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Aviation Sights of Long Island
1. Long Island’s Aviation Seed
The aviation seed planted on Long Island’s Hempstead Plains in 1909, when Glenn Curtiss had first flown above it in his Golden Flyer biplane, had sprouted and grown over a six-decade period until it had ultimately connected its own soil with that of its moon.
Its many aerospace sights, depicting its general aviation, commercial, military, and space branches, and geographically spread between Garden City and Calverton, recount this journey.
2. Cradle of Aviation Museum
The Cradle of Aviation Museum, located on Museum Row in Garden City near the Coliseum, Nassau Community College, and Hofstra University, tells most of Long Island’s aerospace story.
Tracing its origin to 1979, when then-County Executive Francis T. Purcell designated funds to restore two aircraft hangars at former Mitchel Field, it displayed several dozen aircraft until it closed for renovation in 1995. The 130,000-square-foot, $40 million facility, opening on the 75th anniversary of Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight in 2002, showcases more than 70 air- and spacecraft, 11 of which are one-of-a-kind designs, associated with or constructed on Long Island and uncovered during a 20-year search which had stretched from the bottom of Lake Michigan to Guadalcanal. They had then been restored and preserved by retired airline and defense aircraft manufacturer volunteers who collectively contributed some 650,000 man-hours to the project. The result had been Long Island’s largest, year-round, educational, recreational, and cultural institution.
According to New York State Governor George E. Pataki, museum visitors “can see the brief span of years that brought Long Island from hosting the fragile biplanes of 1911 to building the Lunar Module that took mankind to the moon in the sixties. Through these displays, the Cradle becomes a powerful mirror that reflects our own skills, intellect, and ability to conquer time and space and pays tribute to American innovation and pioneering spirit.”
The Cradle of Aviation Museum, dominated by its impressive, four-story, glass atrium Reckson Center, greets visitors with a ceiling-suspended Grumman F-11A Tiger supersonic fighter in Blue Angels livery and a 1929 Fleet 2 biplane trainer, symbolically representing the soaring ascent of Long Island’s aviation heritage.
The main exhibits, located in eight galleries in the two restored Army Air Corps Hangars 3 and 4 which still bear the words “Mitchel Field. Elev 90 Feet” on their facades, and now designated the Donald Everett Axinn Air and Space Hall, are accessed by a second floor skywalk at whose entrance a third ceiling-suspended replica of a 1922 Sperry Messenger biplane designed by the Lawrence Sperry Aircraft Company of Farmingdale hangs.
According to the skywalk’s plaque, “Long Island has been at the forefront of American’s aviation and space adventure for the past one hundred years…It all started here on Long Island’s Hempstead Plains.”
A one-flight descent leads to the first of the museum’s galleries, “Dream of Wings.” Depicting the triumph of flight with lighter-than-air craft, it demonstrates how balloon, kite, glider, and airship experimentations turned the dream of flight into reality and led to its heavier-than-air successors, displaying aerostatic lift generation, Alexander Graham Bell’s tetrahedral kite, an Otto Lilienthal glider, and a 1906 Timmons kite built in Queens, the museum’s oldest flying exhibit. A 20-hp Glenn Curtiss airship engine, designed two years later, and a Mineola Bike Shop, demonstrating, in the Wright Brothers’ vein, the technology transfer from the bicycle to the aircraft with propellers and wings, round out the exhibits.
The “Hempstead Plains” gallery, the next encountered, represents a 1910 air meet. Amid recordings of turning propellers and accelerating aircraft, a collection of early designs graces the grass-carpeted field and includes an original Bleriot XI of 1909, the world’s fourth-oldest, still-operational airframe; a spruce-and-bamboo replica of Glenn Curtiss’s Golden Flyer, the first heavier-than-air airplane to fly over Long Island; a replica of a Wright Brothers’ Vin Fiz; a Hanriot monoplane; a Farman biplane, a 1911 Anzani engine; and a 1913 Studebaker “motor car.”
