Friday, June 7, 2013

A Little Side Trip

At the beginning of May I attended my father-in-laws 80th birthday party and was able to make a side trip to the Castle Air Museum in Atwater California. This wasn’t my first trip to the museum, but it was the first one where my photos turned out. Now, with Enfilade out of the way, things have slowed down a little and I’m finally getting some of the photos from the visit posted here. Castle Air Museum has a really nice collection of (mostly American) WWII and Cold War aircraft. Be sure to check their website for a full list of aircraft.

While I took a bunch of pictures of the different aircraft, I thought I would focus on some of the more unusual or rare aircraft in the collection. First up, a couple of unusual WWII planes.

The B-18 Bolo was the plan that won the 1935 design and fly-off competition to replace the B-10, beating out the Boeing Model 299 (which would eventually become the B-17). It was the most numerous American bomber at the start of WWII, but was somewhat outdated by then. Many of the planes were eventually converted for use as anti-submarine aircraft. Only a handful of these planes are still around.
B-18 Bolo
The B-23 Dragon started out as a redesign of the B-18, but ended up as a new design. It was put into service in 1939, but wasn’t as good as the newer B-25 and B-26 bombers. It served in the patrol, training and transport role during WWII. Interestingly, even though only 38 aircraft were built, there are more restored versions of this aircraft around than the B-18 (according to Wikipedia there are only five remaining B-18s, while there are eight B-23s).
A very sleek looking B-23 Dragon
Now we move on to the Cold War aircraft with the B-50, an improved version of the B-29. The plane at the museum is a WB-50, which is the weather and reconnaissance version of the plane.
A WB-50 Superfortress
Next up is the gigantic B-36 Peacemaker (okay this is really an RB-36 reconnaissance plane). There are only four of these planes still around (probably because they are so big). There is also a mockup of the bomb carried by this type of bomber.
The RB-36 Peacemaker, with a bomb mock-up
There is also the first operational American all-jet bomber, the B-45 Tornado. In addition to being conventional and nuclear bombers, these aircraft we converted to reconnaissance planes, which were used over Korea during the Korean War. Again, another rare bird, as only three of these aircraft are still around.
A B-45 Tornado
Just in case you were thinking that Castle Air Museum is only about bombers (there are actually quite a few fighters, however there only a few unusual ones), here is an F-89 Scorpion with some mocked-up Genie missiles under the wings. I find it an interesting interceptor, mainly because it carried the nuclear-tipped Genie missile (which just seems like a crazy idea).
An F-89 Scorpion
I also took a picture of the museum’s show plane, an F-4E done up in the colors of the Air Force’s Thunderbirds flight demonstration group. While not an unusual aircraft, you usually don’t see these planes in show colors.
A F-4E in the Thunderbirds paint scheme
The last unusual plane from Castle Air Museum is an Avro Vulcan bomber. Another huge Cold War bomber, it is interesting to see this plane up close. The plane is on-loan to the museum and arrived in 1981. Some of the locals say that during the Falkland War the RAF came to the museum and took a few parts from this plane for the Vulcan bombers that participated in the Black Buck raids. The most common story is that parts of the refueling probe were taken, but I’ve never been able to confirm that story.
A Vulcan bomber
Overall, the museum is pretty nice. Most of the museum’s aircraft are parked outside and could use some cleaning up/paint. But the museum seems to be mostly a volunteer organization, so it is understandable that everything isn’t in pristine/flight line condition. If you find yourself in the central California area, it is certainly worth the time.


  1. Nice pictures Dave, I would love to see a b-36 in the flesh. I've got a bit of a soft spot for that plain think its just the size and strangenes of them. Got to love the vulca, I've seen her flying a few times once randomly at a bbq at my girlfriends mum and dads house 2 years ago. they all couldn't understand why I was so excited. I'll have to post my pictures from Duxford last week notging that cool but there was a saber flying wich is a very rare site of here in the UK

  2. Very cool. Nice to see those old birds still looking good. Dean

  3. Very cool!
    I always wondered by the Bolo was THE bomber of late 30s. It seemed very archaic, even for its time.

  4. Regarding the story of Vulcan XM605's refuelling probe, this is absolutely true.
    It is confirmed in Rowland Whites book Vulcan XM607 and Air Chief-Marshall Sir Michael Knight also confirms this story in the link below.