The USS Midway / San Diego’s Premiere Attraction

If your travels take you to San Diego, California, a visit to the historic  USS Midway Museum is a must. Here you’ll be able to explore a real aircraft carrier and one which was the longest serving aircraft carrier of the twentieth century. During her forty seven years in service, the USS Midway had a total of about 200,000 servicemen assigned to the vessel.

uss midway museum

USS Midway

On 30 September 2003, the USS Midway  began her journey from the Navy Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, Bremerton, Wash., to San Diego where she would be a Museum and Memorial. She was docked at the Charles P. Howard Terminal in Oakland, Calif., in October, while the construction of her pier in San Diego was completed.

The USS Midway is now docked in San Diego Bay just east of the downtown area and has been transformed into one of the most visited ship museums in the world.

Explore the USS Midway

The USS Midway CV-41, was the third vessel named Midway. Named after the Battle of Midway,

uss midway aircraft

The massive hangar deck of the USS Midway

The ship is amazingly restored and full of really interesting exhibits. The ship is literally a floating city at sea. During it’s operational years the USS Midway carried about 4,500 crew members.

Your trip though the USS Midway will take you to the crews quarters, the officers quarters, the four acre flight deck and other portions of this magnificent vessel. Your admission includes a self-guided audio tour to over 60 locations from the engine room to the flight deck. When exploring the hangar deck which housed many of the aircraft you’ll notice the large elevators on either side of the ship that raised the planes from the hangar deck up to the flight deck.

The USS Midway Service

The USS Midway was operational from 1945 to 1992. It was commissioned one week after the end of World War Two. The vessel served in every ocean on the planet.

The ship is 1,001 feet in length which is about the size of three football fields. Weighing 70,000 tons the USS MIdway is as high as a twenty story building. Each of her two anchors weigh 20 tons. The ship could carry eighty planes.

More interesting facts regarding this vessel include…

  • During three tours of duty in the Tonkin Gulf, aircraft from the USS MIDWAY downed the first three and last MiG in the Vietnam conflict.
  • USS MIDWAY was the first carrier to be “forward deployed” in a foreign country, sailing for 17 years out of Yokosuka, Japan.
  • When operating at sea, USS MIDWAY was refueled every three days. She burned approximately 100,000 gallons a day.

A Perfect Family Museum

The USS Midway is a terrific museum adventure for the entire family. The vessel is literally a floating city. On board the USS Midway, you can learn about life on a Navy ship and how aircraft land and take off from an aircraft carrier. Visitors can tour many of the working areas and see more than 15 restored aircraft. Volunteer docents, many who either served on the USS Midway or are former Navy pilots, provide live talks about the catapult and other operations.

See additional Trips Into History articles on the links below…

A Great Museum and a Sunken Whale Ship

The Palace Steamers of the Great Lakes

Crossing the Atlantic with Marconi’s Wireless

Your La Jolla California Getaway

An excellent book regarding the USS Midway is…USS Midway: America’s Shield by author Scott McGaugh.

Things to Know Before Your Visit

  • Many doorways have a high threshold, and there are many stairs, some of them quite steep. Wear comfortable shoes with soles that give you firm footing.
  • Elevators provide access to the hangar deck and flight deck
  • Bring a light jacket; it can be windy on the Flight Deck
  • Leave the big bags behind. Only modest-sized diaper bags and camera bags are allowed
  • If you have a child in a stroller, either take them out and park the stroller at the entrance or be prepared to skip visiting many parts of the ship.

uss midway san diego

The self-guided USS Midway audio tour is included in the entrance fee (available in English, Spanish and Japanese). The audio tour incorporates the voices of many who served on the USS Midway. They tell the stories of their experiences on board the aircraft carrier.

The USS Midway Museum is open daily 10A to 5P. The last admission is at 4p. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

(Article and Photos copyright Trips Into History)

 

The Story of the Famous Pitts Special Aerobatic Plane

The airplane model featured in this article has won more aerobatic contests than any other aircraft in the U.S. Today the plane still remains a powerful competitor. The Pitts Special S1 is one of the most famous airplanes in civilian aircraft history. It has performed at more air shows than any other type of aerobatic aircraft.

pitts special plane

Pitts Special Aerobatic Plane

The Pitts Special aerobatic planes were designed by Curtiss Pitts and took to the air in 1944. Pitts built a limited number of planes and two models were built from the original model. These were a one-seater called the S-1 and a two-seater called the S-2.

