There has been so much discussion over the last few years of whether or not warbirds should continue to fly and offer the unique public experience of riding in one. Although I somewhat understand the point of wanting to ground them in an effort to protect them and avoid unnecessary and unfortunate loss to both planes and passengers, I still feel that their benefits to historical preservation far outweigh the unlikelihood of a loss.
Flying museums, which is essentially what warbirds are, provide a very tangible way for younger generations to learn an important part of history, demonstrated perfectly in this video taken by my friend's daughter Molly (14), her sister, Madeline (8) and my daughter, Aly (13). This clip, created by these teenage girls, took place on a quiet day during a Collings Foundation Tour stop in Punta Gorda, Florida four years ago. The downtime gave the girls a chance to hang out in the B-24 Witchcraft and the late, B-17 Nine-0-Nine. They really learned something about these planes; like what the gadgets did, why the aircraft were important and aviations role in the outcome of history. But THEN, best of all- they shared it publicly for others in their generation to learn from too! And they were excited about it. It was brilliant! THAT is exactly what this is about. To pass the lessons from our greatest generation on so the lives that were lost in such an ugly conflict are never forgotten neither are the circumstances leading up to it.
To see the seamless educational experience that these aircraft have in action during this video is beautiful. THIS is what these planes can do when given the chance. They make history come ALIVE. They stimulate ones ability to absorb the information which hopefully, they make use of throughout their lifetime.
Yes- this really gets me pumped up. It is important. You know, I would bet good money that these young ladies learned, and better yet, retained more from those two hours in that living museum then they ever would in a school history class learning about the exact same subject; and that is not a knock on history teachers because my daughter has had some amazingly dynamic history teachers over the years but none, can compare to this type of learning environment. At the very least, an encounter like this will help them connect the dots to the bookwork taught in school.
We will save for another day, the summary of other positive and life enhancing ways these dynamic historical machines contribute to the connectedness family members of those who served feel or the light and joy that passes over veterans faces when reunited with their aircraft. It is priceless and should you witness this firsthand, you will understand for yourself why they need to stay in the air!
If you must see the evidence now, check out Bob Brocklehust's ride in a P-51 a few years ago, an end of life changing event for him. Just ask his family.
It is also important to remember that all of these benefits are possible thanks to the tireless work of the planes, the pilots and the people who spend countless hours maintaining them so that the story of those who flew them is never forgotten. And when a loss happens, no one feels it more than those who put their heart and souls into the mission of honoring a generation that is near extinct.
Keep Em Flying!