A visit to the San Diego Air and Space Museum is not complete without a short trip to Gillespie Field where the museum’s annex is located. The annex started as a restoration and replica reproduction facility, but today displays a fine collection of Cold War era jets and other aircraft. Right from the parking lot you will see an Atlas ICBM rocket built in a nearby plant by the Convair Division of General Dynamics. Also, a less known brother of the famous Spirit of St. Louis is here, a Citroen 2CV named the Spirit of San Diego with attached wings and a propeller in the back.
In 1953, the US Air Force contracted Ryan Aeronautical Company to develop a VTOL jet-powered aircraft. Two prototypes were built with a designation of X-13. After successful demonstration flights, the Air Force decided not to pursue the concept anymore, but both airframes survive to this day. The first Ryan X-13 Vertijet prototype, which took off vertically for the first time on December 10, 1955, is now prominently displayed inside the Gillespie Field annex hangar. The second prototype is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
The Ryan X-13 is accompanied in the hangar by its much older predecessor, a Ryan PT-22 Recruit trainer together with a Stinson Junior SM-8A, Waco YKS-7, Vin Fiz Flyer replica and several other aircraft. A portion of the hangar is also dedicated to a display of aircraft engines. For the youngest visitors there is a nice selection of pedal planes outside the building including a Corsair, Mustang and Gee Bee. Kids will also have fun playing inside two airliner cockpits of a Boeing 377 Stratocruiser and Boeing 727. The only restored helicopter in the museum, a Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk, is also parked nearby.
On the ramp outside the hangar you can walk by some Cold War era jets such as a Convair F-102A Delta Dagger which was built in San Diego at Convair’s Lindbergh Field plant in the mid-1950s. The plane was restored by volunteers who worked on the F-102 while employed by Convair/General Dynamics. Other jets include a North American F-86F Sabre, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15, Vought F-8J Crusader, LTV A-7B Corsair II, McDonnell Douglas AV-8A Harrier, Grumman A-6E Intruder, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21bis Fishbed and Grumman F-14A Tomcat.
The last aircraft on the ramp is a unique turboprop with dual counter-rotating propellers, resembling a Douglas A-1 Skyraider. It is, in fact, a Douglas A2D Skyshark, one of only twelve built for the US Navy in the early 1950s and the only one that survived to this day. It was meant to operate from Casablanca-class escort carriers but due to various development delays and advancements in jet technology it never entered operational service. The introduction of a Douglas A-4 Skyhawk carrier-capable jet in 1954 ultimately sealed the fate of the Skyshark program.