I fly a lot, and in the past year have accumulated enough flight miles to circumvent the globe many times over. But never have I ever been on a plane experience as cool as what the Lone Star Flight Museum is offering to visitors. This week I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience to not only get a sneak peak of the new Lone Star Flight Museum, but also fly around in one of the antique planes that the museum maintains.
The bird of choice for my trip was the 1944 North American B-52 Mitchell of the Doolittle Raiders crew who bombed Tokyo during WWII. I know, WHAT. The experience started at the former Lone Star Flight Museum that opened in Galveston in 1991. As part of the safety talk, we were instructed to not touch anything “red, dusty, or rusty.” We were also encouraged to chug a bottle of water because we were about to climb into a hot metal plane that had been baking in the Texas summer sun all afternoon. Kewl.
To kick off the adventure, I climbed up the ladder and hopped on up to the seat behind the cockpit. With my feet were dangling about 2 feet above the floor, I had a good view of the propellers during take off–which let me tell you was a bit scary. Of course I knew we were safe, but the first initial jumps in the air with the engine popping sure does get one’s heart racing. I was doing everything within my control not to grab the poor camera guy’s arm sitting next to me.
Luckily after a minute or two my impending heart attack subsided and when we got the go-ahead from the pilots, I jumped down from my seat, and crawled–yes literally crawled–under the cockpit and into the nose of the plane. Definitely the best spot in the house. I’m talking wall-to-wall-to-ceiling-to-floor panorama views all around. I was able to pick out key Galveston Island landmarks like Pleasure Pier, the Bishop’s Palace, and the Seawall. The near-360-degree views, though, did get my heart racing a tad when the plane occasionally made what felt like a 45 degree angle turns around the island.
A few minutes into the flight, we synced up with some friends. Next to us two other antique planes glided along. one was a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and the other was a Douglas A-1D Skyraider. At times they felt so close that I could throw my iPhone and it would hit their windshield. The pilots were obviously unfazed by the proximity of each other as they playfully dived up and down and bobbed all around us as we made turns and weaved around Galveston.
After the nose, I climbed back onto my seat and headed to the tail of the plane. More army crawling was involved (I was definitely not dressed properly for the occasion) as I maneuvered my way to the back. Again there was a great view at the tail and crazy views of the partner planes tagging along just a few meters away. I got a bit motion sick here (“look towards the horizon!!”) and eventually made my way to the belly of the plane where I snapped on my seatbelt for landing at Ellington Field.
The original Lone Star Flight Museum opened in Galveston in 1985. However, after the museum experienced serious damage after Hurricane Ike in 2008, a motion was made to find higher ground–literally. Opening on September 2, 2017, the new Lone Star Flight Museum is now located at Ellington Field (shout out for a more convenient location!) and offers interactive exhibits on science, technology, engineering and math concepts essential to flight. The engineer in me swooned when I saw all the flight simulators getting set up!
The museum also includes a Texas Aviation Heritage Gallery which displays a history of aviation in Texas and how Texans continue to influence the world of flight. The B-52 plane that I flew in was one of 16 planes in a fleet. Of the 80 crew members that manned the Doolittle Raiders, 13 were from Texas–more than any other state!
I’m a huge advocate of being a tourist in your own hometown, and the Lone Star Flight Museum is a pretty cool spot to nerd out about history and aviation. Plus, you can also take one of these flight experiences yourself! You can check out the pricing and the different planes to choose from here. Birthday gift anyone?