Getting out of your car you can smell jet fuel and see a crowd gathered near the back of the building. Suddenly, with a thunderous roar, four jets zoom overhead painted in the famous blue and yellow livery of The Blue Angels!
Pensacola, FL and Pensacola Naval Air Station are the home of the Navy’s flight demonstration squadron. Standing there you are not at an air show, you are at the Museum of Naval Aviation and you have stumbled onto a Blue Angels practice day.
The museum started in the late 1960’s to preserve the history of Naval Aviation and stand as a tribute to the men and women the Fly Navy. On display in the museum are planes and artifacts tracing the history of naval aviation from the first take off from the cruiser Birmingham to the Navy pilots that have flown in space or are on the Space Station today.
Several of the aircraft on display are the only remaining example left of its kind. The one that stood out the most to me is an SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber. The museum rescued the aircraft from the bottom of Lake Michigan. What makes this plane so special is that it survived the battle of Midway in June of 1942. This plane flying from one of three U.S. aircraft carriers turned the tide of the World War II in the Pacific.
Further into the museum is a display featuring a Marine VH-3 helicopter. This aircraft served as Marine One for Presidents Nixon and Ford in the 1970’s. this exhibit give you a look into the unique mission HMX-1, the Marine Corps Squadron task with flying the President of the United States. Another Presidential aircraft on display is the S3 Viking that President Bush flew to U.S.S Abraham Lincoln at the end of major combat operation in Iraq in 2003.
Along with these famous planes, you will see everything from Lockheed Electra like the one flown by Amelia Earhart to generations of combat aircraft and an Apollo Command Module. The Naval Aviation Museum may be the best done of any of the military museums I have toured.
If you are a fan of the Navy, airplanes or history this really must be a stop when you are in North Florida. The museum is open to the public and entrance is free. They do charge to see the Imax movies. One, thing to know is, they do search any bags you are bringing into the building.