During World War I, as evidenced by the succeeding gallery, the triumph of flight was transferred into the destruction of man, as the airplane assumed the reciprocal role of a weapon, and Long Island had become the center of military aircraft design, testing, and production during this time. On display is the first airplane acquired by Charles Lindbergh, a Curtiss JN-4 Jenny purchased in 1923 for $500; along with a 1918 Breese Penguin trainer, the only one of the 250 originally produced remaining; an airworthy Thomas-Morse S4C Scout biplane with its original Marlin machine gun; and the F. Trubee Davison World War One wooden hangar, which sports the ribbed, uncovered airframe of a Curtiss Jenny with its engine, propeller, and fuel tank; and a 160-hp Gnome Monosoupope, 1916 engine from France.
During the Golden Age of Aviation, which spanned the 20-year period from 1919 to 1938, aviation matured, evolving from a dangerous sport to a viable commercial industry. The motley collection of aircraft in this gallery includes the sister ship to the original Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis and used during the filming of the epic tale; an Aircraft Engineering Corporation “Ace,” which became America’s first sport plane; a replica of a Curtiss/Sperry Aerial Torpedo; a 1932 Grumman F3F-2 Navy Scout fighter; a Brunner Winkle Model A Byrd biplane built in Glendale, Queens; an American Aeronautical Corporation/Savoia Marchetti S-56 amphibian made in Port Washington; and a Grumman G-21 Goose in blue, Pan American Airways System livery.
During World War II, as reflected by its respective gallery, the aircraft produced by Repubic and Grumman had been crucial to US victory, and within the six-year period from 1939 to 1945 depicted, some 45,000 airframes had rolled off the production line. On display are a powerless Waco CG-4 Troop Glider, which had been used to deliver soldiers behind enemy lines; a Republic P-47N Thunderbolt; a Grumman F6F Hellcat, a Grumman TBM Avenger, a Grumman F6F Hellcat, a Douglas C-47 cockpit and nose section, and the Sperry Type A-2 lower gun turret which had protected the undersides of B-17 and B-24 long-range bombers.
The pure-jet engine, as evidenced by the Jet Age Gallery, revolutionized military aviation by endowing aircraft with unprecedented speed, range, maneuverability, and attack capability, and Grumman Aircraft Corporation had been instrumental in this development, having designed more than 40 civilian and military types which totaled some 33,000 airframes and provided employment for 200,000 Long Island residents. Its military aircraft, particularly, had played crucial roles in numerous conflicts, including those in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq. On display are several Grumman designs, inclusive of an E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning/command-and-control aircraft, an F9F-7 Cougar, the forward fuselage of an F-14 Tomcat, and an A-6 Intruder cockpit simulator, while Republic Aviation is represented by an F-84B Thunderjet, an F-105B supersonic fighter, and an A-10A Thunderbolt cockpit section. A Boeing 727 nose and cockpit section and a Westinghouse J-34 turbine engine round out the exhibits.
The “Contemporary Aviation” gallery features air traffic control radar screens which emphasize the congested JFK, La Guardia, and Newark airport triplex, along with their secondary airports of Long Island MacArthur and Westchester County’s White Plains, and Farmingdale’s Republic Airport, the states’ busiest general aviation/reliever field.
The “Exploring Space” gallery, the last of the eight, depicts the dramatic transition from atmospheric flight to vacuumless space and emphasizes Long Island’s rich contribution to this aerospace sector. Its exhibits include a Goddard A-series rocket; a Grumman orbiting astronomical observatory; a Grumman echo adapter; a life-size model of the Sputnik satellite which had been presented by the Soviet Union and whose original hardware had launched the Space Race; a Grumman Rigel ramjet missile from 1953; a Grumman Lunar Module simulator; and a Rockwell Command Module which had been used during a 25,000-mph earth reentry test in 1966 prior to the manned Apollo flights.
