Hello Friends and Family,

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Commemorative Air Force, Arizona Wing, Part 2

How do you like being stared down by a McDonnell F-4N "Phantom II"? This was a fighter and tactical strike aircraft in service from 1961 to the late 1990s. Originally designed for the U.S. Navy (notice the folding wings for the efficient storage aboard an aircraft carrier), it was also flown by the Marines, the Air Force and several foreign countries.

It is quite a handsome plane — so handsome, in fact, that it was flown by the Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds during the 1970s.

This particular aircraft flew some 200 missions from the USS Ranger and USS Forrestal. The names on the canopy rail commemorate the last aircrew from the USS Ranger to be lost in the Vietnam War.

The F-4N was powered by two GE J79 turbojet engines, each producing a maximum thrust of 11,905 lbf (52.9 kN) dry; 17,835 lbf (79.3 kN) with afterburner.

This was the first fighter to be initially armed with missiles only — here an AIM-7 Sparrow.

Above is a 1/6 scale model of a B-24-H-25FO Liberator built by Ken Huebner. Often compared with the better-known Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 was a more modern design with a higher top speed, greater range, and a heavier bomb load; however, it was also more difficult to fly, with heavy control forces and poor formation-flying characteristics. The B-24 ended World War II as the most produced heavy bomber in history.

Next on the tour is a Hughes OH-6A Cayuse helicopter (nicknamed "Loach", after the requirement acronym LOH—Light Observation Helicopter). This aircraft was delivered in 1970 for service in Vietnam. It was used to locate enemy positions then marking them with flares. This was a dangerous mission and often became the crashed demarcation for the Cobra and Huey helicopter gunships that would follow.

This unit was nicknamed "Charlie Chopper" with logo to match.

This helicopter was also used by the Silver Eagles who performed in more than 220 airshows between 1972 and 1976. Later it was used by the Air National Guard in New York where it was stolen and crashed at Lakehurst, NJ.

Between 1989 and 1993 it was completely refurbished by Dr. Baron Smith of Mesa, AZ. Approximately 70% of the airframe was repaired or replaced.

I enjoyed the mannequins used as pilot and co-pilot in the exhibit. Makes it seem more real.

And to guard all these valuable aircraft, the ubiquitous Army jeep is looking after security.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com