Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wings Over Miami – Airplanes!

As it has become clear for anyone who reads my blogs, I am partial to food, cars, planes, boats and railroads… While we were down in Florida enjoying our winter break and visiting Dawn Marie, I decided that we should check out a collection of airplanes at Dade County’s Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport.

We were a bit challenged following our GPS and simultaneously looking for signs for the Wings Over Miami aviation museum.  After a number of side trips at the airport, we finally scored, locating the museum’s hangar…

Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport is a public airport in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, Florida, 13 miles southwest of Downtown Miami.  It’s operated by the Miami-Dade Aviation Department.  The airport opened about 1968.  Roughly 450 aircraft are based at this airport, mostly single-engine light aircraft.  However, the airport is a port of entry with U.S. Customs personnel on hand, although it isn’t certified for airline use.  With its 3 runways, it has become popular as a corporate aviation terminal.  In addition to the Wings Over Miami aviation museum, Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport is home for the Miami-Dade Police Aviation Unit as well as Miami-Dade College's aviation programs.

In the year ending May 17 2011, the airport recorded 193,815 aircraft operations, for an average 531 per day.  To learn more about this airport, just go to

Upon entering Wings Over Miami’s hangar, this Grumman F-14 Tomcat is the first aircraft you see… This supersonic, twinjet, two-seat, variable-sweep wing fighter aircraft was developed for the United States Navy.   It’s a big plane, measuring over 62 feet in length with a loaded (fueled and armed) weight of 61,000 lbs. (30.5 tons!) It can reach speeds of 1,544 mph. (Mach 2.34) The Tomcat’s armament consisted of an internal 20 mm M61 Vulcan Gatling cannon mounted on the left side and it could can carry AIM-54 Phoenix, AIM-7 Sparrow, and AIM-9 Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles.

The F-14 first flew in December 1970 and it was first deployed in 1974 aboard the aircraft carrier the USS Enterprise.  Subsequently, the F-14 served as the U.S. Navy's primary maritime air superiority fighter, fleet defense interceptor and tactical reconnaissance platform for many years.  The F-14 Tomcat was retired from the U.S. Navy's active fleet in 2006, having been supplanted by the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.  At this point in time, the F-14 is only in service with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Air Force.  It was exported to Iran in 1976, back when the U.S. and Iran were still on speaking terms. 

This is not a big aircraft museum… Most of the aircraft we saw at the Wings Over Miami museum are a bit smaller and more ‘modest’ than the F-14.  This is a North American Aviation T-6 Texan.  The Texan was a single-engine advanced trainer aircraft used to train pilots of the United States Army Air Forces, United States Navy, Royal Air Force and other air forces of the British Commonwealth during World War II.  It remained in use as a military trainer into the 1970s.

Since the Second World War, the T-6 has been a regular participant at air shows, and it’s been used in many movies. In the movies, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and “The Final Countdown”, converted single-seat T-6s painted in Japanese markings represented Mitsubishi Zeros.  In the classic movie, “A Bridge too Far” it was used to represent the Army Air Force’s Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. The New Zealand Warbirds "Roaring 40s" aerobatic teams use ex-Royal New Zealand Air Force Harvards, one of the many versions of the T-6.

The T-6 has been used by the military in at total of 61 different countries!  A total of 15,495 were built for WWII.  These planes even served as spotters during the Vietnam War… Their top speed is 208 mph with a cruising speed of 145 mph and a range of 720 miles.  To learn more about this interesting and versatile aircraft, go to

The North American NA-50 was developed by the North American Aviation as a simple single-seat, low-wing, single-engine fighter specifically designed for export.  The design was developed from the NA-16 basic training aircraft from 1935.  Many aircraft sprung from the NA-16 in addition to the NA-50.  Only 13 NA-50’s were ever built.  This plane had a top speed of 295 mph and a range of about 960 miles.

The NA-50 ‘Torito’, (Spanish slang for "little bull"), was built for export to Peru.  It was a single-seat fighter powered by an 870 horsepower Wright R-1820-77 radial air-cooled engine and it was armed with two .30 in M1919 Browning machine guns. The aircraft were manufactured in May 1939.  In 1940, the Royal Thai Air Force ordered six aircraft similar to the NA-50 that were designated as the NA-68.

This is a Nanchang CJ-6.  As you might guess from its name, this aircraft was designed and built in China for use by the People's Liberation Army Air Force as a basic trainer.  The first flight of the CJ-6 was completed in 1958.  Due to its low price and solid construction, the CJ-6A is a popular hobby plane.  A used CJ-6 in the United States can cost as little as $75,000.

