Miramar Beach, FL (near Destin)
Just to the west of Destin, north of Ft. Walton Beach, is Eglin Air Force Base, one of the largest air bases in the country. Eglin is the home of the Air Armament Center and, as the focal point for all Air Force armaments, is responsible for the development, acquisition, testing, deployment and sustainment of all air-delivered weapons (i.e. bombs). Just outside the base is the Armament Museum, with a large display of aircraft outside and a display of weapons inside.
The B-17 Flying Fortress was one of the most widely used planes of WWII. Used mainly in the European theater it also saw limited use in the Pacific. Boeing built almost 13,000 B-17s between 1936 and 1945.
The B-25 Mitchell light bomber was used extensively in the Pacific during WWII. This is the aircraft used in the famous Doolittle Raid over Tokyo in April of 1942. Imagine taking off from an aircraft carrier with this plane, knowing you don’t have enough fuel to return and will hope to find a friendly landing field in China after dropping your bombs on Tokyo! This is also the plane Louis Zamperini was in when it crashed in the Pacific during the war, as told in the book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. If you haven’t read this book, do so!
The B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber used by the Air Force since the early 1950s. The B-52 marked its 50th anniversary of continuous service in 2005 and after being upgraded between 2013 and 2015 it will serve into the 2040s. We wished our friend, Larry Weinberg, was with us during our visit to the museum as he flew as a navigator on a B-52 for well over a hundred years (0k, maybe a few years less than that, but who knows?) and could have told us more about this huge aircraft.
We were fortunate during our visit to observe what appears to be a handsome, young pilot completing training on an A-10 Warthog trainer!
Also on display is one of the earliest simulators invented by Edward Link while experimenting in his family’s organ factory in Binghamton, NY in the early 1930s.
Early versions of Link’s “Blue Box” were sold as amusement park rides before instrument flying was given serious consideration. In the spring of 1934 Link scheduled a meeting with officials from the Army Air Corps to convince them that his concept was valuable for flight training. While flying his own plan to Alabama, he experienced weather conditions unacceptable for visual flight. Relying solely on instrument training from his blue box, he landed the plane successfully, impressing the Air Corps so much they soon purchased six of the trainers. The trainer became so valuable to the Air corps during WWII that they purchased over ten thousand of these C-series models.
One more week in sunny Florida (we’ve been in the state since early December) then north toward Pennsylvania. The weather better improve or we’ll have to re-evaluate our timetable as it snowed in the western part of the state yesterday and was cool and rainy in the east!