Spain’s Museum of Aeronautics and Astronautics (Museo de Aeronáutica y Astronáutica)
By Felix Alejos
Thanks to the support of Spain’s Ministry of Defense, the Spanish Air Force (Ejército del Aire (EdA)) and the dedication and enthusiasm of the Museum’s staff and members of the Association of Friends of the Museum, Spain’s capital residents and visitors can enjoy the Museo de Aeronáutica y Astronáutica, housed at the historic military airfield of Cuatro Vientos (Madrid), the first military airfield in Spain’s history.
The museum’s parking lot and entrance are quite modest, but the visitor’s attention is immediately caught by the outdoor exhibit from which we will highlight the recently phased out of service Dassault Mirage F-1 jet fighter, accompanied by its older sibling Mirage III-E. Next to them are the U.S. combat aircraft that have served under the EdA: North American F-86 (first jet fighter of the EdA), Lockheed F-104 (NATO standard fighter and first supersonic jet of the EdA), Northrop F-5A and RF-5A (the B version still soldiers on in the air combat school), McDonnell Douglas F-4C (displaying a SUU-16/A gun pod) and RF-4C (Phantom). Next to them are some of their rivals from the Cold War: Mikoyan-Gurevich MIG-17, MIG-21 and MIG-23, plus a Sukhoi SU-22. Rounding up the combat jets is a pair of Swedish brothers: Saab J-37 and a J-32. Examples of classical warhorses are a North American B-25 sitting next to a Junkers JU-52 and its Spanish version, the CASA C-352, which was kept in service up to the 1970s. There are also some amphibious planes as a Canadair CL-125 firefighter, a Grumman SA-16B, a Consolidated PBY-5 and a Dornier 24. Other specimens worth mentioning are the Messerschmitt designed Hispano Aviación H-A-220 and its successor the CASA C-101 jet trainers. There´s also a sampling of helicopters: several Bell designs plus some European Aerospatiale models, a MBB BO-106 and even a Russian Mil MI-2. Most of the combat aircraft display some of their weapons and among the exhibits are several aviation bombs and missiles as there are several automatic antiaircraft cannons form Oerlikon and Hispano-Suiza brands and even a German 88 mm FLAK-36.
Hanger one is dedicated to historic flights of Spanish aviation, displaying aircraft, engines and even a Browning 22 semiautomatic take-down .22 rifle carried as a survival gun on one of those flights. There are displays related the Moroccan war of the first quarter of the 20th Century plus a WWII Heinkel HE-111 E-1 bomber, next to its Spanish made version, the CASA C2.111. The small but very interesting display of small arms, complemented by several antiaircraft cannon on its mountings is on display along the walls of this building.
There’s a panel of flare pistols dating up to WWII, including a German double barreled specimen and a Sanders line thrower from the same country. The handgun display is small but has several interesting specimens; among them a double barrel pin fire (Lefaucheaux) model, a Japanese Nambu 94, a couple Star Nº1 semiautos in different barrel lengths, the Astra 900 and several pocket models popular among flight crews up to WWII like the Regina, Errasti and Bayard in .25 ACP, as well as a rare Star in .22 LR fitted with a moveable under barrel weight for target shooting.
Moving up a notch in the firepower scale we get to the submachine guns, among the usual Stens, MP40 and Suomi, are several versions of the Thompson, as well as several Spanish models like a star SI-35, a Labora, a Star z-45 and a Z-62, an ADASA from 1950 and a PARINCO IIIR. There are also several versions of the MP-28 II from different makers as well as a presentation Erma-Vollmer and its Spanish version known as “Naranjero”.
The rifle boards contains several Mausers of different origins including an 1895 “Tercerola” (short carbine) as well as a “proof” rifle with the “cruncher” add on as well as offset sights to clear it. Equally modified is a Moisin Nagant next to its standard version. Also worth mentioning are a Berthier St. Etienne Carbine, a Lebel rifle and a couple Destroyer carbines, which served under several Spanish armed institutions and were used as a basis to make some suppressed rifles for use by American forces during the early years of its involvement in the Vietnam War.
