Kalamazoo, Michigan has a couple of nice attractions . . . this post is about one of them.
The Air Zoo of Kalamazoo was founded in 1977, and I visited it in 2004, a few month before I left Michigan for Colorado. I had driven by it countless times during my trips to Illinois, but there was always a reason for saying “Next time!”
We ended up making a trip just to go see it, and I am very glad we did.
It is the best airplane museum I ever visited. No, it does not have hundreds of planes like Dayton’s Air Force Museum. It does not have huge displays and important historical planes like Boeing’s museum in Seattle. What it does have is amazing settings for planes that look ready to take off if only someone would give them a runway.
The unique thing about this place are the murals surrounding the main display hall . . . including the one on the floor. You heard me! The floor is painted with features related to the type of planes that sit on it. The modern jets are displayed on a representation of the deck of an aircraft carrier (complete with the bridge towering against one of the walls). WWII planes are shown on what one imagines as a typical airfield, and older planes on what might be an open filed being used as a runway.
Lance’s mind should be on the mission, but instead he’s thinking of Rita, the gal he met at the pub last night. Had he known he would not survive the mission, he might have refused to go . . . or maybe not.
Before people start asking me about Lance, I made that up.
But the main attraction, at least for me, is the SR-71B . . . insomuch as an inert piece of metal can exude power, project presence, and fire the imagination, this plane comes through in spades.
By the way, except for two of the fifty-one (51) photographs in the SmugMug album, all these are taken with natural light. Long exposures with my D100 mounted on a tripod. First time I had tried that kind of shooting. One of the museum staffers came over and asked me if I was a professional. My spirit soared, but only until I found out he had to ask because while the public can take personal pictures, you have to get permission to shoot for a paying project.
We had gotten there early, and there were not many people there yet, and the guy said it’s no problem using the tripod because of the small number of people, but to try and get done before the crowds picked up. He was a very nice guy.
There is another hanger with more straight-forward aircraft displays.
The staff at this museum do restorations for other museums, and are an affiliate of the Smithsonian. Planes are lent and borrowed, so I cannot guarantee all the planes in my gallery will be there. The Air Zoo website lists the planes they have now, and all but a couple I saw are still there. A few new ones that were not there when I visited have taken their place. I think all the “main” ones are still there. Last year they expanded their main display area. Hope I’ll have another opportunity to visit them.
I can’t put all the photos in this post. I’ll sound like a broken record, but those interested should go to the SmugMug gallery for all 51 photos.
I highly recommend visiting the Air Zoo if you are in the area. As I said, it remains the best air museum I’ve visited.
Thank you for reading.