Specials
By Gostar den Daas | May 2016

Castle Air Museum

California’s hidden treasure

Castle Air Museum is located on the grounds of former Castle Air Force Base in Atwater, Ca. The museum shows more than 50 aircraft, from World War II, the Cold War and present day. The collection includes some exclusive aircraft like the only RB-36 remaining.

The museum is located in Atwater, North of Merced and Fresno. No your average tourist designation, but well worth the detour! Take exit Merced-Atwater Expressway at highway 99. The museum opened to the public in 1981 with approximately 20 acres of open-air display ground. There is also an indoor display without any aircraft.

Latest addition to the museum is a former Air Force One, VC-9. Amongst other used by president Clinton. Highlight of the museum is no doubt the massive B-36 Peacemaker.


73-1681, VC-9

02684 / TA-684, AT-6

43-38635 / AN, B-17

43-38635 / AN, B-17

43-38635 / AN, B-17

42-6978 / E-205, BT-13

RB-36H Peacemaker

Convair 51-13730 is the only reconnaissance version of the B-36 remaining. It served with the 28th Stratigic Reconnaissance Wing out of Rapid City, SD from 1952. The wing was relocated to Ellsworth AFB in 1953 and later on in 1957 to Chanute AFB, IL. There it served as a ground instructional aircraft. It was moved to Castle disassembled on 11 flatbed railway cars.

The huge 230 feet wings housed six propeller engines and four turbojets. “Six turning, four burning”. The RB version had a crew of 22 with flights that could take up to 51 hours without refueling.


51-13730 / S, RB-36

51-13730 / S, RB-36

51-13730 / S, RB-36

51-13730 / S, RB-36

51-13730 / S, RB-36

The B-36 was the only bomber capable to drop the MH-17 Thermonuclear bomb (on display next to it). This 15-20 megatons bomb was found on the Edwards test range and dug out by the Edwards EOD unit.




44-86981, B-25

43-5648 / BC-648, A-26

47-0008 / BE-008, B-45

47-0008 / BE-008, B-45

53-0354, KC-97

39-0047 / 112-MD, UC-67

B-24M Liberator


44-41916 / RE-HB, B-24

The B-24 on display was originally delivered to the US Navy as PB4Y-1 (BuNo. 90165) as patrol aircraft based at MCAS Cherry Point. It was converted as transport for the USMC Commandant during the war. After the war it was sold several times and was recovered in La Paz, Bolivia carrying cattle carcasses and other cargo. After extensive restouration it now carrier the markings of the 329th Bomb Squadron assigned to the 8th Air Force.


44-41916 / RE-HB, B-24



39-0047 / 112-MD, UC-67

XM605, Vulcan

XM605, Vulcan

49-0351, WB-50

49-0351, WB-50

100504, CF-100

B-52

The B-52 D model on display was build in 1956 and directly deployed to U-Tapao Air Force Base in Thailand during the Vietnam war. Later it was transferred to Anderson AFB in Guam. After the war it returned to the US and was stationed at Castle AFB 93rd Bomb Wing. It was decommissioned in 1982 and transferred to Castle in 1991.


56-0612, B-52

56-0612, B-52

56-0612, B-52

Located under the wing is a AGM-28 Hound Dog nuclear missile. The warhead had an explosive power of between 70 kilotons and 1.4 megatons. It could act as a ground burst or air burst weapon. The missile was propelled by a jet engine based on that of a A-4 Skyhawk.


56-0612, B-52



37-0029 / BI-24, B-18

AT-154, J-35

55-4512 / WX, C-123

55-4512 / WX, C-123

61-0664, T-39

51-11897, C-45

C-46 Commando

The Curtis (44-77575) on display, entered World War II in February 1945. The aircraft flying for the 313th Troop Carrier Group joined operation Varsity with members of the 513th Parachute infantry Regiment. During the drop at the German town of Wesel, the fuselage was hit by 20- and 40mm FLAK as well as machine gun fire. With hydraulic badly damaged they managed to return to Acheit Le Grand airfield where it crash landed.

After the war the aircraft was returned to the US and was passed on the Japanese Self Defence Force where it served with the Home Guard until October 1977. It was donated to the museum in 1982.


44-77575 / 13, C-46

44-77575 / 13, C-46

44-77575 / 13, C-46



43-15977 / N-L7, C-47

43-15977 / N-L7, C-47

54-1707, U-6

67-21413, O-2

57-05849, U-3

62-4513, HH-43

F-106 Delta Dart


“0-72456”, QF-106

The aircraft on display was build as 58-0793 F-106A and was stationed with 9 different squadrons on several different air bases. In 1969 it was stationed in Korea and in 1978 it served with the 84th FIS at Castle. The aircraft was stored in 1985, and convered to QF-106 in 1993. Fortunately it was never shot down and returned to storage in 1998.

Current color scheme is that of the 1967 456th FIS as the Alumni was responsible for fund-raising efforts to bring the aircraft to Castle.




YT-34, 50-0735

"254", C-56

49-2500 / FA-500, (E)F-94

45-8490 / FT-490, P-80

51-9433 / FS-433, F-84

56-3537, T-37

B-29 Superfortress


44-61535, B-29

The B-29 on display as 44-61535 “Raz’n Hell” is made of parts of three B-29s recovered from the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. The fuselage and tail sections were trucked to castle while the wings were flown in by helicopter direct from China Lake. Other contributors to this aircraft were 44-70064 and 44-84084. Current markings are that of the 28th Bomb Squadron stationed in Kadena, Okinawa during the Korean War. The nose art is a reproduction of the actual 1950s nose art.


