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Christmas Gift Guide

Western Museum of Flight

YF-23

Models and more

Hornet model

Bede

Tiny plane, tiny cockpit

Saber

6 gun

Open wide

Climb in

Cannons

Supersonic

Cockpit

Analog

It's only a model

Turbofan

Slightly older

Jump Jet

T.4

In-flight

Pegasus

Hover mode: engaged

Texans

Choppers

4-seat

YF-17 Cobra

17-to-18

Proto-Hornet

Skyhawk

Big cat

Top Gun

YF-23

Stealth offset

Unmade

Exhaust

Expensive tile

One last try

F-5A

Pusher prop and canard?

Simulator

Goodyear Blimp!

Located at Zamperini Field in Torrance, CA, 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, the Western Museum of Flight is a relatively small museum. Nonetheless its collection is impressive.  

For more info about this tour, check out my full writeup

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Though nearly 30 years old, Northrop's YF-23 looks more futuristic than most modern aircraft. More on this crazy plane later.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Though there are a bunch of real planes, this museum also features dozens of models, most design studies and wind-tunnel testers from the pre-computer days.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Amusingly, this model of the F/A-18 Hornet is bigger than the next aircraft you'll see...

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The tiny Bede BD-5, restored by the museum and painted colors to match its "Octopussy" sibling. That movie featured the jet-powered BD-5J, whereas this has a pusher prop and an air-cooled, 650cc, two-cylinder engine that produced 55hp.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

As you'd expect, it's a tight squeeze to fit inside the simple cockpit.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The F-86 Saber. This one was built in 1952 for the Japanese Air Self Defense Force

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

There were six .50-caliber machine guns in the nose.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Somewhere deep in there was a GE J47 that generated 5,910 pounds of thrust.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

This F-5 was donated by the Royal Norwegian Air Force. 

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

One of the feed lines for the starboard 20mm cannon.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The F-5A was capable of Mach 1.4 thanks to its GE J85 which produced 4,080 pounds of thrust.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Far more serious of a cockpit than the Bede, for far more serious of an aircraft.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Just slightly different from the glass cockpits found in modern planes such as the Cirrus VisionJet I flew this summer.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

That one in the middle isn't a model at all, but a Northrop JB-1 Bat, one of Jack Northrop's flying-wing designs. This is the only remaining airframe of the manned version.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

A Pratt & Whitney TF30, the first production turbofan with afterburner. It powered the F-111 and F-14A, among others.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

A few examples of some engines from the pre-jet age. On the left is a Wright R-1820 Cyclone 9-cylinder radial that developed over 1200hp. On the lower right is a 35hp Righter/Kiekhaefer O-45-35 two-cylinder used by the Navy for target drones. The big one in the back is a Pratt&Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major. It's got 28 cylinders and produced about 3,500 hp. This engine was used by a variety of big aircraft, including the B-36, which I saw at the incredible Pima Air and Space Museum.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

A British Aerospace Sea Harrier "Jump Jet." Notably, the trainer variant.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Apparently adding an extra seat up front messed with the weight balance, so they elongated the tail. The result is a rather unique-looking Harrier.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The appendage jutting out above the fuselage is an aerial refueling probe.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Inside is a single Rolls-Royce Pegasus 11 Mk 103 was was capable of producing a massive 21,000 pounds of thrust.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Two nozzles on each side directed thrust anywhere in a 98.5-degree arc.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Not affiliated with the museum, there are three T-6 Texans at the Zamperini Field.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Also at the field is Robinson Helicopter, who make lightweight and relatively inexpensive helicopters.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Two Robinson R44s going through some final testing. 

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

One of two YF-17 prototypes built by Northrop. Though the Air Force would choose the F-16 over this plane, the Navy would like the general design and it would become the F/A-18 Hornet.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Because it was originally designed for the Air Force, many components were changed to evolve the YF-17 into the F/A-18, including the landing gear, folding wings, and more.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Small and light, the F/A-18 is still in service today, 39 years after it first flew.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

This A-4 Skyhawk was stationed in California and Japan in the late '50s. Some Skyhawks are still in service around the world.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Ah yes, the iconic F-14. According to Neil, the docent who showed us around, visiting kids from around the world always recognize this aircraft above all the others and say "Tomcat."

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

This F-14 is actually from the "Top Gun" school in Miramar.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Back to that futuristic YF-23. Only two were built, as demonstration craft for the Air Force's search for a new stealth fighter. The other is at National Museum of the United States Air Force in Ohio.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Note the offset air intakes. There's an S-duct inside so radar couldn't bounce off the engines themselves (which are mounted more inboard than the intakes). 

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Though it was well liked, and rumor has it preferred, by its test pilots, the Air Force chose Lockheed Martin's plane that would become the F-22

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The engine exhaust is mounted above the fuselage to help reduce the heat signature.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

These are the same tiles that were used on the Space Shuttle.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

There was one last chance for the YF-23, a possible light bomber based on the design from Northrop. That didn't happen either, however.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

The small F-5A was mostly exported by Northrop. Many of its design ideas were used to develop the YF-17 and F/A-18. It's also closely related to the T-38 Talon trainer aircraft.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

This flew over when we first arrived at the museum, and I saw it parked a while later. Not sure what it is. Velocity XL perhaps? Rutan Long-EZ or VariEze? Any guesses?

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

This surprised me. It's an analog flight sim from before WWII. There are a few dozen level, and I just recently saw another one at a different small and not-well-known air museum: the Malta Aviation Museum

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

This is the actual gondola of the last of the GZ-20 Goodyear Blimps. The new models are no longer blimps, but semi-rigid airships.

And so ends my visit to Western Museum of Flight. It may be small, but the planes are fascinating and the people are lovely.

Caption by / Photo by Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
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