the building.) I still think this is one of the most amazing planes ever built… it flew higher and faster than pretty much anything, even to this day. And it was created in the 60’s using slide rules.

Next up is the U-2, made famous when Gary Powers was shot down in one over Russia. He was taking intelligence pictures for the CIA, and was captured and tried as a spy. He spent over two years in Soviet Prisons. A sad side note is that this pilot, for a while probably one of the best known names in the world, died in a helicopter accident in Southern California. He was flying for KNBC news traffic reports, and ran out of fuel less than a mile from the airport. Tragic and ironic.

Next I got to read hours’ worth of info on Jimmy Doolittle’s daring surprise bombing raid on Tokyo after Pearl Harbor. It was planned to fly B-25 light bombers off Aircraft Carriers a ways off of Japan, which was quite a feat at that time (as in having never been done before.) They practiced extensively in Florida, but didn’t tell the pilots what they were training for at that time. After the bombing raid, they were to fly on to China and the planes would be donated to the Chinese resistance against Japan. Unfortunately, they thought they were at risk of being discovered, and had to launch over 400 miles out too far. All the pilots knew they had little chance of making the Chinese mainland. Only one of the 16 planes landed safely, but most of the crews survived. Eight were captured by Japanese, and three of them were killed. I think 5 others died in the crashes. The raid did not do terrific damage in Tokyo, but it was a huge morale booster for Post-Pearl Harbor America, and a serious morale downer for Japan, who had thought she was geographically invincible.

I noticed in my last documentation of this museum, I called the B-36 “Peacemaker” one of my favorites. It still is! An amazingly huge plane, I still can’t fit it in one picture. So in the center of the picture below, you can just see the port side and wing. With three “pusher” propellers behind the wing, you can barely see the yellow tips on the end of one blade for each engine. Two slender jet engines with tiny red cones on their intakes, are outboard of those pusher engines (directly under the brown and green “Camo” jet) It was designed with six pusher engines; that means the engines appear “backwards,” and they push rather than pull the airplane. (My house is a “pusher” too!) As the Jet Age arrived while this plane was still young, they added twin jets on each wing to aid in take-off and cargo capability. It is a fascinating plane, definitely unusual engine configuration, and it was never used in war.

Here you can just see propeller tips behind the wing, and red tipped jets below it.

A group of about 30 school kids were just leaving, after meeting under one wing of the B-36. That really emphasized how gargantuan this plane is!

Another plane I had to document was the B-52. An absolutely huge bomber, powered by eight jet engines. It was the modern answer to the aging B-36, and while a bit smaller overall, it could carry considerably more payload.

It is on the main floor of the museum, and the planes are packed in so tightly that I circled it and couldn’t find any angle to take a picture. But I got some of a B-52 cockpit… the throttle quadrant in the center has levers for EIGHT jet engines! Arranged so you could run them all with one hand, but what a thrill to push eight of them to full power!

Another fascinating plane (at least if you’re me) is the B-17 “Flying Fortress.” Developed in the 1930’s, it was flown through the 50’s.

Ok, another of my favorite planes is the DC-3. This plane pretty much started the airline industry in the 30’s. They were also used extensively by the military, called the C-47, C-53, Dakota, and R4D (Very early precursor to R2D2.) Here is one in military livery.

The B-29 has always intrigued me with its interesting windshield design. So many windows! The engines are huge: each blade of the propellers must be about 8 feet long!

This is one of the engines…

And this is my selfie next to the blade of the engine pictured above. Notice the reflection of the fuselage and even the nose art in the blade.

The KC-97 is a tanker, used to refuel bombers mid-flight. It was based on the B-29 shown above, but they added an unusual “Double Bubble” fuselage. Memorable as funny looking to a young boy.

The CH-21B “Work Horse” helicopter was also called the “Flying Banana.” An amazingly strong helicopter, it could fly in Arctic conditions as low as -65 degrees F! In Vietnam, they would keep flying even when taking on lots of bullets. I had a toy one when I was a kid, which I remember as about 2 feet long. Maybe it wasn’t that big (I was smaller then) but it felt huge. I loved it, so this one gets a picture for a second time in my blogs.

