Western Trips

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The F-15 First Responder / Pacific Coast Air Museum / Northern California

There is an absolute gem of an air museum located in northern California. The Pacific Coast Air Museum located at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport outside Windsor California. Nothing better than a world class air museum right in the middle of the beautiful Sonoma County California wine country. Charles Schulz was an American cartoonist and gained great fame with his "Peanuts" comic strip. Schulz first had a studio in Sebastopol  California and when it burned down relocated to Santa Rosa, both in Sonoma County, where he died in February 2000.

The Pacific Coast Air Museum

pacific coast air museum sign
The Pacific Coast Air Museum located at this airport is a terrific air museum and is a must stop when touring wine country if you have any interest at all in military aviation.

The museum has as it's stated goal the promoting and preserving of aviation history through the acquisition, restoration, and display of historic aircraft. The non profit museum was established in 1989 and exhibits over thirty military planes, both jet and propeller models, representing the era of World War Two, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Inside the air museum you'll see many artifacts of the era including a lot of history and documentation about the military airfields around the Santa Rosa California area during World War Two.

The First Responder

The museum has on display a very historic aircraft that took part in the U.S. military's response to September 2001 terrorist attacks. This aircraft is the genuine F-15A which was the first military jet that responded over the skies of New York City during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. It's obviously a unique display to have and I would recommend you stop and give it a look if you are anywhere near Santa Rosa or Windsor California about 70 miles north of San Francisco. As jet fighters go, the F15 jet is a winner.

f 15 jet fighter
The F-15 jet fighter was built by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing).

The story of how the two F-15  jets were deployed on September 11th is an interesting story. The two F-15's that were called on to scramble were at that time based at Otis Air National Guard Base near Falmouth MA.  The two planes were put on alert which means that their pilots were in their seats but the engines remained off. As soon as word reached the base that the first tower was hit by a hijacked plane the two F-15's were ordered to scramble.

They were airborne about seven minutes after the tower was hit. The military fighters were just to the south of Long Island when the second tower was hit.

The F-15A fighter jet which is now at Sonoma County's Pacific Coast Air Museum is on display to the general public and will also be undergoing a restoration which will return it to the condition and all markings it had on September 11, 2001.

f-15 jet fighter plane
The history and engineering of the F-15's design and power plant is quite impressive.  

The F 15 jet, called the Eagle, is a twin-engine, high-performance, all-weather fighter. The plane first took to the skies in 1972 at Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert and entered  service for the U.S. Air Force in 1974.

 The Air Force ordered about 350 of the F-15A Eagles. The plane proved to be very agile with it's light weight and large wing area. Add to that it's engine thrust which was greater than the aircraft's weight and you have a very maneuverable fighter jet that could carry some seven tons of bombs. Specs for the F-15A are as follows...Maximum speed 1,650+ MPH, maximum take off weight 68,000 pounds, wing span 42 ft. 10 in., height 18 ft. 6 in., length 63 ft. 9 in., engines Pratt and Whitney F100 (two), one pilot seat. Another initial version of the plane was a F-15B which carried two pilots.

The Air Force ordered more than 350 F-15A models for operational service. Additional F-15's were sold to Japan, Saudi Arabia and Israel

Great Air Museums

If you're traveling in the San Francisco Bay area I would also recommend a stop at the USS Hornet which is docked in Alameda in the East Bay. The entire aircraft carrier is a museum and displays many fine military planes including the Grumman Avenger. For those in the Los Angeles area or near the Grand Canyon in Arizona you may want to check out the Planes of Fame air museum. Many interesting aircraft displays at both locations.

If you're planning a San Francisco vacation and/or a wine country tour, I think you'll find a visit to the Pacific Coast Air Museum a very historically interesting side trip. It's one of the best aviation museums on the west coast and a lot of fun for the entire family, young and old. 

From San Francisco drive north on U.S. Hwy 101 through Santa Rosa. Exit Hwy 101 at Airport Rd. and turn left. Off Airport Rd. turn left on N. Laughlin Road and then right on Becker Blvd. Parking is near the museum entrance. Their phone number is 707-575-7900 .The Museum is located on the grounds of the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport.

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

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