Thursday, 15 March 2012

RTAF Museum Bangkok 14th March 2012

The Air Force Museum at Don Muang


The Royal Thai Air Force Museum is part of the Air Force organisation, not an out-sourced civilian business, hence the free entry. A large compound consisting of one central building and hangars behind that containing a comprehensive display of RTAF related exhibits, mostly aircraft but some of the pilot training aids are also displayed.

The compound just before entering the main, rather grandeur building, has around 15 planes on display. From jets to trainers, it's a mix of the very old to the more recent, but still old machines. 2 Freedom fighters stand either side the statue of the king whilst to the right, a grassed area has a few light weight trainer types. On the left, about 10 more aircraft from WW2 and later.

Inside the main building, not a great deal to see on this occasion, because renovations are underway in preparation for a new exhibit, a Swedish built Gripen. A history display on the walls, and about 6 aircraft are exhibited, including a couple of cold war era jets. There is a room dedicated to pilot training, with a range of flight simulators and a decompression chamber that definitely  won't see service again. An extension on the right contains another 7 historic types, mainly WW1and WW2 on the ground floor with upper levels displaying more photos, models and history. Through the main building another outside display with another 15 aircraft, and 3 more hangars beyond those. Helicopters in the first with odds and ends in the others.

What I got up to..

The far end of the compound however is a bit of a scrapyard, with bits and pieces piled up. Red tape barriers suggest this is a no go area, but since I was the only visitor and the officials seemed happy to extend their siesta,  a quick poke around shouldn't cause any significant attention. A collection of fuselages, f5 jets I think, not to sure since there isn't a great deal left intact. A transport type, a G222 resides minus engines. A USAF F16 fighter jet fuselage devoid of just about everything that constitutes a flying machine and something they call a fan trainer, a ducted fan propeller behind the cockpit, all intact. A DC3 sits minus half it's wings and the tail plane has disappeared. The back door is open, looks like a permanent position given the rust, corrosion and cobwebs. Access is still available by the a ladder step, looks like the original too, if rather loosely attached. It's all nestled behind a row of banana trees and some old mobile radar units, well hidden from any prying eyes. First time in a DC3 then, rather dusty, corrugated floor with a few metal seats attached just behind the cockpit - a regular troop ship, or cargo carrier I would think. The cockpit is gutted, everything removed.

Jumping off the DC3, not wanting to outstay my welcome as it were, I notice some tail fins poking through tall grass in a field just beyond the museum scrap pile. This requires investigation, and access is via a rather precarious makeshift bridge of a bamboo hand rail and a concrete post over some very black, mosquito infested water, conscious there may be a snake lurking the other side . Clearly, other curious visitors have had the same idea, whether or not we should be here is another matter, but nothing around to say no entry. 5 jet trainer types, possibly Alpha jets, reside in long grass and weeds devoid of all recognisable features. The cockpits though  still have a control stick attached and in good working order! Also, in the same field, but not surrounded by weeds, is a complete aircraft, with flat tires,corrosion here and there with the paint a little faded. It's a Cessna A37, another trainer type and quite redundant.

It's a good 2-3 hours wandering around the museum. A very comprehensive display, well presented with the aircraft obviously looked after, other than a few missing wheels on the outside exhibits! Aeroplane fans hoping for a glimpse of current Air Force action will be disappointed since walls and buildings obscure any hope whatsoever of spotting anything, even anything of a civilian nature. 

 Of note on the way up, about 1 mile before the museum is an Army base, with a helicopter operation area right beside the highway. No obscured views here. On the way back to Bangkok, about 1/2 a mile from the museum there are 2 exhibits outside some official air force buildings, visible from the bus. A helicopter and another trainer type, a Harvard possibly. Into Bangkok, about 100 yards past the Mor Chit BTS station is the Aviation Training College, and 2 more outside exhibits, a small helicopter and a tail wheeled Cessna.

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