We heard about this from a fellow Mountain Ambassador. Knowing Spousal Unit is from the UK, our friend surmised that we might be intrigued. Right on! Adding to the attraction? The site began as an Air Museum, and houses over two dozen vintage aircraft. This summer, Spousal Unit began taking flying lessons for his private pilot's license, and has developed a keen interest in airplanes of all types. It was a no-brainer!
The Stonehenge Air Museum evolved through the dedicated efforts of James E. Smith to collect, restore and fly unique and rare civilian and military aircraft. A former Marine, teacher, pilot and inventor, Jim, and his daughter, Jeri, traveled to far off places in search of additions to his collection.
New acquisitions would undergo an extensive and meticulous restoration process by skilled craftsmen. Most of these airplanes are maintained in flyable condition by a full-time aircraft mechanic, and are flown by Jim from his Montana facility.
Recognizing the growing interest by aviation enthusiasts around the world to preserve these increasingly rare machines, and wanting to share his passion for aviation, Jim recently made his remarkable collection open to the public.
My oldest brother is a retired Air Force Colonel, and he has flown many family members, including me, in a Stearman.
The picture to the right is notable for two reasons: first, the 1961 Goodyear GA-468 Inflatoplane. This plane was designed to be used by the military for reconnaissance, or more dramatically, as a rescue vehicle to evacuate agents or downed pilots from hostile territory. Second, Spousal Unit is taking a picture of the original aviation rule book. Example: Do not wear spurs when flying.
In the pictures you have seen so far, have you noticed the quality of this hangar? You could eat a meal off this floor, with no worries whatsoever!
I used to work in manufacturing, and the faint smell of engine oil took me back, like a warm hug from Mom, or the aroma of baking bread.
Can you see the young man behind the Kittyhawk? He was our tour guide, and was incredibly informed about the aircraft. I could show you another 8 aircraft, but I will add only one more. If you want to see the rest, you need to go!After the hangar tour, participants drive to another parking lot to access the Stonehenge site. The tour guide was slightly ahead of us in a golf cart; it turns out he maintains the private golf course in addition to his tour responsibilities! We opted to walk across the manicured lawns rather than hitch a ride on the cart, and we talked about our memories of the original Stonehenge. Spousal Unit recalled a trip when he was young, and getting his photograph taken while perched on one of the fallen stones. At that time, the historical site had no security or formal parking lots or restrictions of any kind. It also didn't have the crowds it sees today. So, approaching Montana Stonehenge, across an open field with no one and nothing around it, reminded us of the glory days of the original Stonehenge.
As a dozen of us gathered in the shadow of the towering stones, the guide shared the origins of Montana Stonehenge. One evening, Jim hosted a dinner party, and as the wine flowed, a guest challenged him to build a half-scale replica of Stonehenge on the golf course. By the time the party came to an end, Jim had declared his intention to construct a full-scale version. And here it stands.
The limestone blocks were quarried in Texas, with great care taken to match the original in size and proportion. I imagine it was quite a sight to see these on flatbed trucks between Texas and Montana!
At the original Stonehenge, on the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone in the north-east part of the horizon, and its first rays shine into the heart of Stonehenge. In the picture at right, you can see how the Heel Stone (farthest from the camera) lines up with a notch in the distant mountain. As the sun rises there on the summer solstice, it passes over the top of the Heel Stone and into the center of Montana Stonehenge.
**I am camping and comments will be delayed!