Now a couple of random items… below is a tire from the Space Shuttle. All Shuttle tires were made by Michelin, custom designed and tested to ensure supporting a Shuttle landing at 250 mph. Tires are checked by X-ray before being fitted to the Shuttle, and only used on one flight. This particular tire flew in 2006, for 15 days and 5.3 million miles! That seems pretty good milage for a tire, but you must remember it was only rolling in contact with the ground for a few miles. The rest of the 5.3 million miles it was tucked inside the wheel wells.

One final artifact in the space portion of the museum was this lunchbox. I know I had one like it – I remember exactly those pictures! I probably took it to first grade. Now it’s in a museum. Sigh.

Valentine’s Chocolates!

One great perk of having a daughter who is an awesome Chocolateer is that she just might bring fun stuff home on Valentine’s day! The assortment below is from the shop where she works making all these great chocolates. Lulubee is her “day job.” A cute shop with awesome stuff! Her own brand of chocolate delights is “Becky’s Tempered Treasures.” Even more awesome stuff!! Notice that half of the Bonbons were missing before I could get a picture!

She was getting ready for another big project soon… Making something like 800 cookies for the college kids! Lots of ingredients stockpiled for next week’s cookie making marathon. Good thing she will have help!

Titan Missile Museum

A few decades ago I got to take a road trip with a bunch of great guys (you know who you are!) to Tucson, where we visited the Titan Missile silo. So now it was defiantly time for a revisit.

During the cold war, the US built 54 underground missile silos, hardened to withstand nuclear attack. The idea of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD!) was that if Russia was impertinent enough to nuke our country, several if not all of these missile sites would survive, and launch counter attacks to wipe out their country too. Thank God that all that never happened! With the US and Russia agreeing to limit nuclear weapons, all but one of the Titan silos were dismantled and filled in. Some are now under housing developments. This one was preserved as a memorial of nervous times.

When these silos were active, security was understandably very strong. You would approach an apparently empty fenced in area in the middle of the desert. If you got through the gate, and past the sentries in the cool jeep, you went to the top of the staircase. There were codes passed between you and the team below, which had to be authenticated as you passed several doors. One room was an entrapment room; if you were trying to fake your way in, you could be trapped and held securely there. Once you finally made it in, your team of 4 would usually spend 24 hours on a duty cycle, called an “Alert.”

The control room looks like a rocket launching site… probably because it is. There could never be one person alone in the room, and the launch sequence required simultaneous use of two keys too far apart to be done by one person. If a message to fire the missile had been received, there were many safety checks to be done to assure that the command was genuine. The time to validate the command was only a few minutes, hopefully allowing the missile to fire before being hit. The missiles were fueled at all times, ready to fly within three minutes.

When this missile site was converted to a museum, we had to show Russia that it was inoperable. The silo doors were welded half-open, and blocked with huge concrete barriers. The nuclear warhead was removed, and a hole cut in the missile to show that it had been emptied and was not flyable. When all this was verified to Russia’s satisfaction by their overflying satellites, a glass cover was put over the open half of the roof.

When the silo was built in 1962, it was miles away from any civilization. Now the city has grown right up to the edge!

When the Missile silo was activated in 1963, they built this huge “Discone” antenna for communications. It is over 80 feet tall, still workable, and able to be used by Ham Radio operators. Our club was going to try it the day of our tour, but the weather was lousy so we decided to skip the antenna trial and just go to lunch instead. 🙂 Cherryl and I went took the tour after lunch.

Madera Canyon

Birders come from all across the country at the right times to see unique birds at Madera Canyon. There are nice hiking trails all over, but some still had snow and mud that kept us from going too far. We stopped at the little shop that is known for tons of birds frequenting their feeders. The first thing you notice is the Turkeys!

The turkeys are huge and surprisingly colorful!

I tried really hard to get Hummingbird pictures! They are fast little creatures! This one used to be called “Magnificent Hummingbird,” but now goes by “Rivoli’s Hummingbird.” He’s still Magnificent!

So we saw lots of other beautiful flying creatures…

The Hepatic Tanager is beautiful, in spite of a name that sounds like he has liver disease.

So we had a nice day hunting birds in Madera Canyon.

While not really an early Suburban, this poor car reminded me that all things pass. There is a life cycle to everything. This was once a beautiful new car.

Enjoy every day!


  1. Fascinating pics…from missiles to hummingbirds and beautiful birds to chocolates and old lunch pails and cars! It takes more than one life to see it all. Tx for sharing!! Have fun…

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