PICTURES: Thai air force museum, home of some seriously exotic aircraft

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.

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