A “Clean Room,” representing the environment in which all Lunar Modules had been hand-made, leads to the gallery’s-and the museum’s-most precious exhibit, an actual, 22.9-foot-high, gold foil-covered LM-13, the thirteenth and last Lunar Module built, dramatically lit with its legs nestled on a simulated moonscape. Designated an historic mechanical landmark, the Lunar Module had been the first-and thus far, only-spacecraft to have ever transported human beings from earth to another planet or its moons.
The Museum Annex Jet Gallery, which shares facilities with the Long Island Firefighter’s Museum, features a Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, the forward fuselage of a Grumman F-14A, a full F-14A Tomcat airframe, a Grumman A-6F Intruder, and the forward nose section and cockpit of an El Al Boeing 707.
Other museum facilities include the seven-story-high, 300-seat, 76-foot-wide Leroy R. and Rose W. Grumman IMAX Theater, New York state’s largest domed venue and Long Island’s only IMAX screen; the Martian-themed Red Planet Café, which displays a 1961 Grumman “Molab” Mobile Lunar Laboratory designed for lunar surface travel, habitation, and testing; a balcony-located Aerospace Honor Roll; and the Mitchel Field Outpost gift and bookstore.
The Cradle of Aviation Museum is a world-class facility which preserves, showcases, and interprets Long Island’s rich aerospace heritage.
3. American Airpower Museum
The American Airpower Museum, located at Farmingdale’s Republic Airport, oozes with history. It is housed in an historic hangar, where historic World War II aircraft had been built, and these had then been tested at this historic airfield.
Republic Airport itself, founded in 1928 as Fairchild Flying Field when Sherman Fairchild’s existing facility had become too small to support continued FC-2 and Model 71 production, had passed the torch to Grumman for a five-year period, from 1932 to 1937, when the Fairchild Engine and Aircraft Manufacturing Company itself had relocated to Maryland.
Seversky, establishing its presence on the field in 1935, continued its tradition of aircraft building and testing, redesignating itself “Republic Aviation” and considerably expanding its facilities with three new hangars, a control tower, and a longer runway. A major supplier of military designs, it churned out more than 9,000 P-47 Thunderbolts during the Second World War and 800 F-105 Thunderchiefs during the Vietnam conflict.
After acquiring the airport in 1965, Fairchild-Hiller sold it to Farmingdale Corporation, which turned it into a public facility the following year, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), purchasing it for $25 million in 1969, renamed it Republic Airport, lengthening existing Runway 14-32, constructing a 100-foot FAA control tower, and building a small passenger terminal.
The 526-acre general aviation/reliever airport, whose ownership once again changed to the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) in April of 1983, exerts some $139 million of economic impact on Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Its 546 based and transient aircraft record 190,723 annual movements, of which 93 percent encompass general aviation, six percent air taxi, and one percent military, in a full spectrum of aircraft types, including single-engine, multi-engine, piston, turboprop, pure-jet, and rotary wing, and these utilize its two runways: 5,516-foot Runway 1-19 and 6,827-foot Runway 14-32. As New York’s third largest airport in terms of take offs and landings after JFK and La Guardia, and its largest general aviation field, it handled 1,634 enplanements, mostly due to charter flight activity, in 2005.
Amidst this atmosphere, off of New Highway, is the American Airpower Museum. Hangar 3, its location, had been completed in 1927, along with other structures at a $500,000 cost and had served as the incubation point of some 9,000 Republic P-47 Thunderbolts during the Second World War. As a result, it had once been considered part of the “arsenal of democracy.” The museum, launched after a $250,000 grant from Governor George E. Pataki and dedicated during the airport’s annual Pearl Harbor Day Commemorative Service in 2000, had been built to serve as a living tribute to Long Island’s veteran population by honoring the past with the present, and to create a regional tourist destination, along with the Cradle of Aviation Museum.
Colonel Francis Gabreski, who scored most of his World War II victories in Republic P-47s, had been the highest ranking ace on Long Island and had initially served as the museum’s honorary commander.
