Big happenings planned for the Air Force Museum this year

Several major events are planned at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in 2012, including the 70th reunion of the Doolittle Raiders.

Three recently declassified satellites will be placed on exhibit in the museum’s Cold War Gallery later this month. The Gambit 1 KH-7, Gambit 3 KH-8 and Hexagon KH-9 satellites represented the most advanced photo-optical reconnaissance systems in the world from the 1960s to the 1980s. These massive artifacts – the KH-9 is about the size of a school bus – will allow the museum to interpret the Air Force’s role in unmanned space programs and its support of national security, officials said.

From April 17-20, celebrate the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders as the World War II aviation heroes commemorate the 70th anniversary of the raid on Japan during their reunion at the museum. These 80 men, led by Lt. Col. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, achieved the unimaginable when they took off from an aircraft carrier on April 18, 1942, on a top secret mission to bomb Japan. All five of the living Raiders – Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole; Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite; Lt. Col. Edward J. Saylor; Maj. Thomas C. Griffin and Master Sgt. David J. Thatcher – plan to attend reunion activities, which include free public events such as autograph sessions, a memorial service, a B-25 flyover, and the showing of the film “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.” The public also can purchase tickets to attend two lunches and an evening banquet.

As a special tribute to the Raiders during the reunion, the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders Association, Inc. is working to secure enough sponsorship funding to fly in and land 25 B-25 Mitchell bombers on the runway behind the museum. If their efforts are successful, this aviation event would be the largest gathering of B-25s since World War II.

The NASA Crew Compartment Trainer (CCT) will arrive at the museum in 2012. This high-fidelity representation of a Space Shuttle Orbiter crew station was used primarily for on-orbit crew training and engineering evaluations. Here, astronauts learned how to operate many of the orbiter sub-systems in more than 20 different classes, and all U.S. Air Force astronauts in NASA’s Shuttle Program trained in the CCT. After its arrival, the CCT will be displayed in the Cold War Gallery. Eventually, it will be exhibited in the new Space Gallery, which will be part of the museum’s planned fourth building.

The Giant Scale Radio-Controlled Model Aircraft Air Show, held over Labor Day weekend (Aug. 31-Sept. 2), features daring acrobatics performed by model jets, helicopters and warbirds. Daily shows and candy drops delight visitors, and the admission cost doesn’t hurt either – this three-day event is free!

The museum is in the midst of the complete renovation of its Southeast Asia War Gallery. Started in the fall of 2010 and continuing over four phases, the gallery renovation is being completed in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first official U.S. Air Force campaign in Southeast Asia. The gallery features more than 25 aircraft, including the recently restored HH-3E helicopter, B-57 bomber and C-7 transport, and the Southeast Asia story is explained in 12 chapters, including themes such as Operation Rolling Thunder, the Tet Offensive and Operation Linebacker.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on Springfield Street, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton, Ohio. It is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Admission and parking are free. For more information: NationalMuseum.af.mil.

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