A Rough Beginning Followed by Recognition

When Curtiss Pitts set put to build an airplane, the intention was to build only one for himself.The trouble is, when a airplane you build performs so good, word spreads. The face of aerobatic flying was changed forever when Pitts built his first plane. That plane today is one of the most recognized American built aerobatic airplane.

The first plane built by Pitts which had a home built inverted fuel system was destroyed in a crash. In 1946, Curtiss Pitts received an order for ten of his planes but before they could be delivered the purchaser filed for bankruptcy. At that time only one plane was completed and it was eventually sold to a Miami, Florida firm called World Air Shows.

pitts special s 1

Pitts Special S-1

As it turned out, this sale of only one Pitts Special to World Air Shows would help achieve world wide recognition for this remarkable aircraft. The plane that World Air Shows purchased would be flown by a young aerobatic pilot named Betty Skelton.

Betty Skelton who was later called “The fastest woman on earth“, flew the Pitts Special to several competitive wins. Skelton won the National Aerobatics Championship three times. She was the first woman to attempt the “inverted ribbon cut,” in which she would fly upside down only ten feet off the ground, slicing a ribbon with her propeller of her Pitts Special. Betty Skelton twice set light-plane altitude records, attaining an atitude of 29,050 feet in a Piper Cub in 1951. Even though the planes engine exploded during flight Skelton achieved an unofficial women’s air speed record of 421 mph in a P-51 Mustang.

Later, Betty Skelton worked in advertising and test driving Corvettes. Skelton held the honor of being the first woman to drive a Pace Car at the Daytona 500.

See these additional Trips Into History articles on the links below…

Heathkit Home Built Airplanes

Some of the Best Western U.S. Air Museums

The USS Midway / San Diego’s Premiere Attraction

From our Western Trips site see...Wiley Post and His Record Setting Lockheed Vega Airplane

An excellent book to add to your reading list is …Pitts Specials: Curtiss Pitts and his Legendary Biplanes by author Budd Davisson. There are also several books for youngsters regarding Betty Skelton which you may find interesting. One of these is titled, Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton by author Meghan McCarthy.

The Pitts Special Specifications

The Pitts Special had a Lycoming 180 HP engine.

Maximum speed was rated at 176 MPH with a range of 315 miles.

Upper wingspan measured 17 ft 4 in. Length 15 ft 5 in and height 6 ft 3 in.

Gross weight was 1,148 lbs. Service ceiling was 22,300 ft.

The Pitts Special Legend

Homebuilt planes were built from the original plans sold by Pitts who later sold more refined technical plans starting in the 1960’s. Curtis Pitts left perhaps the biggest mark on aerobatics and air shows with his innovative airplane designs.

The International Council of Air Shows Foundation says this about the Pitts planes…From the first prototype to the hundreds of Pitts Specials that have performed at air shows over the last half century to the design ideas taken from the Pitts Special and integrated into today’s high-performance monoplanes, much of what air show flying is all about today can be traced back to the Pitts Special”. All Pitts one and two seat planes designed can be traced directly back to the Pitts Special of 1944.

It’s been said that Curtiss Pitts didn’t invent aerobatics or small planes. He also didn’t invent bi-planes. What Curtiss Pitts achieved was to mold all of these together into what today is the art of modern aerobatics.

curtiss pitts aerobatic plane

Curtiss Pitts, an aviation pioneer, died at his home in Homestead, Florida in June 2005.

As of this writing, a sample list of several museums around the U.S. where Pitts Specials are on display include…The National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C….The San Diego Automobile Museum in San Diego, CA…The Pacific Coast Air Museum in Santa Rosa, CA and the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, PA. There are more displays plus you’ll likely see a Pitt Special or two when attending your local air show.

betty skelton

Betty Skelton Frankman

Please note that there is also a Betty Skelton collection at the National Air and Space Museum.

Betty Skelton began flying airplanes at the age of twelve years and as mentioned above won many titles in the Pitts Special. After Skelton’s retirement from aviation, she joined Chevrolet with their development of the popular and unique fiberglass Corvette. Betty Skelton also set several records behind the wheel of the Chevy Corvette.

(Article and photos copyright 2015 Trips Into History. Betty Skelton Frankman photo in the Public Domain)