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WORM has wings: Vintage aircraft and military trappings at Denver's air museum.

Dick Moore served in the U.S. Air Force on B-52s more than 40 years ago during the heyday of the Strategic Air Command. Back then he and his crewmates flew over Denver on simulated bombing runs, practicing electronic jamming of "enemy" radar and honing navigational skills. Recently Moore traveled from his home in Albuquerque to Denver's Wings over the Rockies Museum, not just to rekindle his affection for the old (but still useful--some are still seeing active duty in Afghanistan) workhorse but to reminisce about the storied aircraft's place in Denver's aviation history.

Located at the decommissioned Lowry Air Force Base, WORM (the museum is affectionately known by this acronym) is located in old Hangar No. 1, a vast, vaulted space-- 100,000 square feet--that dwarfs the more than 30 aircraft that have made their final landings here. A B-52 guards the entrance; inside is a colorful variety of civilian and military aircraft, from homebuilts to fighter planes, many that have a connection to Colorado.

From the old days, you'll see an Alexander Eaglerock biplane built in Colorado. An Apollo command module and a display of Titan IV missiles and launch vehicles represent the space age. You can look up into the bomb bay of a B1-A Lancer, walk into a model of a space station simulator, or peer inside a Piasecki H-21 helicopter.

One oddity is the Link Trainer, a little wooden box perched on a pivoting stand. Ancestor of today's sophisticated flight simulators, this claustrophobic device was used by pilots to prepare for instrumentonly flying. It's not much bigger than the thermonuclear bomb innocently sitting on the floor across the way (used for training, it was never packed with explosives).

Around the hangar's perimeter, classrooms from Lowry's days as an active base now house specialized exhibits. The Lafayette Foundation rooms display an extensive private collection of World War I memorabilia and uniforms worn by American and Allied fliers as well as their enemies. The birth of the United States Air Force Academy--the first 306 cadets arrived at Lowry in 1955, three years before the present academy was built in Colorado Springs-- is traced in the Lowry Room. The Eisenhower Room displays a variety of artifacts from Ike's presidential visits to Colorado.

For veterans like Moore and their families, the museum has become something of a pilgrimage place. For everyone else, it offers a fascinating glimpse of aviation history.

Taking off

Wings over the Rockies Museum. From Colorado Blvd. in Denver, drive east on Alameda Ave.; turn north on Fairmount Dr., then right on Academy Blvd. 10-5 Mon--Sat, 12-5 Sun, $5. 7711 E Academy Blvd.; (303) 360-5360.
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Title Annotation:Wings Over the Rockies Museum, Denver, Colorado
Author:Walter, Claire
Publication:Sunset
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Words:439
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