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On Walkabout At: The War Eagles Air Museum in Santa Teresa, New Mexico

I am a big fan of aviation and aerospace related museums so when I heard about the War Eagles Air Museum located just outside of El Paso, Texas I knew had to go and check it out at some point.  So I recently made the short drive from my home in El Paso over to Santa Teresa, New Mexico airport where the War Eagles Air Museum is located:

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The first thing after paying the entry fee that I did was go and use the the restroom because I had to go pretty badly.  I got a good laugh in the restroom when this is what greeted me in the urinal, a Hanoi Jane target:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

After using the restroom I then proceeded in to the aircraft hangar where the aircraft are kept:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

I was quite impressed with the size of this facility, it was far larger than I expected it to be:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

Here is a picture of one of the first aircraft I saw, a TF-51:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

After World War II, 15 P-51’s were converted into TF’s.  The original “P” was for “Pursuit” while the change to “TF” stood for “TEMCO Fighter” with TEMCO being the company that manufactured the aircraft.  The War Eagles Museum has the only operational TF-51 remaining in the world.  This aircraft originally owned by the Indiana National Guard and then sold to the Indonesian Air Force.  The aircraft was recovered from a junkyard outside of Jakarta and restored by Olivas Aviation of Fabens, Texas and Vintage Aircraft of Ft. Collins, Colorado.

This next picture is of an old spotter plane that was used by the US Army through the Vietnam War:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

Here is an F4-U “Corsair”:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

The Corsair was first delivered to the Navy for carrier use in 1942.  It saw action in both World War II and the Korean War and was the last propeller driven fighter used by the US military.

Next up is a DH-82A “Tiger Moth”:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

This aircraft was delivered to the British RAF in 1932 and saw action in World War II.  The Tiger Moth was also used by many of the British Commonwealth nations as well.  Interestingly the Tiger Moth would go on to become the aircraft primarily used for crop spraying by farmers in Australia and New Zealand.

Here is an early prototype of the P-51 Mustang discussed earlier in this posting:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

The wing for this aircraft was opened to reveal the multiple gun systems used for combat:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

The cockpit was also opened and it was so well maintained that it appeared the airplane could have been flown right out of the hangar:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

The P-51 saw action in both World War II and the Korean War.  During World War II it gave the US ability to strike deep into Germany and protect bomber fleets from the German Luftwaffe while in the Korean War it was basically used as a close air support aircraft since the war saw the advent of jet aircraft used for air superiority.

The museum also had a couple of really old flight simulators on display.  For those that have seen the modern flight simulators, these old ones are like comparing the old Atari video games system to an X-Box:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

Besides US and allied aircraft here is a threat aircraft, the MIG-15:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

This a two seat trainer MIG-15 with the actual tactical MIG-15 being a one seat aircraft.  The original MIG-15 was a great aircraft for its day that proved its capabilities with Soviet pilots shooting down many allied aircraft during the Korean War.

Here is another allied aircraft the British built Hawker Sea Fury/Fury:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

This aircraft had the symbol of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on it.  The Hawker saw action in the Korean War and is credited with shooting down two MIG-15’s in what became the last known instance of a prop driven aircraft fighting a jet powered aircraft.  The Hawker was used by Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and some third world countries.  Interestingly, Iraq was one of the biggest users of this aircraft up until the 1970’s and that is where the aircraft at the War Eagles Museum came from.

As I continued to walk around the museum I noticed that besides aircraft the War Eagles also had a very large classic vehicle collection as well:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

The museum also had a US Army Vulcan self propelled anti-aircraft system as well:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

The rate of fire of the Vulcan is quite impressive and saw much use during the Vietnam War against ground targets as well as air targets.  I have even read stories about how the Vulcan was used to clear jungle foliage around patrol bases in Vietnam because its rate of fire acted like a giant lawn mower.  In South Korea their military still uses the Vulcan as part of the air defenses against North Korea.

As the below picture shows the War Eagles Air Museum also has a sense of humor:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

The next aircraft I saw was a T-38B “Talon”:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

The T-38 is used as a trainer aircraft and first became operational in 1961 and is still used until this day.

Here is another threat aircraft on display, a MIG-21:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

This MIG-21 was donated to the museum by the German Air Force and is beautifully restored.  The MIG-21 was added to the Soviet Air Force in the late fifties and was for many years considered the Soviet Union’s best jet aircraft.  The MIG-21 saw action against US forces during the Vietnam War and was used by various Arab military’s against the Israelis during their various conflicts.  The MIG-21 was also used by the Iraqi Air Force during Operation Desert Storm with some of them being shot down by the US.  The MIG-21 in the museum served in the East German Air Force before the reunification of the country.

Here is a picture of the cockpit of the MIG-21:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

As I walked around I noticed this sign post with the distance to various world wide locations on it:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

I then came across another threat aircraft which was the tactical version of the MIG-15:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

The next aircraft I saw was this beautifully restored P-38 Lightning:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

The P-38 was used by both the British and the United States and saw action during World War II.  An interesting story about the P-38 is that Charles Lindbergh was touring the Pacific as a civilian showing military pilots how to increase the range and engine life of the P-38 by using the correct throttle settings.  During one of these training flights Lindbergh’s plane was attacked by a Japanese fighter that he then proceeded to shoot down.  Since Lindbergh was a civilian this violated the Geneva Convention, but since the Japanese hadn’t signed the Geneva Convention it didn’t matter.

Here is a final beautifully restored aircraft to share with everyone which is the P-40 “Warhawk”:

Picture from the War Eagles Air Museum

The P-40 is most well known as being the aircraft used by the famed “Flying Tigers“.  The Flying Tigers were an American Volunteer Group formed to defend the Burma Road into China against the Japanese that had occupied large parts of China. The Flying Tigers worked with the Republic of China forces that were combating the Japanese prior to the US entry into World War II after Pearl Harbor.  By the summer of 1942 the Flying Tigers were dissolved and formed into the 23rd Fighter Group which is where the aircraft in the War Eagles Air Museum came from.

There are many more aircraft and other items to see in the museum, which as I mentioned before is much larger than I expected. I spent about half a day looking around the museum, but for someone not as interested in aircraft, 1-2 hours is probably sufficient to explore the museum. The admission fee is only $5.00 for adults and students and children can get in for free so it is not an overly expensive place to check out. I had a really good time visiting the museum and highly recommend it to anyone visiting El Paso who has an interest in aviation because it is definitely one of the better air museums I have ever visited.

Note: For those interested the War Eagles Museum also puts out a quarterly newsletter that is quite well done that offers information about military aircraft and aviation in general.

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