I came across your website today while looking for a certain aircraft
and found your little ditty on Montana's air museums. I myself work out
at the Museum of Mountain Flying here in Missoula and want do let you
know about the changes here! To start, the museum moved into a new
facility about 6 years ago, across the tarmac from Neptune Aviation and
their fleet of
P2V Neptune Retardant Bombers. Our meager collection has grown
from a modified J-3 Cub and privately owned 1941 Boeing Stearman to
include a Twin Beechcraft Model 18, or C-45, an HH-1H Huey
helicopter, one of only 30 built of this particular model. We have two
small homebuilt planes, a Clark Special three and one that is of
unknown make. these two are static displays for kids to climb in, and
are rigged with radio receivers so the kids can hear radio traffic from
the tower. Also here is a 1930 Moth, an American built version of the
De Havilland Tiger and Gypsy Moth. this plane hung for years in the
Helena Airport Terminal, and was given to us after they remodeled.
Restored, she is reputed to fly in her current state.
we had donated to us a time capsule of an airplane, a 1946 Stinson.
This plane is in beautiful shape, everything, and i mean everything is
original, and the airframe has barely 900 hours on it! the pilot
hardly flew it, and stopped flying it in fact in 1964! it has seen its
engine run up for 20 minutes a year since then.
But our pride and joy is our
DC-3/C-47, N24320. this aircraft
was ordered by the US Air Force in 1944, declared surplus in 1946, and
was purchased by Johnson Flying Service (to whom the museum is actually
dedicated, at least in part) She served smokejumper duty for most of
her life, but her most famous, infamous, and tragic hour was on
August 5, 1949, when she dropped 15 smokejumpers and a smoke chaser
over a routine grass fire in Mann Gulch, near Helena, Montana.
Tragically, 12 of these brave men were killed when the fire blew up
and chased them up the mountain (I have hiked this gulch. i play rugby
and barely made it half way up zig zagging on a clear day. the
survivors ran straight up through choking smoke. don't see how they did
N24320, or "Tilly" as some recently discovered images of her
short lived nose art has shown us, also crashed landed in the river
outside Pittsburgh on Dec, 22, 1954. 10 soldiers of the 23 on board,
and the Johnson pilot flying her, drowned or died of exposure.
"Tilly" was sold in 1974, flew cargo for the remaining career she
had, and was recovered by the museum in flying condition in 2002. She
is now the centerpiece of our little museum, maintained and restored
to her Johnson Flying Service colors by the same men who took care of
her in the '40's, '50's, '60s and '70's. She does fly, and hopefully,
if the funds can be raised to ensure and fuel her, "Tilly" will be
winging her way to Air Venture 2009 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
As for other things here, we have great displays devoted to
the smoke jumpers, Missoula and CAA pilot training in WWII, Veterans
and war hero's from the area (including "Hub" Zemke and one of the
Doolittle Raiders), and several period vehicles. a 1930 Chevrolet
sedan shares space with the Moth, while one of the original 1948
Federal Heavy trucks that served the DC-3 AND Johnson Flying Service
sits equally restored to perfect order next to its charge.
Also a running and driving example of JFS history, and that of the
pilot training here in Missoula in 1942-45 is a 1925 White Yellowstone
tour bus. this truck was used to ferry cadets from the University dorms
to Hale Field for their training.
New additions to the museum that we need to get to our facility
are three planes still in Helena. an F-89 Scorpion, an F-102, and the
EC121 Warning Star that sit there. these planes, along with several
engines on display at the museum, belonged to the tech school for
training. while none fly, we are trying to sell the EC121, and turn
the funds into a Grumman Avenger. these planes as retardant bombers
served JFS for years before the Forest Service decreed all planes used
in fire fighting had to have multi engine reliability. The aircraft we
are looking to recover is a JFS plane that has been flying in Canada as
fire suppression, and has only been recently retired.
I hope this email reaches you, and i hope its a good update to your
page! if i had pictures i would have included them. perhaps when i get
some i will email them to you.
Take care, and Respectively,
Morgan Kinney, Museum of Mountain Flying