Salute to the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum
The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania is an aviation treasure. It houses a remarkable collection of World War II aircraft, many of which are in flying condition, along with a vast collection of World War II artifacts and a machine shop capable of producing many of the parts to restore Second World War aircraft to flying status. The spark plug of this remarkable facility is Ron Gosdeck who took me on a tour of the facility when I dropped in to pick up my Kate Torpedo Bomber along with Tony Stein. Ron was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the mission and activities at the Museum. This article will survey the Museum’s premises, gift shop and collection of aircraft in hopes of conveying to the reader the excellence in performance and enthusiasm exhibited by Museum members and personnel.
The Aircraft Collection at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum
Without question, the premier aircraft in the Museum is the Northrop P-61 Black Widow. The Black Widow is currently under restoration and when restored will be the only flying P-61 in the world. The fuselage, engine nacelles and tail booms have been restored. The wing panels are the next structures to be restored in the sequence of restoration. The aircraft crashed on January 10, 1945 on Mount Cyclops, Papua, New Guinea, and was recovered in 1989 by the Museum. It bears FAA Registration N550NF. When the aircraft is completed, over 70% of the structure will be new. Comparable in size to a medium bomber, the P-61 has a length of 49 feet and 7 inches and wingspan of 66 feet with a height of 14 feet, 8 inches, and maximum takeoff weight is 36,200 pounds. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-2800 double wasp radial engines producing 2,250 watts of power each, the P-61 can achieve a top speed of 366 miles per hour at 20,000 feet and can climb to 20,000 feet in 12 minutes. It is equipped with four 20mm cannon in the ventral fuselage and four 50 caliber machine guns in a remotely operated full traverse upper turret. Other than the P-61 Black Widow being restored by the Museum, there are only three other Black Widows in existence: (1) 1 at the Beijing Air and Space Museum in Beijing, China; (2) one at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia; and (3) one at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
The second most remarkable aircraft in the collection is a B-25 Mitchell Bomber which is extraordinarily authentic. It may be the most authentically restored B-25 in existence. Painted in standard Army Air Corps colors with an olive drab upper fuselage and wings and lower gray fuselage and wings, the Museum’s Mitchell is immaculate by any standard.
The third most significant aircraft in the collection is a TBM Avenger which, like the P-61 and the B-25 is in immaculate condition. The fact that the Museum can support, operate and maintain a B-25 and a TBM Avenger is a testament to the resources and determination of the Museum’s members.
The Museum has a host of other flyable aircraft such as a North American SNJ Texan, a Boeing N2S Stearman, a Beech 18, and numerous other aircraft. The Museum offers rides in both the Stearman and the Texan. People desiring to be flown in these aircraft can order a gift certificate and schedule a flight in these historically significant aircraft.
The Museum’s Store
The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum features a spectacular gift shop along with displays of aviation artifacts. The displays include models of aircraft, paintings and a collection of aviation artifacts. The gift shop is clean, well decorated and spacious. The products to be purchased at the shop are of the highest quality.
The History and Purpose of the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum
The Museum was founded in 1980 by 25 original members with the mission of acquiring, preserving, restoring and operating historic aircraft. In 1988, the Museum relocated to a site at Carl A. Spaatz Field which served as a World War II Base which housed B-24 Bombers before they were prepared for ferry flights to combat bases in England. Later the Field housed a U.S. Air Force Reserve Unit and then became headquarters for the First Pennsylvania Air National Guard Unit. When the Air National Guard Unit departed the Air Base, the buildings housed a flight school and aircraft repair facility until being acquired by the Museum in 1993. Today, the Museum possesses more than 50 restored and unrestored aircraft ranging in age from the 1920s to 1983. The Museum plays an important role in the educational and cultural life of the community and is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a not-for-profit organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
The Museum aircraft attend more than 20 airshows annually. Thousands of visitors each year receive guided tours through the Museum as part of its educational mission and focus. People desiring to support the mission of the Museum may participate as a Regular Member paying $45.00 annually or Contributing Member paying $100.00 annually or a Supporting Member paying $500.00 annually or a Life Membership of $800.00. These levels of membership afford participants varying degrees of access to the Museum and Museum aircraft as well as Museum sponsored events.
In addition to the ambitions of Museum personnel to restore and operate a number of aircraft, the Museum is also working to construct an authentic World War II Control Tower. The funding for the construction of the tower is being accomplished by selling bricks with engraved text to recognize the contribution of persons participating in this ambitious undertaking.
The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum evidences excellence and a devotion to purpose at every level of the facility. The premises are spotless, inviting an attractively decorated. The gift shop is superb. The aircraft collection is comprised of airplanes in pristine condition. A visit to the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum will be a day well spent.