Sea-Air Operations

You don't enter this gallery; you come aboard. The shrill whistle of a bosun's call sounds as you cross onto the quarterdeck of the mythical aircraft carrier USS Smithsonian. Inside is a scaled-down re-creation of a hangar deck bay. The surrounding structures and equipment are from actual aircraft carriers. You can poke around in a ready room, a combined living room and briefing area, or go upstairs and visit the navigation bridge and PriFly, the ship's air traffic control center. From these two rooms you can watch "cat shots" and "traps" (takeoffs and landings) filmed on a U.S. Navy carrier. Balconies overlook the four carrier aircraft in the hangar bay: a Boeing F4B-4 biplane, Grumman F4F Wildcat, Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless, and Douglas A-4C Skyhawk. Also here are exhibits on carrier warfare in World War II and on modern carrier aviation.


Boeing F4B-4

Boeing F4B-4
The F4B series was begun as a replacement for the Navy F2B/F3B and Army PW-8 fighters. Nothing in the F4B was radically new, but with refinements in design and basic features of both airplane and engine, the F4B series delivered better performance than its predecessors.

The first F4B-1 made its maiden flight on May 6, 1929. Delivery of the first F4B-4s, with larger fin and rudder, was in 1932 to Navy fighter squadrons on the USS Langley and the USS Saratoga. U.S. Marine Corps Squadrons VF-9M and VF-10M received 27 of the 93 F4Bs built. F4B-4s remained in active carrier service until 1937, when they were replaced with faster Grumman biplane fighters. They were then used on shore as utility aircraft. The F4B-4 exhibited here is in the markings of an aircraft belonging to VF-9M.

More information: Boeing F4B-4

Grumman F4F (FM-1) Wildcat

Grumman F4F (FM-1)
During the early days of the war in the Pacific, the Grumman F4F Wildcat was the U.S. Navy's most widely used carrier-based fighter. F4Fs saw action first at Wake Island and then took part in the battles for the Coral Sea, Midway, and Guadalcanal. Their ratio of victories to losses during World War II was 6.9:1.

The F4F was developed during a Navy-sponsored design competition in 1935. Originally a biplane, it was redesigned as a monoplane and made its first flight on September 2, 1937. In August 1939, the Navy placed its first production order. Later, Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors received a contract from the Navy to manufacture Wildcats in 1942; their versions were designated FM-1 and FM-2. A total of 7,900 Wildcats were built by Grumman and Eastern Aircraft.

More information: Grumman F4F (FM-1)

Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless

Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless
The Douglas SBD Dauntless was one of the truly great aircraft of World War II. It played a major role throughout the Pacific. On June 4, 1942, during the Battle of Midway, SBDs destroyed four Japanese carriers, dramatically altering the course of the war.

The SBD's design was based on the Northrop BT-1, but with engine and structural changes. Production orders were placed in April 1939, with all SBD-1s going to U.S. Marine Corps units. Subsequent models were sent to Navy squadrons, with each succeeding model carrying such improvements as increased fuel capacity, illuminated gunsights, and armor plates for the crew. England, New Zealand, and France also used SBDs. The SBD-6 was the last production model, with 450 built.

More information: Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless

Douglas A-4C Skyhawk

Douglas A-4C Skyhawk
The Douglas A-4C Skyhawk was designed in 1950-52 as a lightweight attack aircraft. First flown on June 22, 1954, this versatile aircraft was in continuous production until 1979, when the last of a grand total of 2,960 Skyhawks was delivered.

In 1959 the A-4C went into production, with improvements in cockpit layout, safety features, radar equipment, and all-weather flying capability. Six hundred and thirty-eight A-4Cs were built, making it the most numerous A-4 model produced. In Vietnam, A-4s were used both in close support of ground troops and in attacking other ground targets in North Vietnam.

This A-4C is displayed in its markings as a member of VA-76 (Navy attack squadron) on the USS Bon Homme Richard off the coast of Vietnam from March to June 1967.

More information: Douglas A-4C Skyhawk

Bridge - Sea-Air Operations

Climb up to primary flight control, or Pri-Fly, as it is called. Through its windows you can see and hear a variety of aircraft swooping in over the fantail to an arrested landing below. From the bridge (where catapult operations on the bow can be observed) you go down the ladder, cross the hangar deck and the quarterdeck, and you are back on dry land.

Robert William Daniels (1920-2000)

Robert William Daniels (1920-2000)
Robert W. "Bill" Daniels was an American patriot, a pioneer in cable television, and an outstanding philanthropist. In World War II, Daniels piloted a Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter during the Allied invasion of North Africa in 1942, and he flew in the Solomon Islands area in the Pacific the following year. Daniels also served with distinction in Escort Fighting Squadron Twenty-Six, attached to the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Sangamon.

In 1953, Daniels established his first cable television network at Casper, Wyoming. He went on to own and operate hundreds of cable systems in almost every state. Daniels had been an undefeated Golden Gloves Boxing Champion before the war and became one of the first cable television entrepreneurs to focus on sports programming. He also served as president of the American Basketball Association and owned or shared ownership of several professional sports teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bill Daniels was a selfless humanitarian who made countless charitable contributions. He established the Young Americans Bank, the world's only bank chartered exclusively to teach basic financial skills to youths and young adults. He also endowed the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver to promote ethics in business . Upon his death, his estate transferred to the Daniels Fund, making it the largest charitable foundation in the Rocky Mountains region.