44-61535, B-29



52-0166, B-47

52-0166, B-47

53-1230, F-86

55-3139, KC-135

55-3139, KC-135

52-1927 / FV-927, F-89

SR-71 Blackbird

The SR-71 61-7960 on display was the 11th (#2011) build. It flew the most operational missions of any SR-71 and was the first to fly over Vietnam. In 1986 it saw combat again as it flew photo reconnaissance support during the 1986 bombing of Libya, code-named operation El Dorado Canyon.


61-7960, SR-71

61-7960, SR-71

61-7960, SR-71

61-7960, SR-71

61-7960, SR-71



58-0629, T-33

64-13271 / BB, T-38

53-1709 / FW-879, F-100

69-6507, F-111

57-0412, F-101

55-4253, EB-57

F-14 Tomcat

The F-14 D model was flown to Castle after it’s squadron VF-101 was disestablished in 2005. It was delivered to the Navy in 1992 and was on of the last five build. The aircraft aslo served with the CF-31 on the USS Abraham Lincoln and saw combat action in Afghanistan and Iraq. The current paint schema is that of the 1970s VF-101.


164601 / AD-160, F-14

164601 / AD-160, F-14

164601 / AD-160, F-14

164601 / AD-160, F-14

164601 / AD-160, F-14



56-1413 / FC-413, F-102

145607 / PP-909, RF-8

90407, R5

149532 / AF-401, A-4

149532 / AF-401, A-4

149532 / AF-401, A-4

F-4 Phantom


66-0289, F-4

The E model 66-0289 on display was build in 1966. It flew with the 33rd TFW at Eglin AFB in Florida until it was re-assigned to the Thunderbirds Demonstration Squadron at Nellis AFB Nevada. It served with the Thunderbirds for five years where it got it’s nickname “Super-fine 289”. It moved back to a active fighter wing in 1974. In the 90s it was used at the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB flying in the distinctive white, orange markings.


66-0289, F-4

Current, fresh paint, is that of Thunderbird “5”. Earlier it was painted as Thunderbird “6”. All but wrong as the real 289 was signed “3”.




“57-1312 / FG-312”, F-104

49-0199, C-119

144843 / SS-913, RA-3

160436 / SD-510, EB-6

160436 / SD-510, EB-6

136421, S-2

RA-5C Vigilante


156615 / NE-611, RA-5

This Reconnaissance Attack Bomber equipped with side looking radar, cameras and electronic counter-measures, was used extensively by the US Navy during the Vietnam War. It served with RVAH-3, 6, 9, 1 and finally 7 as “ NE-611”. This aircraft was the very last to make a carrier deck landing on the USS Ranger of all Vigilantes. It was transferred to the Weapons Survivability Lab at China Lake. It more or less survived and arrived at Castle in 2012.


156615 / NE-611, RA-5

156615 / NE-611, RA-5

156615 / NE-611, RA-5



5785, HC-131

74-0119 / FF, F-15

74-0119 / FF, F-15

51-7163, HU-16

Inventory

(noted March 2016)

Serial Type Notes
61-7960SR-71A
73-1681VC-9C89th AW
02684 / TA-684AT-6
43-38635 / ANB-17G“Virgin’s Delight”
44-41916 / RE-HBB-24M
42-6978 / E-205BT-13
44-61535B-29A“Raz’n Hell”. With parts of 44-70064
47-0008 / BE-008B-45A
44-86981B-25J“Lazy Daisy Mae”
53-0354KC-97L
39-0047 / 112-MDUC-67
XM605Vulcan B.2
49-0351WB-50D“Flight of the Phoenix”. With parts of 44-70064
100504 CF-100RCAF
AT-154J-35RDAF
37-0029 / BI-24B-18
55-4512 / WXC-123K“Hog Hauler”
56-0612B-52D
61-0664T-39A
43-5648 / BC-648A-26B
51-11897C-45G
44-77575 / 13C-46D“Honey Gal”
43-15977 / N-L7C-47DIn process of repaint
54-1707U-6A
67-21413O-2A
57-05849U-3A
62-4513HH-43B
50-0735YT-34BH
“254”C-561373 as South African Air Force 254
49-2500 / FA-500(E)F-94ANEW, E designation is a mystery.
45-8490 / FT-490P-80B
51-9433 / FS-433F-84F
56-3537T-37B
52-0166B-47E“Spirit” 93rd BW
53-1230F-86H
55-3139KC-135A
52-1927 / FV-927F-89J
58-0629T-33A
64-13271 / BBT-38A
66-0289F-4EThunderbirds “5”
51-13730 / SRB-36H
69-6507F-111A
53-1709F-100D
57-0412F-101BTexas ANG / 111 FS
55-4253EB-57E
56-1413 / FC-413F-102A
164601 / AD-160F-14DUSN VF-101
145607 / PP-909RF-8GUSN VFP-63
90407R5D-4USN Pacific division
149532 / AF-401A-4LUSN VA-204
“57-1312 / FG-312”F-104D57-1330
“0-72456”QF-106A58-0793
49-0199C-119C
144843 / SS-913RA-3BUSN VAP-61
160436 / SD-510EB-6BUSN
156615 / NE-611RA-5CUSN RVAH-7
136421S-2F-1USMC MCAS Iwakuni
5785HC-131AUS Coast Guard Miami
74-0119 / FFF-15A
51-7163HU-16B
N50198Cessna 150USAF titles

Not present during our visit:

Serial Type Notes
89-00153CH-47DNEW, US Army
80-0543F-16ANEW, Restoration in progress. California ANG
57-5837F-105BRestoration in progress
N473TM/63C-130ARestoration in progress
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