Big Lagoon State Park
12301 Gulf Beach Hwy
Pensacola, FL 32507
GPS: 30.31380o, -087.41318o
Elevation: 223 feet
The The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL is world renown. I've known about it for years and today I got to see it for the first time. It is class throughout. It lives up to its reputation.
As you enter the lobby this imposing picture hits you in the face.
From me, it got the desired response: "Wow!" Every hair on the back of my neck stood up. I have always believed, and still do, that the flight deck of an aircraft carrier is the most exciting place in the world.
Naval aviation has been around since the beginning of aviation itself. This year the museum is paying special tribute to naval aviation in WWI. The sculpture of five aviators over the eras of aviation history commemorate the length of that history.
In early 1993, work began to create a fitting tribute to Naval Aviators. Captain Robert L. Rasmussen, USN (Ret.), Director of the Museum and a noted aviation artist in his own right, conceived a dramatic design for five heroic-sized bronze sculptures that salute Naval Aviation at five significant stages in its history: World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. Accurately sculpted in flight equipment of the period, the airmen appear to be watching intently as the World War II pilot describes a dogfight; five figures frozen in time, yet united by a common theme.
The Blue Angels are Pensacola's darlings. Their name gets used for everything from a parkway to a laundromat, and of course a car dealership. In other words, the community sucks the very life out of the name until all respect is lost and you get sick of hearing it. So the museum pays tribute in moderation with respect.
History is history – the good, the bad, the ugly. Everyone knows of Air Force One and most know of Marine One, the helicopter that flies the President on short trips, mostly between The White House and Andrews AFB, but also for other trips too short to engage the jumbo jet.
I was surprised to see this Marine One here at the museum. But I should not have been. These helicopters are part of naval aviation history. This piece of history I witnessed personally. On 09 Aug 1974, I was still in my Air Force career and I was standing in Base Operations at Andrews AFB looking out the window, as President Nixon got out of Marine One and boarded Air Force One to vacate the Presidency. Airborne enroute to California, at exactly noon, Air Force One changed it's call sign from Air Force One to SAM 28000, as Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States.
Here the man who could have been president on the nation's 200th birthday shamefully left public life. I felt bad and good that day. Bad, recalling that Nixon let me down, but good that our institutions were strong enough to fix the problem and protect us. I think about that in 2017.
Let's change the subject.
Our day at the museum complete, we returned to the campground to eat, take off our shoes, and kick back for the evening. No big dinner plans for tonight.