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Open Cockpit Weekends give visitors a different view

January 29, 2010

'Look but don't touch' is usually the mantra of museums, but not at the Air Zoo. During the weekends of February and March, visitors will be able to experience a different view of aircraft-from the cockpit.

Each weekend during February and March, visitors will have the chance to climb into the cockpits of three World War II fighters. In February, the Wildcat, Hellcat and Corsair will be open, while the Thunderbolt, Mitchell and Airacobra will be featured in March. Members, annual pass holders and those who purchase wristbands will get into the cockpits for free. For others, a $2 ticket is required for each aircraft.

"Due to the popularity of open cockpits in the past, we're providing visitors with an additional month to experience the rare opportunity of being up close and personal with some of the United States' most historic aircraft," says Bob Ellis, president and CEO of the Air Zoo.

A photographer will be available each weekend to take commemorative photos of this unique event. Photographs will cost $2.50 each for visitors and $1.25 for Air Zoo members. Air Zoo volunteers will also be available every weekend to answer any questions about the aircraft and their history.

Specifics about each plane, including the dates they are open:

February 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28:
Grumman FM2 Wildcat
The Wildcat was the primary 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 of six .50 caliber machine guns and two 100-pound bombs, coupled with well-trained pilots and good tactics, resulted in successful combat in the crisis months of 1942.

Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat
The Hellcat was specifically developed to replace the Wildcat and counter the Japanese "Zero." Although it bore a resemblance to the Wildcat, it had a new design with superior maneuverability, a more powerful engine and increased ammunition capacity. The Hellcat proved to be one of the most successful aircraft in naval history and without its arrival, the war in the Pacific probably would have been lost.

Goodyear FG-1D Corsair
The Corsair was the first single-engine fighter capable of more than 400 miles per hour and was known as the most skilled carrier-based fighter bomber of World War II. Designed and originally built by Chance Vought, it was also manufactured under license by Goodyear at the height of production during the war. Its distinctive bent wings kept the landing gear short and robust for carrier landings and gave clearance for the enormous 13-foot-4-inch diameter propeller.

March 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28:
Republic P-47D Thunderbolt
The Thunderbolt was one of the best and most durable fighters of World War II. Initially it escorted bombers deep into enemy territory. After the P-51 Mustang became available, the P-47 also did a remarkably good job in ground attack. With its eight .50 caliber machine guns and the ability to carry bombs and rockets, it became a "tank buster" as well as a "train buster."

North American B-25J Mitchell
The B-25 was an excellent multi-use medium bomber used in every theater of combat in World War II. It was named in honor of Gen. William Mitchell, a pioneer of U.S. military aviation, and is best known for its use in the raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942. The B-25 carried an impressive total of 18 .50 caliber machine guns-eight in the nose, four in under-cockpit packages, two in an upper turret, two in the waist and a pair in the tail. No other World War II bomber carried as many guns.

Bell P-39 Airacobra
Armament of 37mm cannon in its nose and a varying complement of .50 and .30 caliber machine guns made the P-39 an excellent ¬¬ground attack weapon. It was used extensively in the South Pacific and on the Russian front. More than 60 percent of all P-39s produced were sent to the Soviet Union as part of a Lend-Lease arrangement. The Russian pilots were essentially self-taught because the Communist government did not trust Westerners to see their defenses.

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 enter the aircraft must be supervised by their parents/guardians.

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