Castle Air Museum

From my childhood bedroom window on Cormorant Court, I looked down at the scrub-jays, mourning doves, and house sparrows at the feeder and birdbath in the backyard. These noticings fueled a lifelong passion for birds.

To look skyward, to the east, was the flight path of planes as they approached Moffett Field, a naval base in Sunnyvale. The sound of the P-3 Orion’s turboprops were the sound of my childhood, along with the calls of scrub-jays and mourning doves. I learned to identify planes as I identified birds. I knew a C-5 from a C-130, an A-4 from an F-4. I just loved things than fly!

I built models of airplanes such as the F-4, B-52, and KC-135 and hung them from the ceiling with push pins and dental floss. I shared this hobby with a neighbor two doors down and he now is a pilot for United Airlines.

So there should be no surprise that I left Santa Cruz at 6:40 AM, my destination was Atwater, two hours and ten minutes away. My destination was the Castle Air Museum. This air museum is one of the largest collections of military planes (or any planes) on the West Coast.

I am always looking for new sketching challenges and Castle’s collection of almost 70 aircraft would fit the bill. In the end, I did ten sketches in just under three hours.

A sketch of the business end of one of the aircraft that mesmerized me as a child, the world’s fastest plane: SR-71 Blackbird. It’s top speed was Mach 3.3, four times as fast as the average cruising speed of a commercial jet. 32 of these high-speed, high-altitude, reconnaissance aircraft where built, 26 still exist and like this Blackbird, are on static display in museums.

The trip was also a dip into nostalgia as I was sketching an F-4 Phantom, one of the planes I built a model of when I was a kid. As I’ve noted before, you really get to know something when you sketch it.

The business end of an F-4 Phantom. This jet is painted in the livery of the Thunderbirds No. 5, the Air Force Demonstration Squadron. When I was a kid, I built four F-4s in the Blue Angels livery. I would watch the Blue Angles’ performance from my roof.
A sketch of an F-16 Fighting Falcon. This plane was part of the National Guard, stationed in Fresno. The F-16 could cover the distance between it’s base in Fresno and San Francisco in 11 minutes!
F-86H Sabre, a Korean War swept-wing fighter with a top speed of 600 mph. It’s painted nose is a throw back to the P-40 of World War II.

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