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(besides aircraft and space artifacts)

We always have fun and exciting things to share with you.  Please check back often for exhibit information and openings, event details, special Air Zoo visitors, educationand  program announcements and soooo much more!

Media contact:
Nikki Statler, Director of Marketing  |  269.350.2811

"Smoe" and the P-80A on Display

We’ve added more cool jets to our outdoor aircraft display! In addition to the OV-1D Mohawk newly placed beside the S-3B Viking, we’re pleased to showcase an aircraft with one historic paint scheme. 

The scheme honors Colonel Michael Smolen, aka “Smoe,” who served the in U.S. Air Force as one of six early jet trainers and made history as a member and leader of the Acrojets. Formed in 1945, this precision flying team was the first to perform in the P-80 Shooting Star. Their shows demonstrated the jet’s maneuverability, the tight coordination fighter tactics required, and the skills student pilots could learn. 

Amazingly, they flew only 18-inches apart! 

The original Acrojets disbanded as the Korean War began. A second group, led by Smoe, emerged at Williams Air Force Base (Arizona) in 1950. Smoe and his crew flew in the major motion picture, “Air Cadet” (1951) starring Rock Hudson. 

Williams assigned the P-80A (#44-85151) on display at the Air Zoo to Smoe, for he’d logged several hours in it before student pilots used it as a ground trainer. Trainers set up the aircraft on concrete blocks with dual instruments in a control house so that they could simulate emergencies. Later, the plane was struck from inventory, but as a result, something special occurred. The Williams restoration team restored and painted the P-80 in an Acrojets paint scheme. This, they did to create a static aircraft display in honor of Smoe and the “Jet Age pioneers whose aviation prowess and dedication to country embody the true Dedalian spirit and serve as an inspiration to all of us…”

Some also flew some of the aircraft types on exhibit at the Air Zoo, including the AT-6, P-40, and P-47. He flew the T-33 in Germany in dual training with students.

Look out for more stories about our Jet Age aircraft on display outside and along the walking path as we install a new fleet of interpretive outdoor panels—coming soon! 

Posted by Nikki Statler at 6:00 AM
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