A total production run that’s estimated at more than 3,000 aircraft, supplied CJ-6 aircraft for Chinese Army Air Force training, as well as for export to several countries including Albania, Bangladesh, Cambodia, North Korea, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka.  Their maximum speed is 185 mph. with a range of 425 miles.  These planes can be outfitted with machine guns and underwing hardpoints for bombs.

Somehow I missed taking a photo of the sign identifying this airplane.  I wandered around the Internet and I decided that it’s a Beechcraft T-34 Mentor, a military trainer aircraft derived from Beechcraft’s Model 35 Bonanza.  Earlier versions of the T-34, dating from around the late 1940s and into the 1950s, used a piston engine.  With this upgraded turboprop engine, the T-34 remains is still in service more than six decades after it was first designed.

Over 2,300 of these aircraft were built.  The U.S. Navy kept the T-34B operational as a Naval Air Training Command initial primary trainer until the mid-1970s and as a Navy Recruiting Command aircraft until the early 1990s.  Others continue to remain under U.S. Navy control as part of flying clubs at naval air stations and Marine Corps air stations.  The Mentor is the aircraft that’s used by the well-known ‘Lima Lima’ civilian demonstration flight team.  At least 21 different nations have had these airplanes in use for their military…

There were a few miscellaneous displays in the hangar and around the Wings facility.  This is a Willys Jeep.  Willys Jeeps were manufactured during WWII by both the Willys Corporation and the Ford Motor Company.  From 1941 through 1945, Willys built roughly 360,000 units and Ford built another 278,000.  Ford called theirs a Ford GPW.  These small four-wheel drive utility vehicles are considered the iconic World War II Jeep, and they inspired many similar light utility vehicles. Over the years, the World War II Jeep later evolved into the "CJ" civilian Jeep.

Although most likely due to a bastardization of the acronym "GP", a military term used to designate the vehicle, another likely factor in the popularization of the jeep name came from the fact that the vehicle made quite a positive impression on soldiers at the time.  They informally named it after ‘Eugene the Jeep’, a character in the Popeye comic strip and cartoons.  Eugene the Jeep was Popeye's "jungle pet" and was "small, able to move between dimensions and could solve seemingly impossible problems."

This was the other very large aircraft on display at Wings Over Miami.  The Consolidated PBY Catalina was an amphibious aircraft from the 1930s and 1940s that was produced by Consolidated Aircraft.  It was one of the most widely used seaplanes of World War II.  This aircraft has a wingspan of 104 feet.  Its cruising speed is only 125 mph…but it has a flight range of 2,520 miles!  That range and speed was critical for long range missions over the oceans of the world.
Catalina’s served with every branch of the United States Armed Forces as well as in the air forces and navies of many other nations.  During wartime, it required a crew of 10: pilot, co-pilot, bow turret gunner, flight engineer, radio operator, navigator, radar operator, two waist gunners and ventral gunner.  During World War II, PBYs were used in anti-submarine warfare, sinking 40 U-Boats, patrol bombing, convoy escorts, search and rescue missions, and cargo transport. 

The PBY Catalina was the most numerous aircraft of its kind.  The Brazilian Air Force kept Catalina’s in service until 1982.   They were perfect for supplying military units that were based along the Amazon River.  Even today, nearly 80 years after its first flight, the aircraft continues to fly as a water bomber in aerial firefighting operations in some parts of the world.

Timing is everything!  When we arrived, we were informed that for the first time in several years, the plane was being readied for flight and they were about to conduct static engine run-ups… There is nothing like the sound of a couple old piston aircraft engines at full throttle!  Sadly, this airplane has been purchased and it will be leaving the Wings exhibit and moving to Texas.  What a classic beauty!

Notes: On May 26, 1941, A Royal Air Force Coastal Command Catalina piloted by a US Navy pilot in Ireland located the German battleship Bismarck, which was attempting to evade Royal Navy forces.  This sighting eventually led to the destruction of the German battleship.
A flight of Catalina’s spotted the Japanese fleet approaching Midway Island, beginning the Battle of Midway.

A Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Catalina/Canso foiled Japanese plans to destroy the Royal Navy's Indian Ocean fleet in April 1942 when the Japanese carrier fleet was detected as it approached Ceylon. (now Sri Lanka).

This is a ‘new’ Waco Classic YMF biplane.  The original Waco Aircraft Company was an aircraft manufacturer located in Troy, Ohio.  Between 1919 and 1947, the company produced a wide range of civilian biplanes.  The company ceased operations in 1947, when the anticipated boom in aviation following World War II failed to develop.  A large number of original Waco biplanes survive, with reportedly the largest single collection residing at the Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum at Dauster Field in Creve Coeur Missouri.

