Flying back in Time

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Yesterday the three older kids and I took a quick flight back in time to explore aircraft from yesteryear, via the Air Heritage Museum.

When we caught wind of this upcoming fieldtrip (located so close to home) we quickly signed up, eager to check out this gem that we had no idea existed in our own backyard.

Then there was the added incentive that it was free admission…what a deal!

Toby was home from work so the two younger boys opted to stay home with Daddy, while the big kids and I headed over to the museum where we met up with the Caylor family.

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Upon arrival the first room we found ourselves in was the artifacts room. In here we were able to stroll through and read the different displays that highlighted the history of aviation. On display were a variety of artifacts like air force uniforms, airplane props, model planes, cameras that would have been strapped to the underside of planes, among other things.

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We were able to take our time exploring this room while we waited for the rest of the families who signed up for this outing to arrive.

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Once everyone had arrived we moved into the hanger where a very knowledgeable volunteer tour guide took us around the hanger, sharing with us the history behind the various planes that were in the process of being restored to their former glory. As we stood before each plane she gave us a history lesson on each plane’s story, as well as explained the workings, creation, and effort that goes into the restoration of these planes.

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As a former air force mechanic, she was able to impart the knowledge she gained over the course of many years of working on planes in such a way that the common man (or woman) could understand and appreciate the artistry and science that goes into making these tubes of aluminum soar through the sky.

I am not an airplane fanatic by any stretch of the imagination,  but I found our tour guide’s enthusiasm contagious and her knowledge engaging. She captured my interest and held it throughout our 1 1/2 hour tour.

It was fascinating to see the wide variety of planes on display from different historical eras and in various states of restoration, with some stripped to bare bones while others sat completed in the lot outside the hanger.

A few of the planes we learned about on our tour were:

The Fairfield 24 Forwarder

“The Fairchild Model 24, is a four-seat, single engine monoplane light transport aircraft that was used by the United States Army Air Corps as the UC-61, and by the Royal Air Force. Built by the Fairchild Aircraft Co., after having some success with the Model 22, this led directly to the Model 24 which gained rapid popularity in the early 1930’s. First flight of the Model 24 was in 1932, and was in continuous production from 1932 to 1948.”

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C-47B Skytrain “Luck of the Irish”

“Our plane was delivered to the 9th Air Force’s 75th Troop Carrier Squadron on September 30th, 1944. The 75th TCS itself was a part of the 435th Troop Carrier Group, which itself was a part 53rd Troop Carrier Wing.

Our plane flew two Resupply missions over the Battle of the Bulge on December 24th and December 26th, 1944 in which it dropped supplies from parapacks as well as from inside the fuselage to the surrounded troops below in the city of Bastogne. It also took part in Operation Varsity, the single largest air drop of troops and supplies during a single day, even to date. Over Varsity it towed two Waco CG-4A gliders full of troops.

Overall, it flew in 25 Fully Combat-Operational Resupply Missions in the European theatre from its base in Welford Park, England and Bretigny, France. It also flew 13 missions in which it evacuated American, British, French and even German POWs. We have records for at least 96 missions of various types, which it had taken part in during the war.”

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F-15A Eagle

This aircraft AF 76-012 was a member of the 36th Fighter Wing stationed at Bitburg, Germany in the late 70’s early 80’s and flew in Desert Storm.

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C-123K Provider

The increased involvement in Vietnam showed a need for a transport aircraft that could operate out of short unprepared fields. The military effort against the Viet Cong brought the C-123 into fields hacked out of the jungle or a smoothed out dirt strip on a hill. If that wasn’t available parachute airdrops were possible by rolling cargo out the open aft fuselage ramp. In “Operation Ranch Hand” eight Providers were modified to spray defoliant to destroy the heavy vegetation which was providing cover to the enemy troops.

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Named the “Thunderpig,” this was our favorite plane on display.

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She was currently on display inside the hanger as she was undergoing her annual inspection. We were able to climb inside and get a unique, up close look at this rare plane (She is the only one of her kind in operation in the lower 48 states.)

The kids were able to get a  look at the cockpit and try their hand at working the seat belts in the jump seats.

This particular plane is a movie star in her own right, having starred in movies like Air America, The General’s Daughter, Die Hard 2, Good Morning Vietnam, and Con Air.

The kids were also given the opportunity to climb in a restored war jeep,

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and a training plane.

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I was very impressed by how hands-on and interactive the tour was. The kids had the opportunity to touch, ask questions, and be inspired by the enthusiasm of our great tour guide.

It was a fascinating, high-flying field trip.

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We give the Beaver Falls Air Heritage Museum two thumbs up!

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