KALAMAZOO, Mich. — ‘Look but don’t touch’ is usually the mantra of museums, but not at the Air Zoo. During the whole month of February, visitors will be able to experience aircraft from a different point of view—the cockpit.
Visitors will have the chance to climb into the cockpits of three planes — the Texan, Kaydet and Wildcat — throughout February. The open cockpit experience is complimentary with the purchase of general admission ($10).
“The Air Zoo’s open cockpit program has always been one of our visitors’ favorite experiences,” said Bob Ellis, Air Zoo president and CEO. “It gives guests the rare opportunity to experience our country’s most historic aircraft from the pilot’s viewpoint.”
Each weekday, one of three planes will be featured with an open cockpit. On the weekends, all three aircraft’s cockpits will be open to the public. The open cockpit schedule, with specifics about each plane, is as follows:
North American AT-6 Texan: Open Feb. 1 and 4-8
The North American AT-6 Texan (pictured) was an advanced trainer flown by almost all American pilots and many Allied pilots during World War II. Although it wasn’t as fast as a fighter, the Texan had more maneuverability and was easier to handle. It was designed to give the best possible training in all types of tactics, from ground strafing to bombardment and aerial dogfighting. North American built more than 15,000 Texans, but after WWII, only about 2,000 remained in service in the U.S.
Boeing-Stearman N2S-5 Kaydet: Open Feb. 11-15
The Boeing-Stearman Kaydet was used as a primary trainer during WWII and was the last mass-produced biplane ordered by any U.S. military service. It appealed to the military because of its genuine ruggedness, ease of maintainability, economics of operations and its rather challenging, but not-too-difficult flight characteristics. The Kaydet was considered ideal for teaching basic flying maneuvers, aerobatics and takeoffs.
Grumman FM-2 Wildcat: Open Feb. 18-22 and 25-28
The Grumman Wildcat was used as a Navy fighter during the first year and a half of World War II. Although it could not equal the speed and maneuverability of its Japanese counterpart, the Zero, its rugged construction and armament, coupled with well-trained pilots and good tactics, resulted in successful combat. According to the Navy, the Wildcat had a victory-to-loss ratio of 6.9:1.
Due to the varying engineering and design elements, a weight restriction of 250 pounds is placed on each aircraft. Visitors must also have the ability to enter and exit the aircraft unassisted. Children wishing to sit in the aircraft must be supervised by their parents/guardians.
For more information: AirZoo.org