Museum to hold Open Cockpit Day, feature Blimp Car

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. — The New England Air Museum will hold Open Cockpit Day March 16. On that day visitors will be able to climb into the cockpits of up to nine vintage airplanes, including two supersonic jet fighters, the Vietnam era Huey helicopter, the World War II P-47 Thunderbolt, the Vintage DC-3 airliner, and more.

A special feature of the day will be a program on the museum’s World War II Goodyear blimp car ,which is in its final stages of restoration.

U.S. Navy blimps played a pivotal role in patrolling the U.S. East and Gulf coasts searching for German U-boats and in escorting North Atlantic ship convoys.

blimp car 1980The museum’s K-ship blimp car is the last of its type that survives. Built in 1942, it served in three Navy squadrons in World War II, and was sold back to Goodyear as an experimental ship in 1946. It sat nearly forgotten for 32 years, but just as it was about to be scrapped, Goodyear decided instead to donate the blimp car to the museum. Restoration of the blimp car to a World War II configuration was begun in May 1993 and is about 95% complete today, according to museum officials.

The museum’s restoration team will present a brief talk and slide show describing Navy blimps’ tactics in the war, and the history of this particular K-ship, from its wartime missions to its return to Goodyear, to its 20-year restoration at the museum.

The presentations will be at 11:30 and 1:30, and visitors will be invited to walk around the restoration area, view the blimp car interior through its large observation windows, and talk with the restoration team. The restorers will be glad to share the fruits of over 20 years of research, not only about the mechanical aspects of the K-ship, but also the history of naval lighter-than-air operations.

There also will be hands on activities for the enjoyment of the younger visitors during the event.

The Open Cockpit program runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sneakers or rubber-soled shoes are recommended.

Admission is $12 for ages 12 and up, $11 for seniors 65 and up and $6.50 for ages 4 to 11. Children under 3 are admitted free.

For more information: NEAM.org or 860-623-3305.

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