Complementing the static displays at the Cradle of Aviation Museum itself, the American Airpower Museum features the sights, sounds, and experiences of operational World War II fighters and bombers, the first time in 54 years that the New York metropolitan area can boast of such an accomplishment. As the Williamsburg of military aviation, the facility accurately proclaims its mission as “where history flies.”
Its varied collection of pristinely restored aircraft encompass trainers, fighters, carrier-based Navy, ocean reconnaissance, bombers, and post-World War II jet types.
The North American T-6 Texan, for instance, first flew in 1935 and was one of the most widely used advanced fighter pilot trainers during the war.
Of the fighters, the Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk, which also first flew that year, attains 363-mph speeds and currently wears Flying Tiger livery. No aircraft could be more at home in the American Airpower Museum’s Hangar 3, however, than the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, the very design which was assembled here in the thousands. First taking to the skies from the runway only yards away in 1940, it was the largest, heaviest, single-engine, single-pilot piston fighter ever produced, attaining 467-mph speeds. The P-51 Mustang, whose maximum speed had been 30 mph lower than the Thunderbolt’s, flew high-altitude escort missions of B-17 and B-24 long-range bombers, shooting down more enemy aircraft than any other World War II European theater fighter.
Of the Navy aircraft, the Grumman TBM Avenger, a carrier-based torpedo bomber, had hunted German U-boats off the coast of Long Island, while the Vought FG-1D Corsair had been used by both the Navy and the Marines and had achieved 446-mph airspeeds.
The Consolidated PBY Catalina, a high-wing, amphibious ocean reconnaissance aircraft flown by a crew of eight, searched for enemy submarines. It had a 2,545-mile range, a 15,748-foot service ceiling, and a 178-mph speed.
The museum’s twin-engined, medium-range North American B-25 Mitchell bomber, designated “Miss Hap,” had been General Hap Arnold’s personal aircraft, while the type in general had been made famous by the Doolittle Raid.
The collection also includes several jet fighters. The L-39 Albatross, for example, is a 570-mph Soviet trainer which first flew in 1968 and is still in service with 16 countries. The Republic F-84 Thunderjet, one of the first pure-jet fighters, attained 620-mph speeds and served from 1948 to the Korean War. The RF-84 Thunderflash, also designed by Republic, is a 720-mph photoreconnaissance aircraft with horizon-to-horizon photograph capability, and served between 1953 and 1971. The Republic F-105 Thunderchief, a supersonic fighter and attack bomber, had been most extensively deployed in Vietnam in its F-105D guise, carrying more than 12,000 pounds of ordnance and achieving 1,390-mph speeds. It served for a quarter of a century, from 1955 to 1980. The General Dynamics F-111, a supersonic, March 1.2, variable-geometry strike aircraft, first flew in 1967, and had seen service in Vietnam, Libya, and Iraq.
Aside from the aircraft themselves, there are nose and cockpit sections, including those of a Fairchild-Republic A-10, a Mig-21, a Beech 18/C-45, and a Douglas C-47, as well as engines, such as a General Electric J-47 and an Allison V-1710.
World War II’s aviation story is also told by means of films, period scenes and dioramas, an extensive model and memorabilia collection, vintage vehicles, a “Ready Room,” a “Briefing Room,” a “Canteen,” a gift shop, and era-related music.
Tours are periodically provided to the historic, five-story, 1943 control tower located in Hangar 4. The view from the cab, amid vintage radio and radar equipment overlooking Republic airport’s two runways, provides insight into the controllers’ functions, which often included coordinating vectors from P-47s, A-10s, F-84s, and F-105s enroute to the region’s dense air base network comprised of Zahns Airport, then virtually across the road, Grumman in Bethpage, Mitchel Field in Garden City, the Floyd Bennett Field Naval Air Station in Brooklyn, and the Vought factory across Long Island Sound in Connecticut, a network emphasizing Long Island’s early nucleic role in aviation.
