Lots of cool sights await visitors to the free San Diego Air and Space Museum’s Gillespie Field Annex!
One of the coolest free attractions in San Diego is located in East County at Gillespie Field. That’s where you’ll find the annex of Balboa Park’s famous Air and Space Museum!
Yesterday morning I ventured east to El Cajon to visit the San Diego Air and Space Museum’s Gillespie Field Annex for the very first time. I’d read that they have a collection of old aircraft, but I really didn’t know what to expect.
I was absolutely blown away!
The annex is a treasure trove of restored and unrestored aircraft, plus old exhibits once housed by the museum in Balboa Park. Volunteers at the Gillespie Field Annex are happy to show families around. Excited kids can sit inside commercial airline cockpits, and adults can marvel at the development of aviation technology over the years.
There are so many amazing displays in the hangar and outside, it’s hard to describe. So I offer you these photos with informative captions!
If you happen to be in San Diego, go check it out for yourself! While admission to the annex is free, they’d appreciate a few bucks in their donation box!
An imposing Atlas missile stands in one corner of the annex’s parking lot!
Cockpit exhibits and aircraft in various stages of restoration stand outside the museum annex hangar.
Inside the hangar there’s a ton of cool stuff, including many old exhibits from the main San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park.
Replica of the Smithsonian’s original Vin Fiz Flyer dangles from the ceiling. This one-of-a-kind Wright Brothers airplane was the first aircraft to fly coast-to-coast. The journey took almost three months!
Ryan X-13 experimental vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) jet created by the Ryan Aeronautical Company of San Diego. This particular aircraft was test flown in 1955 at Edwards Air Force Base.
Looking past the Ryan X-13 Vertijet at other exhibits in the annex hangar, including a yellow Ryan Recruit military trainer.
This particular Ryan X-13 was the result of a contract with the U.S. Air Force, as you can see by the markings.
Ryan ST-3KR (PT-22) Recruit, an aircraft used to train thousands of pilots during World War II.
In a glass display case nearby is a small model of a Ryan B-5 Brougham. (You might recall that Charles Lindbergh’s famous Spirit of St. Louis, first plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean solo nonstop, was built in San Diego by Ryan.)
Numerous aircraft engines on display at the San Diego Air and Space Museum’s Gillespie Field Annex.
Wright R-3350-B Duplex-Cyclone 1939 aircraft power plant, at the time the most powerful radial engine in the world at 2000 HP.
Pratt and Whitney 1830-17 Twin Wasp, used in several World War II aircraft.
Wright J65 turbojet engine, 1954. This engine powered many military aircraft in the mid 20th century, including the very successful A-4 Skyhawk.
Marquardt RJ43-MA-9 ramjet engine used on Boeing CIM-10 Bomarc interceptor missiles during the 1960s. The ramjet produced speeds up to Mach 2.7, or about 1780 miles per hour.
Rolls Royce Pegasus F402-RR-401 vectoring turbofan that powers the AV-8A Harrier short take-off and vertical landing aircraft.
A long mural in the annex’s hangar shows a variety of modern aircraft.
Bleriot XI dangles from the ceiling. The revolutionary 1908 aircraft had a new Anzani engine that could run for one whole hour, allowing it to fly across the English Channel.
Sopwith Pup Craftsmen of the San Diego Aerospace Museum, a volunteer aircraft building project back in 2000-2003.
Rearwin Cloudster 8135, once displayed on the museum floor in Balboa Park.
One more look inside the hangar before I head outside to see lots more cool stuff.
The aircraft in the foreground is a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15. Mounted beyond it is a Ryan Model 147 Lightning Bug jet-powered reconnaissance drone.
Outside the hangar doors is the nose of an old Northwest Stratocruiser that once flew to Honolulu.
Hundreds of switches, dials and gauges inside the amazing cockpit of a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. One can sit in the pilot’s seat and pretend to fly across the Pacific Ocean!
Someone created this silly flying car named the Spirit of San Diego! I kind of doubt they ever got this contraption off the ground.
Looking beyond a General Dynamics F-16N at a line of military aircraft displayed outside.
North American F-86F Sabre from the Korean War period.
Convair F-102A Delta Dagger built in San Diego 1956-1957.
An old Neptune Aviation Services P2V-7 aerial firefighting plane–Tanker 43.
I learned there are several restoration projects now underway at the museum annex at Gillespie Field. I believe this is an old Piasecki H-21 helicopter. Looks like it needs some work.
Next to the San Diego Air and Space Museum’s Gillespie Field Annex parking lot stands a tall Atlas Missile 2-E! This missile was used for a static firing at Sycamore Canyon Test Facility east of MCAS Miramar. It used to stand at the entrance to Missile Park, beside the old General Dynamics complex in Kearny Mesa.
National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark Atlas Space Booster Family – San Diego, California – 1957. Developed by General Dynamics Convair and the U.S. Air Force.
Visit the free San Diego Air and Space Museum’s Gillespie Field Annex and you’ll learn a whole lot about aviation history!
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