Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here

The 'Intrepid' Museum

A look back at history

If you’ve ever wanted to stand on the deck of an aircraft carrier and watch the water lapping far beneath you, the experience can be yours for a small fee—but instead of looking out over an endless horizon of waves you’ll be faced dead ahead with Manhattan’s West Side high-rises just off the bow, and unlike any actual carrier crew, you’ll be only steps away from world-class NYC pizza.

The combat veteran aircraft carrier USS Intrepid is a sea, air, and space museum and a National Historic Landmark with more than 1 million visitors every year. Commissioned in 1943 in Newport News, Virginia, the carrier saw service during World War II in the Pacific Theater where it survived being hit by torpedoes and five kamikaze attacks. In the 1960s it was used as a NASA recovery vessel for the Mercury and Gemini projects to retrieve the astronauts in their space capsules after splashing down. During deployment in the Vietnam War, the Intrepid’s crew achieved what is believed to be the fastest aircraft launching times recorded by an American carrier. Nine Douglas A–4 Skyhawks and six A–1 Skyraiders, all fully loaded, were launched in seven minutes—a rate of one aircraft every 28 seconds—and a few days later aircraft were launched at 26-second intervals.

The Intrepid was decommissioned in 1974, and although it was originally going to be scrapped, there was a campaign to save the ship and it was finally berthed on the Hudson River as the centerpiece of the museum, which today also contains the space shuttle Enterprise and the only American nuclear missile submarine open to the public.

On the bridge, museum volunteers are on hand to answer questions about the seemingly infinite forest of levers, switches, wheels, and screens.A significant portion of the ship is open to visit, including various communications and radar stations, ready rooms, crew quarters, and more. Extensive signage, audio and digital displays, and artifacts give a thorough education on each section and its role throughout the ship’s history. On the bridge, museum volunteers are on hand to answer questions about the seemingly infinite forest of levers, switches, wheels, and screens, all with an impressive view of the city skyline.

A wide-ranging collection of aircraft including a Lockheed SR–71 is displayed on the flight deck—an incongruent sight against the backdrop of skyscrapers. Also on the flight deck is the building that houses the Enterprise and a restoration hangar where aircraft that are donated undergo work needed to be put on display, or routine maintenance is carried out. Large windows in the hangar wall allow visitors to peer inside to watch employees work on the aircraft.

[email protected]

Intrepidmuseum.org

Click images to enlarge and view captions.
The aircraft on static display span all eras of the ship’s service. Much of the museum, like the squadron ready room, is set up in its original state as if the crew has just stepped out. The bridge of the USS Intrepid now looks out over the Manhattan skyline. Photography by Emma Quedzuweit.  A large display tells the story of Alexander Vraciu, one of the top Navy aces of World War II, who operated from the Intrepid. On the bridge, museum volunteers are on hand to answer questions about the seemingly infinite forest of levers, switches, wheels, and screens.
Emma Quedzuweit
Assistant Editor
Assistant Editor Emma Quedzuweit, who joined the AOPA publications staff in 2022, is a private pilot and historical researcher.

Related Articles

Get the full story

With the power of thousands of pilots, members get access to exclusive content, practical benefits, and fierce advocacy that helps enhance and protect the freedom to fly.

JOIN AOPA TODAY
Already a member? Sign in