Because the American Airpower Museum’s collection is predominantly operational, several flight experiences are offered.
Its own, and signature, opportunity, aboard a Douglas C-47 Skytrain which had last been used by the Israeli Air Force, simulates the famed, D-Day allied invasion of Normandy during the early-morning hours of June 6, 1944.
After donning paratrooper uniforms, helmets, and modified parachutes in the Ready Room, would-be jumpers move to the Briefing Room, where, amid wooden benches and period maps, the pending mission is detailed, along with the necessary regrouping maneuver behind French hedgerows after parachuting to the ground. French francs are distributed.
The cohesive, identically clad team now climbs aboard the twin-engined, olive-green C-47, which is configured with wooden side benches and actually partook of Normandy operations.
During a recent summer flight, the aircraft taxied out to Republic Airport’s Runway 1 and initiated its piston engine-propelled acceleration roll, raising its tailwheel and surrendering to the flawlessly blue sky while retracting its undercarriage.
Climbing to 1,200 feet and maintaining a 125-mph airspeed, the Douglas twin straddled Long Island’s south shore off of Jones Beach, which simulated the similar sands of Normandy.
Upon reaching the designated “drop zone,” the jumpmaster yelled, “Stand up! Check equipment! Hook up!” and the paratroopers connected their lines to the aircraft in preparation for imminent bailout.
Parachute jumping procedures were drilled and the actual, 1944 event was recounted. Regrettably, the realism necessarily had to end there.
Nevertheless, after relanding, the sensation of the D-Day disconnection during the real jump was recreated as the temporary troopers climbed out the aft, left hatch, their Velcro-attached lines separating with gentle tares, a symbolic disconnection from machine before being gravity-induced into an exponentially accelerating tumble to French soil until the unraveling surfaces of their parachutes blossomed into arresting airfoils.
Before removing uniforms, passengers are instructed to reach into their pockets to retrieve a card which reveals the identity of their historical double-or that paratrooper they had represented during the simulated mission. The paratrooper, however, had made the actual jump. And the card indicates whether he had lived or died as a result of it.
Other than the American Airpower Museum’s own C-47 flight experience, vintage aircraft static displays and aerial opportunities are scheduled during holidays and special occasions, such as during Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, historical anniversaries, and the annual Labor Day Flight of Aces weekend, the latter created to encourage young people to write about the virtues, victories, and achievements of a World War II-age friend or relative. The winning composition is awarded a bomber flight experience. Aircraft have included the MATS C-121 Constellation; the Berlin Airlift “Spirit of Freedom” C-54; the B-17 Flying Fortress; the B-24 Liberator; the B-25 Mitchell; and the PT-17 Stearman, the last four of which were operated by the Collings Foundation.
A post-museum visit dinner at the 56th Fighter Group Restaurant located on the Route 110 side of Republic Airport, although not affiliated with the museum itself, both complements and completes a World War II living history day. Resembling a 1940 wartime English farmhouse, it further transports the diner to this era with its “Officer’s Mess” entry; rustic, timbered ceilings; fireplace-adorned dining rooms; World War II-related photographs, memorabilia, and propellers; simulated, bombed-out patio; Big Band music; and views of replica P-40, P-47, and Corsair aircraft. The steak and seafood menu is noted for its signature beer-cheese soup.
The American Airpower Museum is a living aviation time portal to World War II and Long Island’s invaluable contribution to its victory of it. A post-museum dinner at the 56th Fighter Group Restaurant provides the culinary cap to it.
4. Bayport Aerodrome Living Aviation Museum
The Bayport Aerodrome Living Aviation Museum, created by the Bayport Aerodrome Society to preserve and present early-20th century aviation at a representative turf airport, is a 24-hangar complex of privately owned antique and experimental aircraft located at Bayport Aerodrome.
