Friday, August 7, 2015

Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum, Horsham, PA

On the flight home from Florida during our 20 Child-Free Days I met a really interesting gentleman named Dave. We flew Southwest, which means we got to choose our own seats as we boarded. I took one look at Dave and thought he would be a good conversationalist. I was right.

Throughout the two and a half hour flight to Philly Dave and I talked about a lot of things. About his attempt at walking across the country. About his military service during the Vietnam era. About his mother celebrating her 90th birthday. I also did my fair share of talking telling him about Ashley flying home from Europe. I enjoyed his ease of conversation. The flight certainly flew by quickly.

Dave also told us about the Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum, an air museum where he volunteers once a week. Located in Horsham, PA it is only 40 minutes from our house. A couple of weeks after coming home, we had a free day and drove out to the museum on a day when we knew Dave would be there.

I grew up visiting the NJ Aviation Hall of Fame, an air museum my grandfather (Grandad, Irving Koetting) helped create that is located at Teterboro Airport, where my dad used to work before he retired. It is a nice museum, and reminded me a lot of this museum.

After years of working on a donation basis, the museum recently started charging admission. At $6 for adults and $4 for children it is still a bargain.

When you walk in you are greeted with this gorgeous mail plane from 1931: a Pitcairn PA-8 Super Mailwing. Even though it is indoors, it is the only plane that still flies. It is back in the hands of the Pitcairn family and on loan to the museum. It sparkles.

We came to see "Dave's plane," a Grumman C-1A "Trader" he flew to the USS Independence as a Carrier on-board delivery (COD) post Vietnam. It was the closest to a 9-5 job offered by the navy at the time. It was cool enough that Dave could teach the public about his service in the navy. It became even more meaningful when he learned he flew this exact plane for about one of out ten missions. Because he flew this plane, he has the key to the padlock on the plane and can give tours to the public. All of the other planes are sealed to the public, but this one is open (when Dave is there) to see the inside and learn things only someone who flew her could share.

Dave is an excellent and patient teacher. He asked us questions about why we think this plane (and the others) have different attributes. He said he has heard all possible answers, so guess away. When we gave up (which we often did) he gave us the right answer in layman's terms. We walked away learning how you can tell a navy or marine plane from others (by the tail hook, which is necessary for landing on a cargo ship). How to take off from a cargo ship (by catapult or by using every inch of the runway). The importance of wearing safety gear in his life. And much more. It was overwhelming in a good way.

By the time we were done with our tour of the outside planes, we had 15 minutes left to enjoy the inside exhibits. My favorite was the case on women in aviation. Turns out Amelia Earhart went to finishing school near the airfield and used it often. There was also a case dedicated to the Blue Angels. Dave said a Blue Angel recently visited them and corrected the zipper height on their model.

Overall it was a fun outing. I recommend visiting the museum and helping to keep it open.

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