You know? Those museums are really great. I haven’t been to Dayton or the Smithsonian (time and distance, y’know?) but I’d love to go.
But there are less ambitious alternatives. The Santa Monica Museum of Flight is small, but nice. The NASA/Dryden facility at Edwards Air Force Base has tours twice each weekday (call for a reservation) and it’s free. Plus a nice gift shop. Also at Edwards is the Air Force Museum display that features aircraft inside and outside that are part of the rich history of Edwards AFB.
But ya know what’s really nice? Just go down to your local General Aviation airport and watch the “little planes” fly. Van Nuys Airport has The Condor Squadron, who fly their T-6/SNJ aircraft frequently. There’s a beautifully polished P-51D that flys out of there too. Helicopters? (My choice of flying machine. ) The local news keep their helis there. And right next door is Group 3 Aviation with their two-seat Robinson and Schweizer helicopters. In the northeast corner of the field is The 94th Aero Squadron restaurant with its WWI French Farmhouse motif and the big windows overlooking the runway.
Santa Monica Airport has a “vultures row” where you can sit and eat a picnic lunch while you watch the Cessnas, Beechcraft and other GA aircraft take off and land. Step over to The Spitfire Grill (where the movie got its name) for an airport burger.
Fox Field in Lancaster has the desert winds to test the skill of the local pilots. There’s a photo of me landing a Schweizer 300CB there on my web page. By the tilt of the rotor you can see the wind was blowing about 20 knots that day. During the fire season you can watch the tankers take off from the permanent tanker base there.
My mom worked for Gibbs Flight Service at Montgomery Field in San Diego when I was a kid. I used to go there to watch the airplanes fly, and sometimes accompanied the lineman when he went out refueling aircraft. He let me attach the ground wire and even, a couple of times, refuel. Great fun for a 10-year-old!
Yeah, museums are great. But the magic of flight isn’t restricted to mach-2 fighters and aluminum-overcast-sized bombers. Little airplanes show you the wind when they bank and crab. They climb their way into the sky with their little engines, and the pilots are always wishing for – just a little – more power. Sure, military pilots love their jobs. Sure, historical aircraft are nice to look at. But when you see a Cessna take wing, you know there is someone in it who’s probably not getting paid for it; he’s doing it for the love of flying. And even though his mount is common, it’s flying!
Airport. Air port! A “port of the air”, like the seaports of old filled with tall ships and crews hustling and bustling in preparation to embark on fantastic voyages to far-off lands! Columbus and Magellan and Cook and Ahab. And Orville and Wilbur and Curtis, Ryan, Beech, Mooney, Maule, Lindbergh, Dick Bong (Ace of Aces!) and the Rutan brothers and Patty Wagstaff and Joanne Osterud! And… you? Magic! A desire? A dream? If you have it, the magic is yours!
(Sorry for gushing. I really love Flight!)
RalfCoder: Yes, the profile is good; or you can go to The CJ2A Page and e-mail from there. I only have my own under the 1946 category. (Now if only I could find a 1945 and a 1949!)