The aerodrome, three miles southeast of Long Island MacArthur Airport, is a nontowered field with a single, 150-foot-wide by 2,740-foot-long grass/turf runway (18-36) and 45 based single-engine aircraft. Of its average 28 daily movements, 98 percent are local, with the remainder transient. Designated Davis Field from 1910 to 1952, it had then been renamed Edwards Airport until 1977, whereafter it had been acquired by the Town of Islip. On January 22, 2008, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a feat proudly proclaimed by its plaque, which reads: “Bayport Aerodrome. Only L.I. public airport w/ grass runways. National Historic status 2008.”
Formed in 1972 for the very purpose of preserving such an era, the Bayport Aerodrome Society conducts complementary tours on weekends between June and September of its operational aircraft collection, which includes Piper Cubs, Waco biplanes, N2S Stearmans, Fleet Model 16Bs, Byrds, and PT-22s. There is also a small museum.
5. Grand Old Airshow
The Grand Old Airshow, first held in 2006 at Brookhaven’s Calabro Airport, was created to transport spectators to earlier, biplane and World War II eras and showcase Long Island aviation.
Calabro Airport itself is a 600-acre, nontowered, municipal field which was constructed during the Second World War to provide logistical support for the Army Air Corps, but was acquired by the Town of Brookhaven in 1961, whose Division of General Aviation now operates it. The field, sporting two runways-4,200-foot Runway 6-24 and 4,224-foot Runway 15-33-is home to three fixed-base operators which offer tie-down pads, T-hangars, conventional hangars, flight instruction, and refueling, as well as Eastern Suffolk Boces, the Dowling College School of Aviation, the Long Island Soaring Association, and Island Aerial Air. There is a small terminal with a luncheonette. Of its 217 based aircraft, some 92 percent encompass single-engine types, and it averages 370 daily, or 135,100 yearly, movements.
The airshow entices the visitor by urging him to “join us this year as we go back in time to celebrate Long Island’s Golden Age of Aviation,” a time when “biplanes graced the skies decades ago.” It continues by offering the experience of “bygone days of aviation, as World War I dogfights, open-cockpit biplanes, World War II fighters, and, of course, the famous Geico Skytypers, soar through Long Island’s blue skies.”
Previous shows have featured antique vehicles and static aircraft displays, the latter encompassing TBM Avengers, Fokker Dr-1s, Nieuports, and Messerschmidt Me-109s, while aerial stunts have included comedy maneuvers performed in Piper J-3 Cubs by “randomly chosen” audience member Carl Spackle; Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome-borrowed Delsey Dives and balloon bursts targeted by Great Lakes Speedsters, Fleet 16Bs, and PT-17 Stearmans; speed races between runway-bound motorcycles and airborne, low-passing PT-17s; aerobatics by SF-260s; and skywriting by Sukhoi 29s.
A Sikorsky UH-34D Sea Horse Marine helicopter, used for combat rescue in Vietnam, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and by NASA during the Project Mercury astronaut recovery program, demonstrated search-and-rescue procedures.
Both Long Island aviation and formation flying are well represented. Past shows have featured Byrd, N3N, Fleet Model 16B, and N2S Stearman aircraft from the Bayport Aerodrome Society; P-40 Warhawks and P-51 Mustangs from Warbirds over Long Island; F4U Corsairs from the American Airpower Museum; and North American SNJ-2s from the Republic Airport-based Geico Skytypers.
Vintage vehicle and aircraft rides are available. Spectators bring their own lawn chairs and line them up next to the active runway. There is period dress and speeches are given by Tuskegee Airmen. Concession trucks sell everything from hot dogs to ice cream and souvenirs and numerous aviation-related schools and associations man booths.
The Grand Old Airshow, held in the fall, is a single-day, single-visit, outdoor glimpse toward the sky where Long Island’s multi-faceted aviation history was written and where it is now recreated.