The WACO Classic Aircraft company, (unrelated to the original Waco Company), began building its WACO Classic YMF in 1986.  This is an upgraded version based on Waco's original type certified design.  WACO Classic is the only company in the world that produces new FAA certified open cockpit classic biplanes.  Hours of handcrafted skill go into each plane, which is built to your specifications.  A new WACO YMF-5D with standard equipment can be purchased for a base price of only $437,250.  For more information, go to

The Ryan ST series of aircraft were a series of two seat, low-wing monoplanes built by the Ryan Aeronautical Company. They were used as sport aircraft, as well as trainers by flying schools and the military of several countries.  T. Claude Ryan was the founder of the Ryan Aeronautical Company, the second incarnation of a company with this name, and the fourth company with which he had been involved to bear his name.  The first of his companies, Ryan Airlines, was the manufacturer of the Ryan NYP, more famously known as the Spirit of St. Louis.

Most civil aircraft in the ST series were delivered in the United States, although a few were exported to South Africa, Australia and various countries in Latin America.  More than 1,000 Ryan STs were built to serve the United States Army Air Corp, its successor, the United States Army Air Forces and the US Navy.  In addition, a number of these aircraft served in the Air Forces of at least 12 nations.  Their top speed is 126 mph…with a range of 366 miles. 

The Kendall location of Wings Over Miami Air Museum is a hangar facility that traditionally has been used as an aviation museum.  This is the facility's ticket counter, gift shop and model aircraft display.

In 1986, pilot Kermit Weeks housed his growing collection of vintage aircraft in such a way that it could be shared with the community in a museum setting. However, in 1992, Weeks Air Museum was crushed by Hurricane Andrew almost all of the planes were severely damaged.  Although the museum was rebuilt, Mr. Weeks moved his ever-growing collection to Polk County, Florida, where he was able to expand onto 1300 acres of land and create his “Fantasy of Flight” aviation museum.  Check out this central Florida attraction at

When the Weeks Air Museum moved out of Miami, a void was created for the aviation community in South Florida.  In late 2001, four military and classic plane enthusiasts came together and decided to transition the existing hanger into “Wings Over Miami Air Museum”.  A ‘flying’ museum was envisioned.  A new collection has been acquired including vintage aircraft, military trainers, and jet aircraft from the Cold War era.  The museum’s collection of aircraft is reputed to be almost entirely in flying condition with some being flown regularly.

This aircraft is located on a concrete pad near the Wings Over Miami Aviation Museum… The Douglas A-26 Invader, also designated as the B-26 between 1948 and 1965, was a United States twin-engine light bomber and attack aircraft built by Douglas Aircraft during World War II.  This model aircraft also saw service during several Post WWII conflicts.  These include the Korean War; the French/Indo China War; Indonesian’s invasion of East Timor; the Vietnam War; the “Bay of Pigs” invasion and at least 3 African conflicts.
The last A-26 in active US service was assigned to the Air National Guard with that aircraft being retired from military service in 1972.  A total of 2,452 were built with the last of these planes being retired from the Colombian Air Force in 1980.  Some configurations of this aircraft had as many as 14 machine guns in a fixed forward mount… A third crew member in the rear gunner's compartment operated the remotely-controlled dorsal and ventral gun turrets.  The aircraft could carry 8,000 lbs. of bombs.  It had a top speed of 355 mph with a range of 1,400 miles. 

The Wings Over Miami Aviation Museum is open from Wednesday through Sunday from 10 AM to 5 PM.  Admission is $12.00 for adults and $6.00 for children.  As previously mentioned, the museum is located on the grounds of the Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport.  The address is 14710 Southwest 128th Street in Miami Florida.  Phone: 305-233-5197.  Check out the museum’s website at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a tour!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. How fun. I know my husband would love to visit this exhibit. We both enjoy aircraft museums. We had a Beechcraft straight tail Bonanza for years and when we sold it, we stood on the tire mac and cried. We took that plane everywhere, including the Bahamas. There is nothing in the world like private aviation that will really spoil you for travel.

  2. I enjoyed your post and the photo of the Waco made me smile. My husband and I have flown in an original Waco…it was a memorable experience to celebrate my birthday a couple of years ago. :D Karen

  3. Dear Dave, Wonderful post about these classic air planes. Blessings, Catherine

  4. Great pictures Dave, but I am allergic to planes. I haven't taken one in about 15 years or more. I'm just too afraid.