Castle Museum opens for tribute

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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.

As for Sunday, 30 aircraft interiors will be on display, including a B-52 bomber, SR-71 Blackbird, Navy A-4 Skyhawk and an F-14 Tomcat, Pruzzo noted.

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.

Fictional aircraft inspired from real aircraft

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AT-99 Scorpion seen in the 2009 film "Avatar"

Imagination is something everybody has. It is the very beginning of creating things. Some are carried out; some never see the light of day. Some are appreciated, some are not. And some are lived out and inspires more imaginations. Example of this is the fictional aircraft used in stories, movies, and TV programs which were born from being inspired by real aircraft.

One fictional aircraft that caught the eyes of many, from the blockbuster movie Avatar, is the AT-99 Scorpion or “Scorpion” gunship. In the movie, the Vertical and Takeoff Landing (VTOL) vehicle that escort shuttle landings and takeoff and provides air fire support for military operations. It is 12.2m in length, 3.51m in height, and 8.73m in width. It is armed with four .50 caliber guns and missiles. Like the AH-1 Cobra, the Scorpion gunship is light, maneuverable, and an adaptable platform. It is also similar to heavily-armored VTOL weapons platform like the Mi-28 Havoc and AH-64 Apache.

Another fictional aircraft is the Blackbird or X-jet from X-men. It first looked like a modified version of the Lockheed SR-71 but some writers referred that the design as the “SR-73” or “SR-77.” It has been destroyed and rebuilt many times so it differs in specifications from time to time. It has been featured to have sported holographic active camouflage and hypersonic speed engines. But in Ultimate X-men, there seems to be a number of aircraft the superhero team used.  One resembled the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

Also a fictional aircraft is the Elgin E-474 from the movie Flight Plan. In the movie, the aircraft was helped designed by Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster), the protagonist. The E-474’s interior and design is very much alike to the Airbus A380. In reality, the avionics bay was from an Alitalia 747-200.


‘Transformers’ transforms warplanes into stars


Transformers movie poster (2007)

Aside from helicopters, other aircraft have been featured and continue to be featured in Hollywood films. Usually, warplanes star in action films to bring more oomph to the films. But these bad boys don’t come cheap because they cost thousands of dollars to “act.” Some go for solely CGI instead. Still, these thousand-dollar aircraft bring in more audiences so no loss but more gain for the producers.

Director Michael Bay on set of Transformers at Holloman Air Force Base

One movie that incorporated both real aircraft and CGI is the blockbuster film Transformers. Other than land vehicles, this film used aircraft like an F-22 Raptor for the character Starscream. Starscream is one of the enemy Decepticons which originally transforms into an F-15 Eagle based on the cartoon movie The Transformers: The Movie which was released on August 8, 1986.

Real airmen as extras on the set of Transformers at Holloman Air Force Base

Other aircraft used were F-117 Nighthawks, CV-22 Osprey, A-10 Thunderbolt II, C-17 Globemaster III, MH-53 Pave Low, HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giant, AC-130 Gunship, C-130 Hercules, MQ-1 Predator, and Air Force One. Looks like these bad boys aren’t just cutout for war but also for “acting”, too,  so move aside Herbie.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen movie poster (2009)

Most of us thought that prominent fighter aircraft used in first Transformers film were mind-blowing but our whole heads got blown off when we saw the sequel Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. Starring again was the C-17 Globemaster III, and new planes like the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the SR-71 Blackbird. The SR-71 Blackbird was used for the character Jetfire. This character was depicted as a VF-1S Super Valkyrie, as an F-14 Tomcat, and as a Sukhoi SU-27 In earlier toy models.

On set of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen at Smithsonian Air and Space museum

Part of the SR-71 Blackbird on set of the sequel

Autobots logo on the tail fin of Michael Bay's private jet

Though not an aircraft, another bad boy… girl rather, was featured in the sequel. The USS John C. Stennis aircraft also starred in the film making it bigger and better.

The USS John C. Stennis carrier

On board the USS John C. Stennis carrier for Revenge of the Fallen

Actor Josh Duhamel as Capt. William Lenox

Aside from blowing our minds and/or heads off, Hollywood blockbusters keep us asking for more and with Transformers 3 being released on the 1st of July next year, will it finally blow every bit of us away?                                                   -