6. Grumman Memorial Park
Grumman Memorial Park, located on a one-acre site of the former Grumman Aerospace Flight Test Facility in Calverton only one thousand feet from one of its runways, is, according to its self-description, “a volunteer effort paying tribute to the incredible advances in aviation and space flight that took place on Long Island thanks to the teamwork of the employees of the Grumman Corporation. This dedicated band of people took aviation from the fight deck of a US Navy aircraft carrier to man’s first steps on the moon.”
Leroy Randle Grumman, the man behind this company’s name, had been born on January 4, 1895 and established the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation 35 years later, according to the park’s plaque “in a small garage in Baldwin, Long Island, New York. There and later in Valley Stream, Farmingdale, Bethpage, Calverton, and locations throughout the country, the company designed and produced innovative aircraft and spacecraft for both the military forces of the United States and the civilian market.” Incorporated in all these designs had been the company’s straightforward philosophy of “keep it simple…build it strong….make it work.”
Phase One of the park, completed on October 28, 2000, had been dedicated to “preserving the legacy of the Grumman Corporation (and) to the men and women who designed, built, and flew the aircraft and spacecraft that soared into the heavens and beyond.”
Centerpiece, mounted on a pedestal in a climbing profile, is an F-14A Tomcat. Powered by two 20,900 thrust-pound, afterburner-equipped Pratt and Whitney TF30-P-414A turbofans, the swing-wing, variable-geometry fighter, whose sweepback varies from 20 degrees in the forward to 68 degrees in the aft position, was the 331st such Tomcat airframe to roll off the nearby Calverton assembly line and first flew from the almost arm’s reach runway on July 6, 1979. Delivered two months later to the US Navy’s VF-101 Fighter Squadron in Oceana, Virginia, it carried 2,385 gallons of fuel, including that accommodated in two, 267-gallon external tanks, and had a 1,191-mile nonstop range. The Mach 2 aircraft had provided 25 years of service before being decommissioned, and had been one of 712 F-14s to have been produced between 1970 and 1992.
Surrounded by inscribed bricks, which comprise the “Walk of Honor,” the display has several interactive features, including a visitor-controlled audible recording of its story, sounds of an afterburner take off, and wing and tail light activation.
The second aircraft on display, part of the park’s Phase Two expansion, is the Grumman A-6E Intruder located on the other side of the small parking lot. Tracing its origins to its initial version, the A2F-1 which had first flown in 1960, it was one of 693 all-weather attack aircraft which were powered by two Pratt and Whitney J-52 P-8B turbojets and had maximum take off weights of 58,600 pounds. Operating at 42,400-foot ceilings, the 648-mph aircraft could deliver eight 500-pound bombs with pinpoint accuracy, and it could carry an entire arsenal of weapons, striking targets more than 500 miles from the aircraft carrier on which it had been based without the need for refueling. Production ceased in 1997.
Aside from the two aircraft themselves, displays include the original Calverton Plant 7 flagpole, a Bethpage Plant 14 guard booth, and a Bethpage runway section, along with its side light, from which every Grumman F6F Hellcat had taken off.
Also viewable is a Hughes AIM-54A Phoenix long-range air-to-air missile, an integral part of the F-14 Tomcat AWG-9 Weapon System. Featuring a 13-foot length and three-foot wingspan, the device had a 1,021-pound gross weight, of which its 132-pound warhead had been propelled by a solid rocket motor. Traveling at a speed of Mach 5, it had a 96-mile range. The F-14 could carry up to six such Phoenix missiles.
Grumman Memorial Park, a work-in-progress whose nine additional acres will eventually encompass a visitor center and other aircraft displays, offers an initial glimpse into Grumman’s superior military designs only yards from the factory which had hatched them.
Long Island’s six-decade aerial journey, which had begun on its Hempstead Plains in 1909 when Glenn Curtiss had first taken off in the Golden Flyer biplane and ended when the Lunar Module had first landed on the moon’s Sea of Tranquility in 1969, is expertly recounted by its world-class aviation sights.
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