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Tour High Flyers and Fast Fighters at the Hill Aerospace Museum

The Hill Aerospace Museum has an impressive collection of bombers, fighters and transports from the entire history of flight. Here's a look around.

Geoffrey Morrison
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
The exterior of the Hill Aerospace Museum.
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The Hill Aerospace Museum, near Salt Lake City, Utah, has an eclectic mix of beautifully maintained aircraft. Here's a look around.

A side angle of an F-89 interceptor.
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Many of the museum's aircraft are outside, and it's a testament to the dedication of the staff that they're all in such fantastic shape given the area's penchant for weather.

This is an F-89 Scorpion, one of the first production jet interceptors.

The B-1 Lancer bomber from the front.
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The B-1 Lancer is a supersonic, swing-wing bomber. This is the more common B-variant, which was slower but was better suited to its role. 

A side-view of the B-1 under a bright blue sky.
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The museum's B-1 bomber served most of its life in Texas. 

Though not directly related, you can see a lot of Rockwell's failed XB-70 bomber in the Lancer's design.

A thick T-28 trainer painted in green and brown camouflage.
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This chunky boy is a T-28 Trojan trainer aircraft. This example first flew in 1954.

A head-on view of the F-4 interceptor. Its wing tips are folded upwards.
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The F-4 was a hugely successful interceptor and fighter bomber flown by the US Navy, Air Force, and Marines. It was extremely fast, with a top speed over Mach 2.2. 

A green-on-green C-130 transport.
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The unmistakable profile of a massive C-130 transport. This is the second B-variant ever built.

A close up view of 4 rocket pods on the side of a C-130.
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This C-130 was used for JATO testing, or Jet Assisted Take Off. These are replicas of the jet pods.

A head-on view of a B-29 bomber.
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The B-29 was the most expensive military project of WWII and cost 50% more than the Manhattan Project. 

A side view of a restored B-29 bomber.
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The museum's B-29 flew out of several bases in Texas, Arizona, and Ohio before spending 30 years on the ground as a test vehicle.

The twin tail guns and empennage of a B-29.
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It has been at the museum since 1983, where it was lovingly restored.  

The nose and 8 engines of a B-52 bomber.
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Shortly after the B-29 left service, the B-52 entered. The enormous eight-engine bomber is still in service. 

A diagonal view of the left side of a B-52.
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This is the G-variant, built in 1959. All remaining B-52s are the later H-variant. 

A look at the rear right side of a B-52 including the tall tail.
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Its final flight was from Castle Air Force Base (home to another excellent museum) to here in 1991.    

The KC-135 tanker looks like an airliner minus windows on the side.
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A gas station in the sky, the KC-135E was based on the Boeing 367-80, aka the Dash 80, which was also the basis of the Boeing 707. You can see that prototype at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center.

The twin-engine C-123K Provider cargo aircraft painted in green and brown.
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This Fairchild C-123K had a long military service, and then was used in TV and movies, including in the opening of the Bond film The Living Daylights.

A C-119 in silver and white under a sky of blue and white.
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Though somewhat similar in appearance to the C-123 Provider, the C-119 was developed from one of Fairchild's own WWII-era designs. The "Flying Boxcar" has a clamshell rear opening and a twin-boom tail.

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Almost four times as many C-119s were built compared to C-123s.

A banana-shaped Piasecki H-21 with a backdrop of mountains.
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There's something odd-looking about helicopters without their rotors. Like they're naked or something. This is a Piasecki H-21, also known as the Flying Banana. Though I suppose if you try hard enough all bananas can fly.

The four-engined Douglas C-124 Globemaster II cargo aircraft..
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One of the largest aircraft at the museum, the huge Douglas C-124 Globemaster II was nicknamed "Old Shaky," presumably not for its smooth ride.

A WWI-era Curtiss Jenny biplane.
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Inside the museum are even more rarities. This is an original 1918 Curtiss JN-4D Jenny, which spent 18 years being carefully restored to flying condition. After decades on the ground, it flew again in 1976.

The nose of a B-25. with rows of guns instead of the usual glass.
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This mean, green machine is a B-25. This example has led an interesting life. It was built in 1945 and immediately put in storage. It bounced around various military bases for over a decade before being sold to the private sector. 

In 1962 it crashed in Argentina while smuggling cigarettes from Paraguay. It stayed there for nearly 30 years before being shipped back here, restored and put on display at the museum.

The glass nose and propellers of a B-17 bomber.
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The legendary B-17. This example was built in 1945 and flew in the Brazilian Air Force from 1953 to 1968.

A B-24 bomber with mannequins performing maintenance.
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Despite being the most produced bomber in history, it's fairly rare to see a B-24 in a museum. This example was stationed in Alaska, where it eventually crashed. Fifty years later, former crew members from Utah found the aircraft and had it shipped to California for restoration; it arrived here for display in 2002.

A collection of aircraft, on the floor, on a pedestal, and hanging from the ceiling.
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An early jet aircraft, the F-84F Thunderstreak. Above is a T-33 trainer.

A front-angle view of a Douglas A-26, its nose bristles with guns.
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Though similar-looking to the B-25, the Douglas A-26 Invader was a few years newer and was actually in service longer.

