Tag Archives: Atwater


AU0E3957.jpgSome aircraft I blog about are ones that I find cool and wish I had seen in action. This is not one of those. However, it does interest me because it is so different from many of the types from the same era. This is the Northrop F-89 Scorpion. The Castle Air Museum has an example on display and I have seen a few scattered around various museums. The Scorpion is, in theory at least, a fighter. However, looking at it, you might be forgiven for not realizing this. It is a big beast of a lane with an unswept wing and a decidedly chubby appearance.

AU0E3959.jpgIt’s role was to shoot down bombers heading to the US. It was made in an era when jet engines were famously inefficient and having long range and endurance was tricky for a fighter. In order to operate far enough out to shoot the bombers while they were still out of range of their targets, the Scorpion focused on efficiency. It was not a maneuvering fighter. Its job was to get close enough to the bombers to launch its missiles.

AU0E3961.jpgThese missiles look a bit odd too. They are not your traditional air to air missile designed for speed and agility. They also didn’t need to be. The Genie missile had a special warhead. It was a nuclear weapon. As long as it was reasonably close to the target, it was going to take it down. No clever tracking and requirement to get close to have the required effect. Ultimately, this combination was only suitable for a relatively limited type of target and the focus moved to newer fighters and missiles (although the nuclear armed missile concept lasted a lot longer). The Scorpion went into the history books.

One other aspect of the Scorpion is of interest. It had large wing tip fuel tanks to increase endurance. Someone came up with the idea of equipping the jet with unguided rockets and these were installed in the front of the tip tanks. I’m sure it was well worked out but the idea of having rocket exhaust plumes on the front of a fuel tank seemed bizarre to me as a kid.

F-101 Voodoo

AU0E3855.jpgThe number of aircraft that I wish I had seen but flew either before I was born or when I was too young to get to see them is pretty high. Some of them were actually active but I just never got to see them in action. These are the ones that are more frustrating even though there was no way I was going to have been able to see the, at the time. One such type is the F-101 Voodoo. This is an aircraft that I saw in some of my (many) aircraft books. I am not sure what it was exactly that grabbed my attention but one element was the huge jet pipes along the lower rear fuselage. These seemed unusual to me and gave me the impression of power to go with the sleek fuselage design.

AU0E3946.jpgFighters of that era were very focused on speed, often at the expense of maneuverability. They had small wings so didn’t turn too quickly but they got where they were going in a hurry. That seemed cool to me at the time. Since I never saw them fly, my only option is now to find examples at museums. The Castle Air Museum has one on display and I was very pleased to see it. Everything about the plane looks interesting. The long fuselage, the T-tail configuration, the crank to the wing, the triangular inlets – all of these make it attention grabbing. I wonder how much the engineers at McDonnell enjoyed designing this jet and then seeing it fly. It met a few roles quite well. The Canadians us d it as a long range interceptor patrolling the extensive air space that country has. The USAF turned in into quite a capable reconnaissance platform. Whether it is judged as a success from a historical perspective I do not really know. I just like the look of them and I’m always happy to find a preserved copy.


Castle Air Museum

AU0E4021-HDR.jpgIt’s quite strange to think that I live about 90 minutes from a major air museum but have not been to it since moving here. Such is the case with the Castle Air Museum in Atwater CA. Located on the edge of what used to be Castle AFB, the museum has an extensive collection of Cold War and Second World War types, predominantly from the US but also with a variety of types from other countries. The majority of the collection is located outside which, given this is the central valley, should mean it is pretty sunny. How I managed to get there on a cloudy day I do not know. However, it was indeed overcast when we started walking around. Things did clear up a bit later on, though, so I actually went back to get a few extra shots of things I had seen early on.

AU0E4048.jpgAs a one-time SAC bomber base, there are quite a few large bombers on display. From the B-29 and B-50 through the enormous B-36 Peacemaker (got to love irony) up to the B-47 and B-52 strategic jets, there are all sorts. Some rarer bomber types are also on show. Not necessarily successful ones but they add to the collection. The Brits are also represented with a Vulcan on display.

AU0E3943.jpgIt isn’t just bombers though. Plenty of fighters and trainers are included in the collection and a good number come from the US Navy so, despite the base having a USAF history, they have covered both services well. There is enough space to have all of the aircraft well spread out so you can appreciate them from many angles. You also get quite a walk in if you take a look at everything.

AU0E4062-Pano.jpgOne of the nice additions is an SR-71 Blackbird. There are a few SR-71s on display but not a huge number and seeing another one is always cool. However, they are quite tricky to photograph, particularly outdoors when the black paint scheme really makes for a strong contrast with the daylight. Still worth a go though.

AU0E3874.jpgThere are a few types on display that are worthy of a little extra time so I may post about them separately. If you have even a vague interest in planes, though, make a trip to this museum. Nancy came along and, while she is not a big fan of planes, she found the variety of types quite interesting. High praise indeed!


Hound Dog

AU0E3819.jpgSometimes you see something that just looks the right way. Tucked under the wing of the B-52 at Castle Air Museum is a Hound Dog missile. This was a nuclear armed stand off weapon carried by the B-52s for a number of years. It is a slim airframe with a jet mounted underneath. It is all points and sweep back. If anything looks like it should go fast, this thing is it. I have no idea whether it was a good design or effective. It was never required in anger thankfully. All I know is that you are left in no doubt what it is supposed to do!