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New York, New York Part I — H.A.R.P. and the Cradle of Aviation Museums

15 July 2009

New York, New York

When Visiting New York City (The Big Apple) there are several aviation sites that can be visited as this area was a hotbed of aviation development and manufacturing from the days just after the Wrights through the 1980s.

HARP at Floyd Bennett Field

40º 35’ 43” N / 73º 53’ 02” W

http://www.geocities.com/harpfb/index.html (a link long in need of an update but useful)

http://www.nps.gov/nr//travel/aviation/flo.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floyd_Bennett_Field

http://www.geocities.com/floyd_bennett_field/

There is a somewhat unique collection of aircraft — or rather a unique place where aircraft have been collected. Called the Historical Aircraft Restoration Project (H.A.R.P. — they prefer to use periods with this acronym) is located in Hangar B of historic Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York, USA. This airfield is no longer used and the property is now part of the National Park Service. The field was witness to a great amount of aviation history. The runways remain intact, some buildings have been preserved and are used while some are in a state of preservation, per se. Hangar B is easy to get to once you know the way as the signage, although present, is smallish. Go into the main entrance and look for a right hand turn to Hangar B, once you find yourself on a former taxiway, that is now the primary road. You’ll notice several buildings on your left and once abreast of them you’ll have missed the right hand turn. Once you’ve made correct turn you will realize you are on another taxiway, simply take it to its end and you will arrive at Hangar B — marked with the United States flag on a pole — on the right. It sounds more difficult than it is and the drive there is an easy one at only 10 or 15 minutes westward from JFK airport (you will need a car or a taxi as there is no bus or subway). They are open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The facilities in Hangar B are sparse – restrooms, and a drink dispensing machine are present — and entry is free.

Interior of HARP Hanger B -- photo by Joe May

Interior of HARP Hanger B — photo by Joe May

Interior of HARP Hanger B -- photo by Joe May

Interior of HARP Hanger B — photo by Joe May

The treat is that it’s both a working hanger for restoration projects (a PBY Catalina is a current project) and a display hanger. You simply get to walk in and around the aircraft without being troubled by barriers. Volunteers may be present but they are there specifically to work on the aircraft. No docents here, only restorers. The hangar itself is special having been constructed  between 1929 and 1931 and is still in its own state of preservation. Over a dozen aircraft are present, almost all of them in prime cosmetic condition. Aside from the Consolidated PBY Catalina, perhaps the most spectacular aircraft is a Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter with a highly visible red tail. The C-97 is an interesting aircraft since it was designed by placing an enlarged fuselage on top of a Boeing B-50 Superfortress (really, an improved model of the B‑29) making for a double deck and large cargo area. It was a C-97 that was first modified as an aircraft that could transport outsized cargo such as satellites and helicopters. A wild looking aircraft to this day it was called a Mini Guppy (see the post on Tillamook). Now there are slightly more than a few designs of such heavily re-engineered aircraft for carrying outsized aircraft either internally or externally — but it was the Mini Guppy which blazed the trail.

The C-97 was powered by the same engine as the B-50, Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose, the Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar and the Convair B-36 Peacekeeper. Remarkably, there were some single engine aircraft that utilized this power plant. Notable among these were the Goodyear F2G Corsair and the Martin AM Mauler (see the Tillamook post). A four row radial engine known as the Pratt & Whitney R‑4360 Wasp Major informally known as a corncob design since each row was offset in sequence making for a corn-on-the-cob effect. Maintenance intensive, being overhauled every 600 flight hours, they were powerful with their 28 cylinders, two turbochargers as well as single supercharger displacing 4362.5 cubic inches (71.5L) to produce 4300 horsepower (3200kW). Several of these engines are on the hangar floor.

The Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina is under restoration and can be seen as a work in progress with no paint, some structural members exposed and able to view inside through the window spaces. This aircraft, which could take a crew aloft for the better part of day while on patrol, is cavernous and a pleasant reminder of when seaplanes, as well as amphibians, were the norm.

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina -- photo by Joe May

Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina — photo by Joe May

Interior of the PBY-5A from port side -- photo by Joe May

Interior of the PBY-5A from port side looking forward — photo by Joe May

Amongst the several other aircraft I would also mention the Lockheed P2V Neptune with its hybrid engine arrangement of a pair of radial piston engines as well as a pair of turbojets. This aircraft has one of the best seats ever for a view of the world while flying!

