On a cold February day, the Omaha Composite Squadron paid a visit to the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland, NE. Cadets and seniors arrived at 9:45am and gathered at the entrance in the presence of the enormous SR71 Blackbird static display which towers impressively, seemingly suspended in mid-air as a memory to its unrivaled service during the cold war years.
The tour began promptly at 10am in the lobby adjacent to the Blackbird display. Our tour guide gave us a detailed explanation of the mission and capabilities of the SR-71,
which remains one of the fastest operational aircraft in history. The aircraft, which was designed by Lockheed’s Kelly Johnson in a time when slide rulers were the principal engineering design tools, remained ahead of its time even to this day. One ironic piece of trivia involved the material used to build the aircraft: titanium. In order to procure the raw material for the aircraft, the US had to secretly acquire titanium from the Soviet Union, the precious metal’s largest producer, and the Blackbird’s main reconnaissance objective.
The tour proceeded to the balcony overlooking the main floor of the Museum where our tour guide explained details on each of the
aircraft suspended from the ceiling, and directly below us. among them, the U-2, F-86, T-33, F-84, F-101 Voodoo, etc. We then visited the B-25 Mitchell display and were given a detailed recounting of the Doolittle raid over Tokyo in 1942. A prominent map painted on the
museum floor, recounts the daring mission to visitors. For his successful accomplishments, Billy Mitchell was presented the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the mission showed the Japanese, that their nation was no longer out of reach by the United States. The bombing of Japan also proved a huge morale boost for the American public.
Other aircraft on the main floor included the B-36 Peacekeeper, B-52 Stratofortress, XF-85 Goblin, Nebraska Air National Guard’s own RF-4 Phantom, B-17 Bomber, F-111 Aardvark, etc. The cadets were able to board the B-17 Flying Fortress and experience the closed quarters which became home for many of the American Airmen who flew over the European theater during WWII.
After departing the main display floor, we were given privileged access to the restoration hangar, where a C-54 restoration effort is underway. The aircraft in this hangar are salvaged form locations across the country and brought back to life so that future generations can continue to get a glimpse of the contributions of aviation to America.
“The complete restoration of an aircraft at the Museum takes, on average, two years and approximately 10,000 man-hours of labor. Usually, only one aircraft is worked on at a time, due to space in the restoration hangar, as well as the quantity of volunteers.”
Our tour concluded next to the B-29 Superfortress as our tour guide explained its ties to Omaha and the connection to the bombing of Hiroshima which helped bring an end to the second World War. The Enola Gay, which is permanently displayed at the Smithsonian Air And Space Museum, was built in Omaha.
Following the tour, the cadets proceeded to ride the full motion simulators, then wound down with a healthy lunch at the Museum’s diner, followed by a visit to the gift shop.
The Omaha Composite squadron is grateful to the staff and volunteers of the Strategic Air & Space museum for their time and dedication in preserving America’s Military aviation treasures.