Wednesday, May 21, 2014

C.R. Gordon: Aviation museum docent recalls time in Air Force, exhibits' past

On top of his Lions Club member hat, C.R. Gordon put on his Historic Aviation Memorial Museum docent hat for the club’s April 24 meeting.

As one of the docents of the museum, Gordon explained the museum’s purpose but also added his own stories from his years as a member of the United States Air Force.

The museum includes examples of supersonic jets, including F-104, the F-111 and the F-4. After McDonald engineers asked the Air Force what they wanted out of the next jet, Gordon said the request was for an oblique shockwave. The oblique shockwave creates a more efficient plane, he said.

Tyler Pounds Regional Airport’s old terminal serves as the museum’s home. When the museum moved to its permanent location in the old airport terminal, Gordon said guests used to walk by the museum gift shop before getting to the main entrance or leaving. The museum’s hangar used to be the Confederate Air Force hangar.

“It’s kind of nice when we get MiG- 15’s in there,” he said.

Pounds Airport dates back to the late 1930s, so the history starts from the outside of the building. Gordon continued that Tyler had an airport before Pounds was established.

The history continues with displays of uniforms from all time periods, including WWI and WWII. Two of the uniforms have unknown origins, Gordon said, except that one is American and the other is German.

WWII-era bombers did not have any heaters and only a few electric-powered parts, he said.

“I was always in the nice air conditioned fighters, so I didn’t have to worry about climactic things,” he said.

Exhibits about the golden era of flying and women in flight are included in the museum, and Gordon said it is not always Amelia Earhart.

Betty Skelton was the woman’s acrobatic champion in flying, and Gordon said she is the one who really made the airplane famous.

“She could do a lot of things with it,” he said. While women learn faster than men, Gordon’s flight instructor told him as a cadet, he said it is not certain how they will react in an emergency situation.

“Now that’s a stereotype, and I’ll be the first one to say to you ladies out there that that’s terrible.”

Skelton took a ride on a P-51 when the propeller came off the engine.

“(She) very calmly changed radio channels to a military base and said, ‘I’m coming in from the north,’” Gordon said. “(She) put the airplane down (and) did not scratch it whatsoever.”

The museum also has recognition models that were used during WWII to teach cadets how to identify planes, he said.

“The youngsters in America did work on those models, the wooden ones,” he said. Gordon was not sure if the one he had made was ever used.

Among other stories he told, Gordon said the Fort Worth-built General Dynamics F-111 went on an 11-hour mission that required seven refuels and a detour. The pilot hit the target and left the same way it had entered.

Although he admitted he always “kind of wanted” to bail out of a plane, Gordon said he never had to eject from a plane.

“You just don’t leave an airplane unless it’s burning or out of control,” he said.

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Story and photo:

No comments:

Post a Comment