Pictured outside the main USAF museum building, Columbine III was US President Dwight D. Eisenhower's personal aircraft from 1954 until leaving office in 1961. Ordered by the US Navy as bu 131650, it left the factory as the sole USAF VC-131E. Continuing non-presidential VIP transport duties after replacement by a new VC-137, the aircraft was retired in 1966 and ferried to Wright-Patterson AFB for the United States Air Force Museum.
Two-seat closed cockpit parasol-winged observation monoplane, the only survivor of 90 built for the USAAC from 1935. Crashed at Harlingen TX 27.11.42 and remains retrieved in 1967 and restored for display.
The X-13 was intended to prove that a jet could take off vertically, transition to horizontal flight and return to vertical flight for landing. It was hoped that such a jet would lead the way for submarine-based aircraft and provide offensive capability should conventional runways be destroyed in an attack. This is the second of two X-13s, completing the first full-cycle flight in April 1957 at Edwards AFB and is now on dispaly in the R&D Gallery of the NMUSAF's new fourth building.
The British-built Kestrel was the prototype version of the Harrier and became the world's first operational VSTOL fighter with the RAF in 1969. As XS688 this was one of six Kestrels that came to Edwards AFB for US armed forces testing and subsequent entry into service with the US Marine Corps. This example is now on display in the R&D Gallery of the NMUSAF.
The Army ordered the first O-58s in 1941 to test the use of light aircraft for liaison and observation missions in direct support of ground forces. Between 1941 and 1943, Aeronca Aircraft Corp. of Middletown, Ohio, built more than 1,400 of these aircraft for the Army, of which 875 were L-3Bs. During WWII, L-3s were used in artillery fire direction, courier service, front-line liaison and pilot training. This example is on display at the National Museum of the USAF.
During WWI Italian aeronautical engineer Gianni Caproni developed a series of multi-engine heavy bombers that played a key role in the Allied strategic bombing campaign. His bombers were produced not only in Italy but also in France, Great Britain and the US. Toward the end of the war the definitive version, the Ca. 36, went into production with Ca. 36s remaining in Italian AF service as late as 1929. The NMUSAF obtained this example from the Museo Aeronautica Caproni di Taliedo in Italy in 1987.