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At the end of the Florida pan-handle, Pensacola is a favourite destination for holidaymakers looking for sunshine and pure white sandy beaches. For those trippers whose holiday doesn’t revolve around the beach, you don’t have to look far to find things to occupy your time.
One of the star attractions on the pan-handle is the National Naval Aviation Museum. Fans of flight will find a host of fascinating exhibits and an interesting tour of the aircraft involved in protecting the US both in the homeland and overseas. One of the world’s largest museums dedicated to flight, the site is a real Top Gun in the aviation world and offers guided tours four times daily and self-guided tour maps for those who want to explore at their own pace.
Although most people tend to associate space flight with NASA, the pilots who crew the flights beyond the stratosphere are drawn from the elite of US Naval pilots. Amongst the exhibits at the Museum is a life-size reconstruction of the lunar module, where visitors can see for themselves what the pilots and astronauts who manned the flight to the moon experienced when they got there.
In December 2012, a commemorative event was held for the Apollo missions with a panel discussion including some of the most decorated and experienced naval aviators who took part in the flights. The lunar module stands as a tribute to the pilots and engineers involved in the Apollo, Mercury and Gemini manned space flights.
Experience aircraft and flight
In the hangars you can see around 50 different types of naval war aircraft both inside and out and find out what the experience was like for naval fighter pilots flying these incredible planes. You can even get inside Presidential Marine One and see how the Leader of the Free World flies courtesy of the Navy.
For those who want to really experience flight without ever leaving the ground, you can take in one of the movies showing at the museum’s IMAX theatre, or even take a ride in one of the simulators to get a full-on sensory experience of life behind the controls of a fighter jet.
From March through to November, the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron is based at the Museum and practice every Tuesday and Wednesday morning at 8.30am, subject to weather conditions. The US Navy equivalent of the Red Devils, the Blue Angels perform formation and aerobatic flight moves that are really spectacular to watch.
For those who are star-struck by the pilots involved in such feats of daring, you can wait after the display and get chance to speak with them and get their autographs on some of the merchandise that’s available in the museum’s gift store.
Eating and drinking
At the Museum, even the Café is an exhibit! The Cubi Bar Café is a reproduction of the Cubi Point Officer’s Club, which served US Naval Officers on the Philippines for nearly 40 years up to 1992. The club was a famous stop-off point for Naval and Marine officers on their passage through the Western Pacific and was particular well-used through the Vietnam conflict. The walls of the Bar Café are covered in commemorative plaques erected in the original Club, each marking the retirement of an old squadron and the commencement of a new one.
The Bar Café offers a range of snacks and drinks in packaging branded with the anchor logo of the Bar and the Club before it.
Whether you’re a flight nut or just looking for an engaging experience, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied for a whole day at the Naval Aviation Museum. You’ll go away at the end of your day with some fantastic memories, not just of what you’ve seen but of an immersive experience that transports you to the heart of US Naval aviation.
All this talk of flying should finish with a reminder about http://www.cheapflights.co.uk/Florida/, which will save you money on your flight to the Florida area.
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