Museumtrip Texas, USA 2016
During the month of October i started my pilgrimage to the United States for a museum trip. Texas was chosen as the state to visit. It has been a while i made such a trip. So it was high on my ‘to do’ list. As always it started with a extensive planning; choosing the best time to visit weather wise, making a list of all the museums worth a visit (in this case a total of thirteen aviation museums), locating them on the Garmin navigation map on my Mac, followed by figuring out the opening hours of the museums. With al this info at hand a logical route is planned. Checking driving distances and times spent in every museum. When this is done it is time to fill in the gaps with wrecks & relics, spotting opportunities and some general tourism, to break the aircraft monotony. A golden rule, always be prepared for some alternates, just in case.
Booking a flight, hotels and car rental is no problem in this time of high speed internet connectivity. I always contact the museum to ask if they have any aircraft in storage or restoration. If so, making arrangements to see those aircraft if possible. Experience tells me that is mostly not a problem. And they know you are visiting, which always triggers their interest.
If a part of the collection is outside I Always use with the “LightTrack” app to see what is the best time of day to make the visit. The app allows you to see the trajectory of the sun imposed on a Google map view of a self specified location. As always a thorough planning makes the trip more relaxed.
Spotting is no problem in the US, but be prepared for a security check by the Military Police and the Local sheriff’s Department. Those checks always start a little bit tense but when they figure out you are no threat the situation becomes more relaxed. I went spotting near Dyess AFB, NAS Kingsville, NAS Fort Worth and Laughlin AFB. and I was checked every time, sometimes even twice a day. The check at Dyess being the most intense one, it involved the Military Police and four squad cars from the local Sheriff’s Department. Quite an impressive ‘show of force’ for a single, lonely Belgian spotter.
In the museums it is no problem at all for taking pictures. If you want to use a tripod it is best to check before. Sometimes this is not allowed. Use of flash no problem. Most visitors don’t spend a lot of time in there. So you stand out if you are there for a couple of hours. Attracting the attention of the volunteers can result in being able to take pictures other people can’t. It sometimes opens doors other visitors will pass by. Therefore plan adequate time in a museum, because talking to the volunteers will take up some time and will prolong your visit. They really love a visit from someone who is genuinely interested. And they will gladly take you inside the barriers and to places other people don’t get to see.
The location of the wrecks and relics can be downloaded legally in “KML” format per state. So you can import them in Google maps. Making it easier to pick out the ones, which are on or nearby your route. Also welcome the unexpected things that will happen. For instance I went looking for a C-47 near Lubbock airfield and also found B-29 “Fifi” on the field making a stopover on a fundraising tour. It resulted in a flight next to the bombardier seat and a serious dent in my VISA card.
For the rest enjoy the US, the long opening hours of the stores, the pro customer attitude in shops and restaurants. Travel light, you can buy the rest cheaply on site an ideal way to change part of your wardrobe. It was a wonderful sunny and pleasant trip. I drove approximately 4000 miles. Visited 13 aviation museums, spotted at five locations and saw 15 interesting wrecks and relics on the way.
Text & Photography: Ludo Kloek