As you can imagine, travel and field trips played a big role in home educating (or road schooling, as I like to say) my three children. This post was originally part of a Field Trip Friday series that I ran each week to offer field trip ideas to other homeschooling families, but you don’t need to homeschool your kids to find this relevant. Updated 4/2015.
Last spring, we found out that an historic WWII plane would be flying into our area and would be open for tours for two days only. Having studied that time period the previous year in school, and having two boys that are particularly interested in historic war planes, my husband and I knew that this opportunity was not to be missed. Thankfully my husband had already planned a short day of work so we were able to view this fascinating marvel together.
On the short drive to the airfield, my boys took turns impressing us with their knowledge of the B-17’s. Were they excited? You bet!
Their excitement waned briefly as we pulled into the parking lot and saw many people outside the plane, I wondered if I’d misunderstood and they really weren’t allowing tours inside. So I asked a gentleman that was directing traffic and he assured us that he had been through the plane and cautioned that though some of the passageways were a bit of a squeeze, it was definitely worth the trip.
Excited once again, we paid the admission fee and hastily made our way to the plane. Immediately, we were surrounded by volunteers eager to share tidbits of information with us as to what it would have been like to actually serve on one of these planes. Do you realize that the boys that flew the plane were often only 17 years old? If they survived to the age of 20 they were sent stateside to train the new recruits. We also learned that it was so cold in the air that the airmen would keep their candy bars on the inside of their coat pockets because if they were on the outside, they would freeze. The candy bars were necessary to give them a boost of energy to fight the battles. The missions often lasted more than eight hours at a time, by the time the fight was over and the plane was landed, the young men would literally collapse with fatigue.
The B-17 was vital to winning WWII. During the ten year span of 1935 to 1945, over 12,000 planes were built. Today, less than 12 planes capable of flying remain.
Though we began our tour of the Flying Fortress, the Aluminum Overcast, on the ground, inspecting the outside, it wasn’t long before we journeyed inside for a glimpse of the bombardier, bomb bay and other various compartments. As I watched my husband climb the ladder into the plane and literally crawl through the narrow passageway to a standing position, I knew that the gentleman I’d spoken with had not exaggerated the tightness of some passageways. I began to feel a bit panicky and claustrophobic as my turn to climb that ladder arrived, but my husband assured me that I wouldn’t get stuck. Trusting him, I continued and we were soon joined by our children, who were a bit amused by my antics. No, I did not get stuck and after passing through the bomb bay, the passageway widened considerably.
If you have plans to study WWII at some point in the future or have studied it in the past, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to make history come alive for your children with a trip through the Aluminum Overcast.
2015 appearances of the B-17 Aluminum Overcast are scheduled for:
The Aluminum Overcast will be open for tours and flights. Advance reservations for flights are required. You can see the tour schedule, costs and other details here.
This is a must for history and WWII enthusiasts or anyone that just happens to be in the area! Thumbs up from us!
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