New England Aviation Museum Leaves You Lighter Than Air
Author: Mike Hulter
On the North border of Bradley International Airport just outside of Windsor Locks two miles West of the Connecticut River lies the New England Aeronautical Museum. Maintaining sixty six aircrafts and twenty six helicopters, the museum is known to startle and overwhelm the unprepared visitor who doesn't realize just how much space that many aircraft occupy.
Comprised of three warehouses, the New England Air Museum is an extensive homage to the accomplishments of mankind in the field of Aviation. With a stated mission of "presenting the story of aviation, the human genius that made it possible and the profound effects that it has had on the way in which we live," the museum carries an air of reverence for its ninety some odd flying machines and the hundreds of aviation accouterments. While the Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Society was founded in 1959, the NEAM was established in its current location in 1981, two years after a tornado destroyed the original museum on route 75.
Many of the exhibitions here are truly one of a kind such as the Silas Brooks balloon Basket, the oldest surviving aircraft in the US. Silas Brooks was an inventive entrepreneur born in 1826 who started his career fixing clocks before joining the circus after which he started his own. It was his circus life that led him into the field of ballooning which he managed to do successfully for 40 years, constantly pushing the field and improving the technology until his final flight in 1894 at the age of seventy.
Another unique item they maintain is the oldest surviving Sikorsky S-39, an amphibious aircraft from the 1930s. The inventor, Igor Sikorsky is best known for developing the Sikorsky VS-44A, the first Pan American Airways amphibious boats the Excalibur, the Exeter, and the Excambian. The only one that still exists is the Excambian and it also is housed at the New England Air Museum.
Every June The New England Air museum host Flight Sim Con, an annual Aviation and Flight Simulation Convention which is currently the only such conference in North America. Focusing on desktop flight simulation, the convention brings together air traffic controllers, real life pilots, desktop simulation enthusiasts and flight simulation developers. One thing the conference strives to do is to improve flight simulators to meet the needs of student pilots who wish to develop their skills and rated pilot who simply wish to maintain the necessary skill set.
When you go make sure to find out when Open Cockpit times are so you can experience the actual space that the pilots inhabited when maneuvering these metallic creatures through the air.