SAN DIEGO — First of all, the museum is shaped in the round, a rotunda, and it reminds me of the Ford Rotunda in Dearborn, Mich. The San Diego Air & Space Museum was built by Ford Motor Company for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition and is located within Balboa Park in San Diego.
Upon walking in the door, we saw the replica of the Spirit of St. Louis airplane NYP-3. This is the only flying replica of the original in the world. It has a Wright Whirlwind J-5C engine with a maximum speed of 130 miles per hour.
Next to that is the Apollo 9 command module with accessories from the flight. The California state flag was carried to the moon and back by the Apollo crew. A moon rock was also brought back. The instrument panel was displayed in a glass case which was an exact reproduction on the Apollo 9.
In the Ford Pavilion we saw two cars: the 1932 Ford Phaeton and the 1933 Ford V-8 Deluxe Roadster. An old gas pump was displayed and it held only ten gallons of fuel. This stove-pipe pump was in use from 1925 through the 1950’s. It was used in Dearborn, Mich. Gasoline was ten cents per gallon in 1925 with an added tax of two cents.
We saw the reproduction of a Lockheed Vega 5B plane created for the Hollywood film “Amelia” and was used by Amelia Earhart. She attempted to be the first person to fly around the world and the equator, but got lost at sea. An actual outfit worn by Earhart is also on display.
After looking at the Centennial of World War I from 1914-1918, we saw the 1917 model of the Ford Ambulance. Ford produced 2,400 of these machines as production began in July 1917. The Model T chassis and the ambulance body were shipped separately and joined together once they were delivered in France.
A German Zeppelin L-31 model was displayed. The name came from one of its German designers–Ferdinand von Zeppelin. The mere mention of the name “zeppelin” was enough to send cold chills up and down the spines of their intended victims. It was considered the ultimate terror weapon. Eleven zeppelins were flying over London when it was subjected to intense ground fire from English artillery. This was the virtual end of the “Zeppelin Menace.”
High above a 1922 Ford Speedster T was the Lincoln Standard J-1 aircraft hanging from the ceiling, which advertised sky rides for $3 for a 15-minute ride.
Walking around the rotunda, we saw the World War II exhibit and a part of it was newspapers in a glass case announcing the Nazi’s surrendered and the Europe War ended. Also in this exhibit was a full-sized reproduction of the first nuclear bomb to be used in the world of warfare. This uranium-based weapon was dropped from the B-29 aircraft on August 6 , 1945 on the Japanese city of Hiroshima causing extensive damage to the area. Also of interest to me was the actual uniform worn by Adolf Hitler during his reign as Fuhrer of the German people. Another actual uniform worn by Hermann Goering was displayed, who was considered the number two man in the Nazi party. The three-piece wool suit worn by Winston Churchill during his time as Prime Minister of Great Britain was there also.
Inside the museum, there were F-35 Lightning II flight simulators to ride; the price was $5.00 for ten minutes.
This science, space and aviation history museum also had artifacts from the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and other aviation and space pioneers.
The San Diego Air & Space Museum is located at 2001 Pan American Plaza in Balboa Park. The hours are Monday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults (12 and over); $15 for Seniors, students, retired military with ID; $9 for children (3-11 years) and free for children under 2 years old.