by Nick Veronico

The Hill Aerospace Museum, located outside Hill AFB, Ogden, Utah, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new L.S. Skaggs Gallery on April 29, 2024, and opened the gallery to the public on May 2, 2024. The Skaggs Gallery is a 91,000-square-foot addition to the museum, which now encompasses 240,000-square feet of enclosed display space. The additional gallery has enabled the museum to bring the majority of its 79 aircraft under cover. The cost of the expansion project exceeded $20 million, with $15 million coming from a Utah State Legislature grant and the balance from generous private donations through the Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Utah.

Visitors enter the aircraft displays through the Hadley Gallery, where they are greeted by a 1903 Wright Flyer replica, a Burgess-Wright Model F Flyer, and a Curtiss JN-4D Jenny that was owned, restored, and flown for many years by Jim Nissen of Livermore, California. Beyond the Hadley Gallery is the Lindquist Stewart Gallery, where most of the Cold War, Vietnam War, and Rotary Wing aircraft are displayed. The newly opened L.S. Skaggs Gallery, located just below the Hadley Gallery, is now home to some of the aircraft of the Cold War, Vietnam War, and Post Vietnam eras.

World War II Collection

The original sections of the museum house an impressive collection of World War II aircraft, including a P-38J, P-40E, P-47D, P-51D, A-26 Invader, C-45H, C-47B, and C-54G transports, and bombers from a B-17G, B-24D, B-25N, and B-29. The P-38J, serial number 42-67638, and the B-24D, serial number 41-23908, were both recovered from crash sites in Alaska and rebuilt to display standards in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The P-51D on display was assembled from a number of different Mustang components and is painted as serial number 44-13371, the aircraft flown by Col. Chesley Peterson with the 8th Air Force’s 4th Fighter Group. Peterson named the original aircraft after his wife Audrey Boyes Peterson.

B-24D 41-23908 crashed on Great Sitkin Island following a patrol for Japanese shipping on Jan. 18, 1943. Members of the Hill Aerospace Museum recovered this aircraft in 1995. The forward fuselage was mated to the aft section of PB4Y-2 59932 that was recovered from the Everglades where it had been used as a weekend cabin, and the aircraft restored. It is shown in a maintenance diorama with Rosie the Riveters busy at work on the engine number three. The tail turret, as recovered from the wreck site, is shown behind the restored Martin 250CE (2×0.50-cal. machine guns, cylindrical, electrically operated) top turret. (Nicholas A. Veronico)

The museum’s B-17G, serial number 44-83663, was built too late to see service in World War II and was stored immediately following World War II. In 1951, it was transferred to the Brazilian Air Force (Forca Aérea Brasileira-FAB), where it flew search and rescue patrols. In 1968, the plane was gifted to the U.S. Air Force Museum, and subsequently operated by David C. Tallichet’s Yesterday’s Air Force. The bomber was returned to the Air Force in 1983, dismantled, and flown by C-5 Galaxy to Hill AFB, where it was reassembled, restored in the markings of Short Bier, flown by the 493rd Bomb Group, and put on display in 1986.

B-17 44-83663 Short Bier wears the colors of a Flying Fortress flown by the 493rd Bomb Group. This aircraft is displayed three feet off the ground enabling guests to walk under the bomb bay. (Nicholas A. Veronico

The museum is also putting the finishing touches on a World War II nose art panel display that will be on the catwalk above the gallery overlooking the B-17, B-25, and B-29.

The nose art gallery being installed on the catwalk inside the Hadley Gallery will feature reproductions of World War II B-29 bomber artwork. (Nicholas A. Veronico)
Reproduction panel of Martin-Omaha built B-29 44-27300 Strange Cargo. This aircraft was one of 15 Superfortresses modified to carry atomic weapons under the Silverplate program. (Nicholas A. Veronico)

Cold War/Vietnam War Aircraft

First generation jets from the late 1940s and ’50s are represented by a Republic F-84F Thunderstreak (51-1640) and F-84G Thunderjet (52-3242), and an F-86F (52-4978) restored in the colors of Utah Air National Guard pilot and Korean War Ace Capt. Clifford D. Jolley, who attained seven aerial victories during the Korean War. These aircraft are now displayed in the L.S. Skaggs Gallery.

