Quonset Air Museum
The Quonset Air Museum is located in North Kingston, Rhode Island.
The Quonset Air Museum resides in a WWII airplane hangar that was once part of the Naval Air Station Quonset Point. The hangar itself is the last WWII hangar standing that was used to paint aircraft, and ventilation grates and catch basins on the floor are still in place.
Outside the Museum are several aircraft, the most impressively done is the F-4 Phantom II in Grim Reapers livery complete with shark's mouth nose graphics. The Grumman C-1A Trader is also very well restored. The staff said that not only is this the only Trader with a twin tail, but it was the very last military aircraft to fly out of Naval Air Station Quonset when it was decommissioned back in the 1970s. A Bell A-H1 Cobra Helicopter Gunship that still has its M134 gatling gun and grenade launcher in the chin turret, and another Vietnam Era Bell helicopter, a UH-1 Iroquois, sits beside it. A Soviet MiG-17 Vietnam War era jet fighter undergoing restoration is also outside, as well as Soviet or Chinese built anti aircraft guns captured in Iraq during the Gulf War and a Silkworm anti ship missile. A British Abbot Self Propelled gun is out back, along with a pair of US M35 Recovery Trucks and a number of large jet engines.
Inside Quonset Air Museum's hangar were a couple of real surprises. The first is a WWII British DeHavilland Vampire. Not only is it rare to see a Vampire on this side of the pond, but this Vampire is from the Swiss Air Force and is actually currently airworthy. The other gem, although a bit rougher is a Curtiss Wright XF-15C. It's kind of like a Grumman Bearcat in shape, but underneath and towards the rear is the jet exhaust pipe of a De Havilland H1-B Goblin Turbojet Engine. The XF-15 has a Wright R-2800 radial piston engine driving a big prop at the front end. Only 3 protoype aircraft were built. One crashed when the radial piston engine failed suddenly, taking the pilot with it and this is the only example that has survived. It's on the list for future restoration and will make a striking exhibit when it is done. Another WWII era airplane, a Grumman Eastern TBM Avenger is also in the process of being restored. The QAM staff have been able to source a rear powered gun turret for it and they've done a bang up job of refitting and painting it (The TBM had previously been used as a crop sprayer in Canada). Hughes Cayuse and Sikorsky Sea King helicopters also grace the hangar floor.
But the plane the staff seemed most proud of was a 3/4 scale Grumman F6F Hellcat replica. The Hellcat was designed and built over a 29 year period by WWII F6F fighter pilot Al Sparling. Some parts are from other aircraft made to fit, but most of the airframe is hand built from scratch by Mr. Sparling. The engine is a single row 9 cylinder Lycoming R-680 radial engine. Unfortunately Al passed away before the aircraft was finished. The museum is in the process of getting the little Grumman replica airworthy.
The Quonset Air Museum is all on one level with the exception I think of one step up to the front door so it's fairly handicapped accessible. It's not far off I-95 and there were a few fast food and donut places to stop for a bite on the way. If you're in the area, pay them a visit. It's the only place you'll ever see an XF-15 prototype with dual piston/turbine propulsion, and as I mentioned a couple of other very rare warbirds as well. The staff was friendly and the director is very proud of the collection, especially of the Grumman Eastern Avenger Torpedo Bomber. If you live in the area, volunteer. The museum can use the help and there is plenty to do, and you'll likely be getting your hands on one or more very historic warbirds.
Since I visited in the spring of 2009 QAM's staff and volunteers have been very busy. The A-4 Skyhawk has been done up in a striking US Navy Blue Angels livery, the A-7 Corsair II now has proper USAF markings for the Vietnam War era, and the MiG-17 has been painted in what looks like North Vietnamese air force markings. Those airplanes and more for sure will be looking much better when you visit than what you see here.
Visit the Quonset Air Museum's website for hours and directions.