Looking up at the arc of Hangar Three from inside the south end looking north.
Several days ago, one of the volunteers I'm working with at the Moffett Historical Society and Museum suggested I go to the other side of the field to see some of the vintage aircraft he and his crew are restoring for display.
Lou Somontes is retired Navy--like a lot of the volunteers--and he has spent thousands of hours restoring some vintage military planes for display in the museum's new Air Wing lot. I don't know much about aircraft, but I'm helping with publicity and was interested to see the work.
What I got was a rare treat.
The vintage planes being restored in Hangar Three are dwarfed by the building itself, and--as fascinating as the old planes are--they must compete with their stunning surroundings.
I got to go past security and inside Hangars Two and Three, the remaining of the still functioning historic blimp hangars at Moffett. Unlike Hangar One, which is being dismantled and was built of steel in the 1930s, Hangars Two and Three are made of wood. That's because they were built during World War II when metal was reserved for the really important stuff like fighting machines.
Inside Hangar Three, the look of the carefully crafted wood, combined with the classic Roman arch, and the scale of the building--something like 8 acres--combine to create the look of the world's largest Gothic cathedral. It is almost difficult to believe that something this beautiful was built on a government contract.
Lou feared I found the surroundings more interesting than his planes.
A SP-2E "Neptune" maritime patrol bomber, being restored by the Moffett Historical Society's Air Wing. The work goes on, thanks to NASA, inside historic Hangar Three. The P-2 won't be ready for several more months.
But that wasn't really true. The planes are beautiful in themselves and give scale to the building. The combination is pretty awe-inspiring.
The Lockheed TF-104G "Starfighter" is as slim as a New York mannequin. It will go on display soon at the Moffett Museum's new Air Wing. With a top speed of 1400 mph it was nicknamed "the missile with a man in it."
The AH-1S "Cobra" attack helicopter is the second of the vintage craft that will soon go on display at the Moffett Museum's new Air Wing. Its powerful armaments made it a formidable weapon on the battlefield.
The vintage aircraft will be towed into a newly paved parking lot adjacent to the museum in just a few weeks. Lou and his volunteers are already concerned about how the aircraft will weather sitting outside 365 days a year.
What is really too bad is that historic Hangar One is also adjacent to the museum, and would be an ideal place to display the vintage planes. If it weren't being dismantled.
The interior of Hangar One: what a great place to display historic aircraft! An historic landmark like Hangar One could be preserved for just such a use. Photo courtesy of the Santa Clara County Historical Society.
Somebody, somewhere in Silicon Valley will step up to make this happen before old Hangar One is gone: won't they? As I looked at it across the field from the old wooden hangars, with the Coast Range in the background, it was hard to imagine an office park or housing development there. I sure hope I won't have to.
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