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

Bradley Air Museum: The Display Hangar

After leaving the outdoor facility, Carol joined staff members Carl Prince and Chuck Horner at the hangar’s ticket desk while director Phil O’Keefe sat in his office working on the text for a new exhibit sign. When he went outside to stretch his legs, O’Keefe was amazed by the color of the sky and called his coworkers out to see for themselves.

Not long after, the wind began to howl, and the group knew something was wrong. They raced inside and took cover behind the front counter as the tornado passed directly over them, ripping off the hangar’s roofs.

After what seemed like an eternity they emerged, badly shaken but alive. Pieces of the now-gone roof littered the floor. Almost every aircraft had suffered some type of damage from falling debris, but only one—a replica Chanute Hang Glider—was a complete write-off. A one-of-a-kind Nixon biplane hanging from the ceiling had been torn loose and fell on top of a rare Gee Bee Model A, and an equally valuable Bleriot monoplane from the early 1900’s now dangled from the rafters, both wings broken. Thankfully, however, all three of these aircraft would go on to be fully repaired.

The tornado continued its northerly course but retracted back into the clouds soon after. Before dissipating completely, however, it touched down at least once more in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, causing significant damage there as well.

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36 Perimeter Rd., Windsor Locks, CT, 06096