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In this second chapter in our "out of service" special we visit the March Field Museum located next to the March ARB in Riverside, CA. The March Field collection now includes 68 aircraft. On display are many aircraft which served on the March Air Base in there active service years.
These links will provide you with additional information about the March Field Air Museum:
open_in_new March Field Museum website
open_in_new Current inventory
The museum was founded in 1979, then located "on base" just north of the base's parade ground. The museum's 2000 square foot main exhibit area was filled with photographs depicting the history of the base from its founding in 1918. On February 20, 1981, the March Field Museum opened its doors to the public in another facility, known as Building 420 (the former commissary building). The building was 26,000 square feet and allowed for two or three aircraft to be put indoors plus the relocation of the collection and office space. Prior to 1993, most of the approximately 50 airplanes were located on a flightline parking ramp.
Unknown Mig-19 Chinese markings. (Not in the collection anymore)
The March Field Museum remained in the commissary building until 1993 when the museum moved to its current location. March Field museum is located just off the I-215 freeway at the Van Buren exit in Riverside. The orange white hangar roof is already visible from the freeway when approaching the off ramp.
March Field is situated parallel to one of the March Air Reserve Base(ARB) runways. So you can watch movement on March ARB, home of the Rats flying KC-135s and Griffins flying C and D vipers, from the museum ground.
Let's take an in-depth look at some of the aircraft on display.
Mid 1970's the Air Force started a competition to select a new ground attack aircraft. One of the competitors was the Northrop YA-9A. It was designed to provide extremely stable platform for bombing accuracy. It was also designed to be extremely durable and rugged since most of its flight time was to be spent close to the ground, in range of enemy guns. The A-9 had twelve under wing pylons and was able to carry huge amounts of armament . Both prototypes completed 123 flights, totalling 146.0 flight hours between the both of them.
We all know how this competition ended, the other aircraft was YA-10A "Thunderbolt II", later known as A-10 and thus winner of the competition. After losing the competition the YA-9As were retired from service in 1973. Before retiring the aircraft were transferred to Edwards AFB, to serve as a test bed. The March Field Museum received this YA-9A in 1981 from the NASA Flight Research Center, Edwards. The other remaining prototype of the YA-9A can be seen at the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, CA.
Cessna O-2B Super Skymaster
In 1967, the Air Force choose the O-2B "Super Skymaster" to act as a twin engine Forward Air Controller aircraft. The O-2 was an all metal, four seat business aircraft designed by Cessna to be easy to fly, low in cost, yet still offer the safety and comfort of a twin engine plane.
This aircraft became famous during the Vietnam conflict. Equipped as forward air control aircraft in Vietnam, Skymasters were used for reconnaissance, target identification, damage assessment and air to ground coordination. The O-2 had dual controls and could carry many types of light weapons including rockets, flares, bombs and miniguns.
The aircraft on display (67-21465) was only used for psychological warfare, dropping leaflets or broadcasting propaganda using an amplified speaker system. The 21465 arrived at Nha Trang AB SVN (assignments to Tan Son Nhut AB SVN) on 4 Sept 1967. June 1969 - To 14th Air Special Operations Wing (PACAF), Tan Son Nhut Air Base in South Vietnam. (deployments to Nha Trang AB SVN). Later it served at Nha Trang again (July 1969),Phan Rang AB (Oct 1969-Aug 1971) and Tan Son Nhut (1972) to serve with the 77th Combat Support Group.
In 1972 the O-2 arrived at the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center, Tucson, AZ, with 2712.2 flight hours on the air frame. In April 1973 the aircraft returned into active service again with the 111th Ogden Air Logistics Group (Air National Guard), Willow Grove NAS, PA. The aircraft was later transferred to the 163rd Tactical Air Support Group (ANG), Ontario AP CA in 1975. In 1975, the 163rd TASG moved to March Air Force Base in Riverside, California. In 1982, 0-2B 21465 was fully retired from United States Air Force service with a total of 4,696 flight hours on the air frame, and a bad case of metal fatigue in it's wing structure.
The "Mission Inn" B-29
The B-29 was designed to replace the B-17. It featured new engines, pressurised cabin area's and remotely operated gun turrets. The bomber was introduced in the Air Force in 1940. The first combat mission was flown in china, attacking Japanese shipyards in Bangkok. (The plane wasn't used in European bombing runs.)
The B-29 "Superfortress" became "famous" when on the 6th of August 1945, Colonel Paul Tibbets, piloting the B-29 "Enola Gay", dropped the "Little Boy" atom bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
The B-29A (44-61669) on display in the March Field Museum was delivered to the USAAF on 5 May 1945. It was assigned to the 20th Air Force, 73rd Bomb Wing, 500th Bomb Group, 833rd Bomb Squadron flying combat missions out of Saipan. It carried "Z-49" on its tail at the end of WWII, with nose art Flagship "500". Its last USAF assignment was in 1956 with the 581st Air Resupply Group at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. It was transferred as a TB-29A trainer to the US Navy on 18 March 1956. The aircraft was recovered from the Naval Test Center at China Lake, restored by a private organization, and flown from Daggett Field, Barstow, to March AFB in January, 1981.
On the photograph the B-29 is wearing the "mission inn" nose art on the starboard side. This art was on the plane from 1981 till 2003. It is currently planned to restore her original paint scheme of Z49 with the Flagship "500" nose art. The "mission inn" nose art was applied to a former March Air Force Base, 22nd Bomb Wing "Superfortress'' (recently identified as 44-27263) that served in the Korean War at Kadena AB, Okinawa.
The B-47 was designed as a jet powered intercontinental strategic bomber after the second World War. It was the first jet bomber to utilize a swept wing design and bicycle landing gear, as clearly can be seen in the photograph. The underside of all aircraft were painted white to deflect the heat of nuclear explosions. Boeing designers tested fifty different engine positions before finally placing them.
The B-47 at the March Field Museum is an E model serial number 53-2275. It was manufactured by Boeing Aircraft in Wichita, Kansas and delivered to the Air Force on 14 February 1955. Over its career it was assigned to the Strategic Air Command and based at Andersen Air Base on Guam and at March Air Force Base. It flew with the 303rd, 40th and 22nd Bombardment Wings and the 2881st Air Defense Division. The aircraft was retired from Air Force service in 1964.
The F-14 came about after the Navy dropped its interest in the F-111 as an maritime interceptor. Grumman designed the F-14 to replace the F-4 Phantom on the US Navy carriers. The Navy was looking for a carrier based all weather air superiority fighter. The variable sweep wings are computer controlled and automatically adjust to the most effective position. At full forward sweep this large and heavy aircraft can take off in less than 1000 feet. The F-14 weapon systems can track up to 24 targets 100 miles away. The system can attack six targets simultaneously with the long range Phoenix missiles.
The aircraft on display at the museum is a preproduction A model, serial number BUNO 157990, and it is on loan from the U.S. Navy. It was number 11 of 12 test aircraft built. The number 11 airframe participated on the USS Independence, testing it's suitability for carrier use. It was towed on its landing gear in the middle of the night along Highway 60 from Pomona to March Field in September of 1992.
Nowadays, the tomcat is fully restored and repainted. Obviously that wasn't the case when this photo was made back in 1999.
The T-38 Talon is now placed outside the museum ground as one of the gate guards. The nose of the C-119 was replaced in 2003 by an new one. The SR-71 was photographed just after arrival in 1999. It's now placed on the museum ground and not as photo genetic as in this location.
Thanks to the March Field Museum crew for letting me in, back in 99, before official museum opening times. Special thanks to the March Field Museum internet site, for providing the background information.