By: Friedrich Seiltgen
The Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum sits on part of the shuttered Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado. Closed in 1994, Lowry AFB was part of the USAF Air Training Command and host to several different Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) training schools. I was particularly interested in the museum as, during the 80s, Lowry AFB was my home for about four months while I was attending weapons school there.
Being originally from upstate New York, I thought I knew cold. Arriving a week before Christmas, I exited the old Denver Stapleton Airport terminal and thought someone just punched me in the face! It was cold! We barely made it to the barracks when a snowstorm caused the base roads to be closed.
Lowry AFB got its start in 1938 as Lowry Field, named after Francis Lowry, the only Colorado pilot killed in action during WWI. At one time, Lowry had an active airfield, but later the runways were converted to roadways. There were two large hangars located on the base. One was the SAC Hangar (Strategic Air Command) and the other, the TAC hanger (Tactical Air Command). My school was in the TAC hangar which contained the fighter aircraft we used to train on.
After the closure of Lowry, local housing was built, and businesses moved in. Now one of the hangers is an ice rink, and the other became the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum! All the aircraft used for training, as well as the old aircraft displayed around the base were moved inside. The museum houses more than 50 aircraft and space vehicles. Bombers such as the B-52 and the B-1, fighters like the F-4 and the F-100 are displayed, as well as various Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.
The museum is also home to a Ball-Bartoe “Jetwing.” This one-of-a-kind aircraft was designed, built, and flown in Colorado. The aircraft explored the concept of short takeoff and landings and was capable of landing at a speed of 45 knots! Designed by Otto Bartoe, the Jetwing was financed by his employer Ball Engineering. You know them as the company that produces Ball glass canning jars!
One of the oldest aircraft on display is the Douglas B-18 “Bolo” Bomber. The Bolo was the first aircraft to land on the newly commissioned runway at Lowry. When introduced in 1936, the Bolo was a medium bomber with an 800 mile radius. When WWII broke out, the Bolo was put into service as a submarine hunter, being replaced by the B-17 as the new heavy Bomber. This B-18 is one of only six left in the world, as most of the B-18 fleet were destroyed during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The F-4 Phantom I trained on is still there. It’s been cleaned up and is now part of a Vietnam-era static display, surrounded by the old style revetment used during Vietnam. Also displayed are MK 84 2,000-pound bombs and various armament ejection racks and gatling guns. Another great display is a B-61 nuclear bomb trainer. The trainer is an actual B-61, minus the fissionable material!
One of the most popular exhibits is a ¾ scale Star Wars X-Wing fighter used in the original Star Wars movie. The X-Wing is signed by many of the Star Wars actors. An agreement with Lucasfilm keeps this sci-fi heirloom on display at the museum.
There’s a whole lot of history in this museum. Better check it out before winter comes! After your visit to the museum, spend an extra day and head down to Colorado Springs. A visit to the Air Force Academy is well worth the drive.
Location & Website: 7711 E. Academy Blvd., Denver, Colorado 80230, 303-360-5360
That’s all for now folks! Please keep sending in your questions, tips, and article Ideas. And as always – “Let’s be careful out there!”
Photo courtesy of wingsmuseum.org.
Friedrich Seiltgen is a retired Master Police Officer with 20 years of service with the Orlando Police Department. He conducts training in Lone Wolf Terrorism, Firearms, First Aid, Active Shooter Response, and Law Enforcement Vehicle Operations in Florida. His writing has appeared in The Counter Terrorist Magazine, Homeland Security Today and The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.