An airplane that is flown on a regular basis stays healthy. The folks at the Flying Heritage Collection at Snohomish County Airport Paine Field (PAE) north of Seattle know this only too well. That’s what it holds Free Fly Days to show off the collection’s airworthy World War II aircraft.
The collection, created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is housed in a World War II era hangar at the airport and includes aircraft from both the Allied and Axis powers.
Each Fly Day has a theme, such as Round Engine, the Pacific War, and so forth. The 2010 season finale, held Sept. 25, was Luftwaffe Day, featuring a Messerschmitt Bf109 fighter and a Fiesler Storch, FI 156, a liaison aircraft.
The airplanes fly the pattern over the north-south runway for about an hour while Flying Heritage Military Aviation Curator Cory Graff provides narration.
“These airplanes are really rare,” he noted. “Part of our whole mission is to get them into the air so you can hear them and feel them and actually see them in their natural habitat.”
During the Luftwaffe Fly Day, veterans of World War II, accompanied by their adult children and grandchildren, spent a lot of time studying the Bf109.
“It looks so small,” remarked an elderly gentleman wearing a WWII Veteran hat as he inspected the cockpit of the Messerschmitt. “They seemed a lot bigger when they were shooting at you.”
The low-wing fighter is slightly smaller than the P-51 Mustang.
The high-wing Storch looks like a cross between a greenhouse and a Super Cub. The cabin is made of panels of glass with windows that bow out. The wings are a little over 46 feet in width and have a slotted leading edge.
“The slab wing gives it incredible short takeoff and landing capability,” said Graff. “You can take off in the space of two or three tennis courts. It has a low stall speed. It was the airplane used to rescue Mussolini and it was the one that Hannah Reitsch landed in downtown Berlin to rescue Hitler, but he refused to leave.”
On Free Fly Days, there is no charge to stand on the ramp, but museum admission is an additional cost.
For more information: FlyingHeritage.com