Thursday, February 22, 2007

USS Hornet and the Western Aerospace Museum

Not that Sacramento isn't a great place to live and/or visit in its own right--it genuinely is, and I've posted with pictures before--but one of its convenient attributes is its location. And hour and a half to the west and you're in the Bay Area or on the coast, and an hour and a half to the east gets you up in the mountains. On Monday and Tuesday I headed east to Reno; yesterday I took my son west.

At the former Alameda Naval Air Station is the USS Hornet, a WWII aircraft carrier converted to a floating museum (there are too many similarities to Battlestar Galactica). This Hornet is the same carrier that picked up several of the Apollo capsules during the moonshot days, including the Apollo 11 crew, and on the hangar deck is an appropriate display (including a genuine Soyuz capsule!). There have been ships named Hornet since 1775, and the name holds a special place in the hearts of those of us from Sacramento--our local university teams are the Sac State Hornets!

This was my 2nd visit to an aircraft carrier, having been given a tour, with the local West Point Society, of the USS Ben Franklin when it was at Alameda in the early 90s. Such tours do not disappoint.

Click on the pictures to get an enlarged view.

Just in case someone forgets, this vessel was launched (in 1943) to kill people and break things. It replaced an earlier carrier USS Hornet, which was sunk in 1942. As this sign reminds us, payback is a you-know-what.

Despite how much I cannot stand the politics of San Francisco, it's one of the most picturesque cities on the planet. Here it is in the background, across the bay. You might be able to make out part of the Bay Bridge on the right side of the picture; the Golden Gate is behind the right edge of the city in the picture. And yes, that's an F-14 Tomcat (of Top Gun fame) on the deck.

This is a view from the stern, looking forward on the landing deck. My son gives some reference as to the size.

After leaving the Hornet we went to the Oakland Airport to visit the Western Aerospace Museum, where I used to volunteer as a docent before my son was born.

There are several rooms with exhibits inside, and the main hangar has some exquisite aircraft. Just for example, there's a Stearman biplane and a Lockheed Vega, an aircraft similar to Amelia Earhart's. Did you know she started her voyage from Oakland? You would if you visited the Western Aerospace Museum!

There are also plenty of cool aircraft outside, including a Harrier and this F-14.

The marquee attraction, though, is this British flying boat, a Short Solent. Yes, that's yours truly providing a reference point for the size.

This flying boat missed WWII, and was put into civilian service (BOAC?) flying from Southampton to South Africa. If memory serves, the trip took four days, and each evening the passengers disembarked and stayed in a hotel. Cairo and Lake Victoria were two of the stops.

It was later sold to a South Pacific airline, which flew it to Tahiti and other locales. Is there no market for such beautiful aircraft today? Could no one turn a profit flying such planes?

From there we went back to Alameda to visit my friend and former boss, who lives on a rather impressive boat. We made it home before 9:30. All in all, a great day!


Cadet X said...

One of the trips I took with the Boy Scouts was to the Hornet where we had (somewhat) free run of the ship and then got to spend the night complete with stories from people who had been stationed on the Hornet while it was still in combat. There was talk of moving the ship because the great San Francisco City Council thought it was not proper to have a military historical landmark there....good to hear it hasn't moved.

On another trip we went to the USS Pampanito which was a WWII Balao class submarine. You may recognize it because it was used to film the movie Down Periscope with Kelsey Grammar. We also got to spend the night in the cramped, humid submarine that smelled of diesel. That too, is something worth checking out.

Darren said...

I've not seen the Kelsey Grammer movie, but I've been aboard the Pampanito twice. Odd that the San Franciscans don't seem to mind that little instrument of war in their city. I wonder why that doesn't raise any hackles, but the Hornet does.

Eric Warburg said...

Isn't Alameda where the Mythbusters do a lot of their stuff?

Darren said...

I wouldn't know. I don't get cable.

Scott McCall said...

take a look at my pics i took yesterday.

i'm in DC for the week, and i went to capitol hill. today i got behind the scenes to the pentagon (i got to go into classified rooms...and i got to sit in the secretary of the army's chair....powerfull).

but take a look at my pics from capitol hill

Darren said...

Nice pictures, especially the close-up of the American flag. If I could make a suggestion, though, it would be to add a little text so even the clueless would know what they're looking at!

Scott McCall said...

they're buildings...and flags....and plants.

.....ya they're important buildings....and flags....and plants....but you should be able to just judge the picture...not really content....i hop