P2V Neptune showing piston and jet engines -- photo by Joe May

P2V Neptune showing piston and jet engines — photo by Joe May

P2V Neptune forward observation position -- photo by Joe May

P2V Neptune forward observation position — photo by Joe May

Cradle of Aviation Museum

40º 43’ 42” N / 73º 35’ 51” W

Just half an hour east of JFK airport by car — in Garden City, New York USA — on Long Island is the Cradle of Aviation Museum. The museum is a world class affair that has not only rare and well preserved aircraft but imaginative dioramas, as well. One is of a WW II WACO CG-4 assault glider. It is suspended from the ceiling on a level with the nearby balcony with the side of the fuselage just feet away from the visitor unskinned so that the interior with a half squad of infantry mannequins in their flight positions.  A rare Peel Glider Boat and Savoia-Marchetti S.56 flying boat are a portion of their Golden Age of Aviation collection. Clever models abound and the early aircraft through WW II exhibits I especially enjoyed. A full-sized Curtiss JN-4 Jenny “lies” in a “workshop” with its wings removed and fuselage yet to have its fabric applied, a full scale Grumman F3F replica hangs from the ceiling to best display the ventral window that afforded pilots better visibility while landing, with several other WW II aircraft are in accompaniment.

WACO CG-4 combat assault glider -- photo by Joe May

WACO CG-4 combat assault glider — photo by Joe May

Curtiss JN-4 Jenny -- photo by Joe May

Curtiss JN-4 Jenny — photo by Joe May

Savoia-Marchetti S.56 -- photo by Joe May

Savoia-Marchetti S.56 — photo by Joe May

Peel Glider Boat -- photo by Joe May

Peel Glider Boat — photo by Joe May

The location of the museum, as its name suggests, was important in the early years of aviation through the 1960s and there are too many displays to discuss in this post (but they cover the gamut of United States aviation). The docents are quietly beaming with pride and are warmly professional. One diorama I found of particular interest was of a factory formerly located on Long Island where Republic Aviation built P-47 Thunderbolts. The size of a large chess table, one can look through the open roof and see the assembly line process with dozens of P-47s in various stages of completeness, each about as long as an adult’s finger.

Republic P-47 factory diorama model -- photo by Joe May

Republic P-47 factory diorama model — photo by Joe May

Entry is free, the facilities are complete and the entire museum is great for children. The café is good, geared toward kids in particular, and has healthy food options as well as sports arena-like food.

Although I have not yet visited the American Airpower Museum, it is less than a half hour’s drive to the east and is located at Republic Field.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Fred Viebrock permalink
    24 March 2010 11:24

    I believe the P2V on display came from NAS NY by way of USS Intrepid. What is the BuNo seen on the tail? I was part of a reserve VP squadron there until 1962. I may have flown in yours

    Also, do you have a list of BuNos of NASNY P2V-5F’s ?

    I volunteer each week at Naval Aviation Museum, Patriots Point, USS Yorktown, CV-10, Mount Pleasant, SC.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      25 March 2010 08:04

      Hello,

      Since this may have been an aircraft you served on I’ll post more photos of it on Sunday and with my thanks, too, for working at the Naval Aviation Museum in Patriots Point.

      There wasn’t an information sign regarding the P2V at H.A.R.P. although the aircraft looks as if it right off a production line. I’m not a person who normally gets access to display interiors so I didn’t see the ID plate … but the number on the tail is 131542. Under the tail the same number but with SP-2E over it. The nose has 210.

      I hope that will do for now, until the photos come on-line this Sunday.

      I’ll see if I can find those BuNos … I thought I ran across something regarding those a few months ago.

      The man who gave me my first job as geologist had retired from the Navy where he also crewed on a P2V. On the chance that you knew him in the service, his name is John Evanhouse (or Evenhouse) … did you serve with him by any chance?

      Thanks again,

      Joe

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      25 March 2010 14:10

      Hello again,

      I found a web site that has P2Vs listed by the BuNo. — it is http://www.vpnavy.com/aircraft_p2_aircraft.html and the other web sites that looked interesting for more research were:

      http://p2vneptune.com/ref01.shtml
      http://www.vectorsite.net/avp2v.html
      http://www.verslo.is/baldur/p2/
      http://www.vpnavy.com/aircraft_p2.html

      Thx,

      Joe

  2. Rob T permalink
    9 April 2015 21:59

    For Floyd Bennett Field/HARP – (as of 4/9/15) – “Hangar B Closure – Due to ongoing issues with the roof, Hangar B will be closed to the public, and all public programs in the hangar are cancelled, until further notice. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      13 April 2015 10:31

      Thanks for the timely information and good luck on the repairs. I’ll post an update this week about it.

  3. John Cameron Bishop permalink
    30 September 2015 00:02

    I remember climbing into that very same P2V back in 1975 at Floyd Bennett Field when I was 17. I was always an aviation nut and it was heaven to sit in the cockpit and feel the vibe. It didn’t last long as a Federal Ranger with a southern accent called for my Buddy and I to get out as he assumed we were stealing things from the plane. His drawn gun and shaking hands made us think of Barney Fife. He was scared as can be! I wasn’t shot or even arrested and went on to a 30 year Naval Aviation career (Helos) and presently fly as a airline pilot. My photos from that day show the same BuNu and side number as restored today. The squadron code was painted out on the tail, the rest of its paint job was intact. Hope to come by and see my old Friend in the near future.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      5 October 2015 07:03

      We’re glad we could show you your old friend and what a remarkable story. I hope that guard found another calling though — for his and everyone else’s sake!

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