Blue skies, festival for AMC Museum’s 30th year

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One of the prizes in a special raffle will be a 30th anniversary viewing of the film “Top Gun” inside the AMC Museum’s C-5A. Photo by Andrew West/Delaware State News

DOVER — Like so many of the volunteers and visitors of the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover, Ret. Col. Richard Harper appreciates the special connections to the historic planes in its collection.

He flew the C-5 Galaxy and C-141 Starlifter.

And, the C-9 Nightingale was the plane of a squadron he led in Germany. Among its missions was transporting the Iran hostages back from Algiers in 1981.

“They’re all favorites in their own special way,” said Col. Harper, who retired as Dover Air Force Base commander in 1988 after more than 27 years in the U.S. Air Force. “There are fond memories, incredible memories in any one of those airplanes.”

The AMC Museum is celebrating its 30th anniversary this fall with the “Festival of Flight.”

Col. Harper is chairman of a committee planning the event.

The museum will kick off the celebration Friday, Sept. 23, with an exclusive party. Ticket holders will have a chance to win unique flight and museum experiences. Proceeds will benefit the AMC Museum Foundation.

The Festival of Flight’s two big days for the public will be Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 24-25.

In addition to re-enactors and special guests, the museum is planning tours of 19 of its aircraft.

The 436th Airlift Wing will be bringing over a C-5M and C-17 to the museum for static display.

A C-5A, retired in 2013 to the museum, was the first assigned to Dover Air Force Base. Festival visitors will be able to tour it and a modern C-5M that currently is among the DAFB fleet.

“They won’t be side by side but you can go in both and make your own comparisons,” said Mr. Leister.

There is no charge for the Sept. 24-25 museum visit and tours.


Tickets for the Friday night party will be good for two guests and an entry into a raffle and chance for one of more than 10 prizes. (For more information, see full list below.)

The grand prize is an aircraft ride around the Statue of Liberty and up the Hudson River for two people. Limo service to New Jersey and back is included.

First prize will be a flight for two in “Panchito” — a B-25 bomber — during the Oct. 1 Wings and Wheels airshow in Georgetown.

Other drawings will be for sightseeing flights in open cockpit bi-planes and observation planes and special party opportunities in the museum’s C-5 and control tower.

Tickets, $100 each, can be purchased at the AMC Museum store. Only 250 tickets will be sold.


Col. Harper and Mr. Leister, thinking back on the museum’s start, reflected on its origin in Building 709, an aging hangar on the main base campus.

“It kept the wind and the rain out, but that’s about all it did,” said Col. Harper.
Really, says Col. Harper, you can trace the museum’s launch back to a 1978 project of the 512th Airlift Wing. As a service project, the reservists restored the “Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby” — a World War II era B-17 bomber — for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Gen. Walter Kross, base commander in the 1980s, saw the potential for a museum after seeing the Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby work and all the artifacts that were gathered in the process.

“It was an amazing sight to see the old B-17 and what they were doing with it,” said Col. Harper.

In the mid-1990s, then-base commander Gen. William Welser recommended its move to Hangar 1301.

The hangar was home to a secret rocket development unit during World War II.

“The base’s vision, when it was first proposed, was four planes and a mobile home-sized building,” said Mr. Leister. “We’ve certainly exceeded those expectations.”

The AMC Museum, which has a collection of 34 airplanes and a dedicated group of about 180 active volunteers, is the only one in the country dedicated to airlift and air refueling history. Last year, it had more than 100,000 visitors.

Its centerpiece, a C-47A Skytrain, has been restored to its full D-Day glory.
The plane became the first in the museum collection in 1986 when it was brought to Dover under the strength of Pennsylvania National Guard helicopter.

“There are three airplanes that are the crowd favorites — the B17 Flying Fortress , Air Force Two and the C-5,” said Mr. Leister. “Now, for the people that are airplane people, the C-47 is probably the favorite because it is exhibited in a panorama that shows all the support equipment, the stuff it carried and the external racks that dropped cargo.

“It’s the only one in the world that is configured as it was on D-Day with the external load and all the drop stuff. That’s five steps above anyone else’s exhibit.

“People that are airplane nuts — and I use that very respectfully, they just eat this stuff up.”

(Read  more about one of the paratroopers who jumped from the C-47 on D-Day.)


A C-119 that was used in a daring mission in Korea will be the next plane added to the museum collection.

“When I was on vacation, I went out to the desert (in Nevada) and took a look at it,” said Mr. Leister. “The air frame is in good condition but it needs a lot of the stuff we’re good at doing — refurbishment, new instruments, repairing wooden floors.”

In 1951, the Air Force used it to air drop a bridge to Marines that needed to retreat over the Chosin Resevoir.

“It had never been done before,” said Mr. Leister. “They loaded eight airplanes up with eight sections of the bridge.

“The Marines had to have three sections to make it. Five landed inside their compound and they were able to build them over a blown-up causeway.
They were able to bring all their wounded, all the ambulances, all the tanks and all their trucks back. It was a fighting withdrawal.”

The plane has tail number 352.

Mr. Leister spotted it in a military documentary on YouTube.

“When I found it,” he said, “I almost swallowed my tongue — ‘Hey, that’s our airplane!’”

‘Festival of Flight’ party plans

Tickets to the Friday, Sept. 23, “Festival of Flight” party include admission for two guests, an entry into a raffle to benefit the AMC Museum Foundation, food and drinks.
Prizes include:
•An aircraft ride around the Statue of Liberty and up the Hudson River and roundtrip limo service to the takeoff point in New Jersey;


C-133B Cargomaster

•A flight for two on “Panchito” — a World War II era B-25 bomber – during the Wings and Wheels airshow Oct. 1 in Georgetown;
•Sightseeing flight for one on a 1941 PT-17 open cockpit bi-plane (two available);
•Sightseeing flight for one on a 1943 Navy PT-17 open cockpit bi-plane;
•Sightseeing flight for one on a 1947 USAF L-16 observation plane (two available);
•Sightseeing flight for one on a 1939 Piper J-3C Cub with Army markings;
•Sightseeing flight for one in a Moyes Dragonfly ultra-light aircraft;
•Birthday party for up to 15 children in a C-133 Cargomaster (tables, chairs and sound system included);
•Party in a C-5 Galaxy for up to 30 adults for a special 30th anniversary showing of the film “Top Gun” (beer, soda and popcorn provided);
•Aerial photo of your home by CMBaker Photography;
•Wine and cheese party for 12 in the AMC Museum control tower.
Tickets are $100 and can be purchased at the AMC Museum store.
The party starts at 6 p.m. and raffle drawings begin at 7:30 p.m. Ticketholders do not have to be present to win.

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