The rarest machine guns on display are the CETME 12.7mm specimens designed during the 1950s to arm Hispano-Aviación aircraft as potential substitutes for the Browning designs of which there are several models on display on aircraft and ground versions and from different countries. Other highlights are the Russian aircraft guns, a Degtyarova Aviatsionny DA, a Maxim-Tokarev, and a fixed and a flexible ShKAS. From Italy are a BrEdA Safat 1936 and an Issotta Fraschini 1937, both in 7.7mm. The British Vickers and Lewis are also present, as well as German machine guns with samples of the MG-08, LMG-08/15, MG-13, MG-17, MG-34 and MG-131.
The automatic cannons on display includes models from Hispano-Suiza, and Oerlikon, together to an MG-151 and an MG-FF.
Inside Hanger 2 are the displays on Space, aircraft engines and air force heraldic. The extensive collection of simulators includes an impressive full flight simulator for the F-4C, another for the Mirage F-1 and a very interesting full cockpit simulator of an F-86 with panels removed to display the guns as this piece was used for training ground crews on gun zeroing. Here is also a display of aircraft missiles, including models from the U.S. (Sidewinder, AMRAAM) and Europe (Matra R-530), rockets, bombs and even a torpedo. There’s also a device for mixing napalm, next to an M61 Vulcan cannon, complemented by boards of its different ammunition types.
Hanger 3 houses small size training and combat aircraft and is mainly dedicated to the latest Spanish Civil War and WWII gliders, engines and propellers. Highlights are a red Fokker DR-1 tri plane from WWI and the main fighters of the Spanish Civil War: A FIAT CR-32 biplane and its arch enemies the Polikarpov siblings I-15 (also a biplane) and I-16, together with the BrEdA machine guns salvaged from the wreckage of the CR-32 of Joaquín García Morato, the main ace of that war who died in an accident after the conflict’s end. There is also a Fieseler Fi-156A as the one used by Austrian commando legend Otto Skorzeny to rescue Benito Mussolini from Grand Sasso, a Messerschmitt Me-108, and two Spanish siblings of the Me-109, a Hispano Aviación HA-1109 and a Ha-1112, the last one powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin engines.
Hanger 4 houses the rotary wing displays of helicopters and auto gyros. Auto gyro was invented by a Spanish engineer named La Cierva who was able to solve several problems that had impeded the success of rotary wing aircraft until then. For some time he was quite successful promoting and selling his invention but interest faded after his untimely death. However, he made a very important contribution towards the development of the helicopter. There are several helicopter models on display, including some Spanish AISA models pioneering the “no tail rotor” concept. There’s also a very interesting collection of flight instruments.
In hanger 5 is a display of aerobatic planes plus a couple De Havilland 89 transport planes, like the one used by late General Franco to travel from the Canary Islands to continental Spain at the beginning of the latest civil war. Other highlights are a Lockheed T-33 jet trainer, a North American F-86 jet fighter and the Messerschmitt designed HA-200 (trainer) and HA-220 (ground attack). There are also displays of aircraft gun and bomb sights as well as gun cameras.
Hangers 6 and 7 were closed at the time of our visit.
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 14:00. Please check the webpages below to make sure and for details on location and how to reach it. They are also useful to plan for the visit. The museum is quite easy to find by car, especially with GPS support, but probably the easiest way to reach it is by bus. Subway and train have poor connections. Admittance is free but they would request a voluntary contribution of €3.
Official Museum’s site on MoD’s web: www.ejercitodelaire.mde.es/ea/pag?idDoc=66EB0DC3ACBC1609C125746C0023390D
Association of friends of the museum web pages: www.museodelaire.com/; www.aama.es/en-us/hangar.aspx; and www.amigosdelmuseodelaire.blogspot.com.es/
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