8 Minutes: Bradley Air Museum and the 1979 Windsor Locks Tornado

Windsor Locks/The Airport

Next to be hit was the string of businesses on either side of Route 75 as the tornado crossed into Windsor Locks. One of the first was the Ramada Inn, just off Route 20. An F-102 Delta Dagger fighter plane from the museum’s collection, parked in front of the hotel to catch the attention of visitors, was flipped upside down and thrown into the road.

Further down Route 75, places like Frank’s Diner, Bradley Cleaners, Brightman Ford, a car wash, and a string of gas stations were all partially or completely destroyed. Just south of the museum’s outdoor display, the Koala Inn had its roof torn off.

As the tornado barreled towards the airport, the National Weather Service station, just a few hundred yards from its path, recorded a wind gust of almost 90 miles per hour. At the nearby Army National Guard aviation facility, aircraft parked on the flight line were blown to pieces, including several Sikorsky CH-54 “Skycrane” helicopters that had just recently been delivered. In the air, the pilot of a United Airlines flight on final approach aborted his landing at 200 feet; visibility was terrible, and he realized that everyone in the control tower below had fled. Passengers on the right side of the Boeing 727 caught a brief glimpse of the tornado as the aircraft pulled up out of the storm.

In the middle of all this chaos lay the air museum, situated on the eastern edge of the airport and directly in the tornado’s path.

© New England Air Museum 2016-2021
36 Perimeter Rd., Windsor Locks, CT, 06096