Reading, PA. 5/25/2013: When you take in the serious mountains around Spaatz Field, it's hard to believe the airport is just 344 feet above sea level, but that's exactly correct. From a distance, it's hard to envision a first class aviation museum there, but that's true, too.
The museum's hand-out says it's "dedicated to preserving, restoring, displaying and operating historical aircraft" of all types..and it does an amazing job of it. Nothing tells that story better than the rescue and on-going restoration of a P-61 Black Widow that was plucked from the jungles of New Guinea, crated and shipped back to Reading. (Right)
The plaque in front of the airplane tells the story.
But that's what they do at Reading. The collection is vast and varied.
..including what I consider real class--a version of my own Ercoupe, tucked among the big kids. You don't see that every day.
Calling Jimmy Doolittle. The B-25 above is one of the kind that Doolittle flew off an aircraft carrier for his bombing raid on Tokyo in 1942, proving to the Japanese Emperor that his island was not invulnerable to attack. Doolittle won the Medal of Honor for the feat. None of the planes got back..three men died..but it was a devastating blow to Japan's morale in the opening days of World War 2. The B25 was a great plane then--still is.
Bomber nose art (left). WW2 pilots were young and full of P and V. The noses of their bombers and fighters reflected that spirit. Nose art was kind of a thumb to the nose to the aerial enemy as well as a boost to the plane crew's morale. The artists were pretty good, too.
Mid-Atlantic has all sorts of aircraft, including some that were highly experimental in their day. The one above, with its scooped wing, was designed to maximize airflow..giving the airplane more thrust and, hopefully, greater speed. Tests at the time seemed to indicate the designers were on the right track..but along came jets and everybody forgot about it. Too bad; I think it's pretty sexy.
My old buddy and guide at Mid-Atlantic, Bob Button, with the Black Widow (right). After moving to Reading from New Jersey, Bob volunteered at the museum and was promptly accepted. Wise choice. Bob served in all five of the American services, worked as a newspaper reporter and as a Public Affairs specialist for NASA during the early space program. He's a walking storybook and fun to be with. Thanks, Bob.
You can get to the museum easily from Lancaster, PA..Harrisburg..or from Northern New Jersey. The PA turnpike goes right by, just south of Reading. Rt. 222N gets you there from Lancaster..I78 W will take you there from New Jersey..just get off at Rt. 61 and go to Rt. 222S. Follow it to the airport exit.
Admission to the museum pays its operating expenses. Adults, $8. Seniors, $6. Kids 6 to 12 $3. Pay at the gift shop.
Spaatz Field itself is a treat for the aviator--good facilities, well laid out with nice approaches. A landing there would be fun any good day.
The airport is also well known for its air show and fly-ins. Check these events:
Next time you're in Reading..
Visit: 5/25/2013. Piece published 5/30/2013