Bangkok: city of great food, smiling people, awesome massages, and much more. During a recent weekend there my friend suggested we take his five year old son to the Royal Thai Air Force museum out near Don Muang airport.
"My son especially likes this big transport plane with a ramp at the back," said he.
His son's favourite aircraft turned out to be a Fairchild C-123B Provider that has seen better days. Its engines are gone and the seats have no cushions, but there are still plenty of switches to flip in the cockpit and a great jump seat outside the cockpit door above the ladder. Its cargo hold seemed to be as wide, if not a bit wider, than that of a C-130. For me, the coolest part of the C-123B turned out to be the Fairchild logo proudly displayed on the rudder pedals.
Other highlights include an F8F-1 Bearcat. I had no idea that the RTAF flew this beast of a piston fighter, and that they received 204 of the type, which served from 1951-1960. There was also a great old Supermarine Spitfire XIV with a big Thai roundel. The RTAF had 34 of the type in the early fifties, including four PR19 reconaissance examples.
There were also a range of cool helicopters, such as the Westland WS-51 Dragonfly, Sikorsky Yr-6A, and Hiller UH-12B Raven.
The collection included some locally developed and produced aircraft that likely can't be found anywhere else in the world. For instance, how many aviation geeks are aware that the first aircraft completely designed and built by Thais was a two seat biplane called the Baribatra? The type served from 1927 to 1940.
For serious military aviation geeks the RTAF museum is well worth a visit.