A full collection of Century Series jets is on display in the Lindquist Stewart Gallery including F-100A (52-5777), F-101B Voodoo (57-0252), F-102A (57-0833), F-104A (56-0753), F-105D (59-1743) and F-105G Wild Weasel (62-4440), plus the former QF-106A drone (58-0774). There’s also a nice selection of F-4s, from an F-4C (63-7424) to a RF-4C (66-0469) to an F-4D (66-8711). The museum’s Douglas A-1E Skyraider (52-0247), also located in the Lindquist Stewart Gallery, is painted to resemble the aircraft flown by Maj. Bernard F. Fisher from his rescue mission in Vietnam on March 10, 1966, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.  Additionally, representing adversary aircraft, the collection displays an ex-Polish Air Force LiM-5 (MiG-17F, Fresco-C) and MiG-21F, Allied code name Fishbed-C.

Cold War Jets line the Lindquist Stewart Gallery with, from right to left, F-100A 52-5777 in Hill AFB flight test colors, F-104A 56-0753, and F-102A 57-0833. The F-104A was written off in an off-airport crash on Aug. 22, 1957. The aircraft was later restored for display and had been on show at Camp Robinson, Little Rock, Ark., before coming to the Hill Aerospace Museum. (Nicholas A. Veronico)

As for spyplanes, the museum has an RB-57A Canberra (52-1492) that saw service in the late 1950s overflying Warsaw Pact countries.  The new L.S. Skaggs Gallery house two additional spyplanes in the Lockheed U-2 (56-6716) and the only two-seat SR-71C ever built (61-7981). By January 1968, both two-seat SR-71Bs had been lost in crashes, necessitating the need for another training aircraft. The SR-71C, seen in this new section of the Hill Museum, was built from the aft end of a YF-12A and the front end of an SR-71A built for static testing. It flew 556.4 hours as a trainer, and was removed from service and stored in April 1976. The Blackbird arrived at the museum in 1990.

Continuing with their collection that remains in the original section of the museum is the collection of Rotary wing aircraft.  These examples include a CH-3E Jolly Green Giant (65-12790), H-21C (56-2142), H-43B (62-4561), and MH-53M (68-10369).

Modern Combat Aircraft

In December 2022, the Hill Aerospace Museum took delivery of F-22, 91-4002, a pre-production test aircraft that first flew on June 29, 1998. Following retirement from flying duties, this specific Raptor was used as a ground instructional airframe by the 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall AFB, Florida. The aircraft can now be seen in the L.S. Skaggs Gallery alongside an F-15A (77-0090), a trio of F-16As (Desert Storm veteran 79-0388, test aircraft 79-0402, and ex-USAF Thunderbirds 81-0678), and an F-117A (82-0799) known as Midnight Rider. An MQ-1B Predator drone (03-33116) rounds out the collection.

Airmen pull the fuselage of an F-22 Raptor from a C-5M Super Galaxy assigned to the 512th Airlift Wings, Dec. 9, 2022, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The F-22 came from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida and will eventually become a static display at the Hill Aerospace Museum. (U.S. Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)
Crews relocate an SR-71 Blackbird static display inside the Hill Aerospace Museum’s new L.S. Skaggs Gallery Oct. 23, 2023, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Last month, a significant portion of the museum’s aircraft collection were moved into the new gallery by museum staff and volunteers from organizations outside the museum. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Now that the majority of the museum’s aircraft are displayed inside, only the largest of the collection remain outdoors, including the B-1B (83-0070) 7 Wishes, B-52G (58-0191) Bearin’ Arms, and C-124C (53-0050). The Hill Aerospace Museum is on Facebook and is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit their website at: www.aerospaceutah.org.

The entrance to the Hill Aerospace Museum is dominated by the massive Douglas C-124C Globemaster II. This aircraft was retired to the U.S. Army’s test facility at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and was slated to be used in ballistic research tests. It was rescued by the Hill Aerospace Museum in 1992. (Nicholas A. Veronico)