The twin-boom and twin-propeller OV-10 Bronco.
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Having a twin-boom tail is almost a guarantee I'll like an airplane. Probably due to an affinity to the Sea Duck as a kid. This is a North American/Rockwell OV-10 Bronco.

A look at the OV-10 Bronco with its small engine nacelles and bubble cockpit.
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It's mostly an observation aircraft, but can be outfitted for light ground attack duty. Though it looks fairly modern, this example was built in 1968, served in Vietnam and later helped the Columbian Air Force in the drug war.  

The nose and air inlets of the F-101 Voodoo fighter.
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One of several Century Series fighters at the museum, this is the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo. It was only in service with the Air Force for 15 years, at least in its original fighter form. They were designed as a long-range bomber escort, a role that became unnecessary as the Cold War progressed. Some were converted and used in a recon role.

The pointy nose and angular cockpit of the F-102 Delta Dagger interceptor.
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The delta-winged F-102 Delta Dagger interceptor first flew in 1953, and was largely replaced in the 1960s by the faster evolution, the F-106 Delta Dart.

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Speaking of which, here's the F-106 Delta Dart. It was significantly faster than its similarly delta-winged predecessor. Note the angled and more rectangular engine intakes, compared to the F-102s more rounded, vertical intakes.

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More twin booms! This is a Cessna Skymaster, or more specifically, the military O-2 Skymaster. They first flew in the late '60s and were in use by the US military until 2010. Note the rare push-pull engine layout.

Looking down and at an angle on a sleek F-5 fighter aircraft painted in yellow and brown stripes.
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The F-5 wasn't commonly used in the US, but it was bought and flown by several foreign air forces. This example was used by manufacturer Northrop as a test aircraft and chase jet in Arizona and California.

A look at the long, thin stiletto-like F-104 Starfighter.
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With one of the coolest names in military aviation, the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter doesn't look like it could fly, with such thin, stubby wings.

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Tucked away behind some other aircraft were these two hovercraft. They're not quite ready for display. I love hovercraft, though. There's a fantastic museum in the UK dedicated to them.

An overhead view of the stubby HH-43 Huskie. Its rotors spin through each other's rotation path.
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This unique and stubby-looking chopper is a Kaman HH-43 Huskie. It has a rare intermeshing-rotor design. 

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The Huskies were used for search and rescue during the Vietnam war.

A black and white propeller-driven A-1 attack aircraft.
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This big aircraft may seem out of place among all the jets, but the A-1 Skyraider was in service from just after WWII until the early '70s. It was replaced by the A-10, which we'll see in a moment.

The nose and iconic forward-swept air intakes of the F-105 Thunderchief.
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This is one of two of the big Thunderchief fighter-bombers at the museum. Seen here is the most widely produced D-variant.

A side view of a F-105 with two cockpit canopies open.
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It first flew only 10 years after WWII and yet could carry more bombs than the famous B-17 and B-24 bombers of that war. This is the two-seat G-variant.  

A side view of the boxy F-111.
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Speaking of Vietnam-era aircraft, this is the swing-wing F-111. Versions were in service for over 30 years.

The front of an F-15 with its iconic, and huge air intakes visible.
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You don't see many of these in museums. It's an F-15 Eagle; early models like this A-variant only started being retired from service a few years ago.

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A trio of F-16s. The one in the middle, if the colors weren't a giveaway, was flown by the Air Force's Thunderbirds.

The tiny F-16 Falcon in front of an American flag.
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This F-16A first flew in 1980. It's quite remarkable how tiny these aircraft are compared to their contemporaries. 

An A-10 attack aircraft at an angle to the camera. It's painted in green and gray camouflage.
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The beautiful A-10. Note the huge GAU-8 Avenger autocannon, the A-10's main weapon, sitting below. 

The angular F-117 with panels missing due to it undergoing restoration.
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An F-117 stealth fighter, currently undergoing restoration. I'm curious if the leading edges (yellow areas), were removed before decommissioning. The F-117 at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum had the same missing pieces. 

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The business end of the huge, and fast, SR-71 Blackbird. This is the only SR-71C, and the last SR-71 built. The rear was from a previously-crashed YF-12 and the front from a static test fuselage.

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This is one of the early start carts required to get the Blackbird's huge J58 engines started. It was literally two Buick V8s on a single driveshaft.

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This small donut is one of the aluminum-embedded tires for the SR-71. They were specially designed, like most things on the SR-71, to withstand the extreme heat of Mach 3 flight.

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This huge helicopter is a MH-53 Pave Low. This C-variant first flew in 1971.

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Over its 3-plus decades of service it was upgraded to the 53M-variant you see here. Most of those upgrades involved the electronics and defensive capabilities.

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This is the CH-3, also known as the S-61, and was the predecessor to the MH-53. It had the delightful nickname, "Jolly Green Giant."

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This Giant first flew in 1966 and was stationed in Southeast Asia. Later it was stationed here, at Hill AFB.

The cockpit of a C-130 transport.
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The cockpit of a C-130 transport. The rest of the fuselage of this aircraft is often used as a classroom for students visiting the museum.

That's it for this tour. If you liked what you saw, check out more Tech Treks.

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