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ATWATER — With the 100th anniversary of U.S. naval aviation at the center of attention for those at Castle Air Museum, caretakers are celebrating the milestone the only way they know how — by showing off a naval addition to the museum’s fleet.
A Vought RF-8 Crusader, which was flown during the Cuban missile crisis and Vietnam War, was dedicated in May and will be part of Sunday’s Open Cockpit Day lineup.
Plane interiors and other artifacts will be on display during the event from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 5050 Santa Fe Drive in Atwater.
The RF-8 Crusader will be the newest bird on display for Sunday’s event, but it won’t be long before another historic airship will join the others.
Over the past few months, restoration volunteers have been working feverishly to complete another Navy plane from the same era, said Joe Pruzzo, chief executive officer of the museum.
Like the Crusader, the museum’s Douglas RA-3B Skywarrior was flown during the Cuban missile crisis and Vietnam War, and was the largest plane to be flown off an aircraft carrier, said Don Harris, one of the restoration volunteers.
From size to design, there are several differences in how Navy planes are designed today.
The airships, which were often retrofitted in their later years into reconnaissance and refueling planes, had no ejector seats.
Most recently, the restoration team has been working on reattaching the wings, which requires removing 1,200 bolts on both wings and replacing them with 1,200 new bolts, Pruzzo said. The work is tedious, but once it’s done, the Skywarrior will be an excellent addition to the museum’s growing Navy aircraft population, he said. It’s expected to be finished next year.
Admission Sunday is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors 60 and older and $5 for 6- to 17-year-olds. Active-duty military personnel and children 5 and younger get in free. There’s a family rate of $30 for four people.