Friday, July 7th
We started out about 8:30 am as we had several adventures planned for the day.
Our first stop as the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center which is just south of the main part of Wright-Patterson, so not far. It’s basically a visitor’s center with some exhibits inside that don’t take much more than 30 minutes to view and a small gift shop. The two rangers on duty were very helpful and super-duper friendly.
While in the visitor’s center we got our Passport book stamped, bought a post card (to add to our Passport book) and also got our 6th stamp on our journey to a free Wilbear. Just one more to go as you must have 7 out of 14 in order to earn your free Wilbear.
Outside you’ll find a memorial honoring the Wright Brothers who did much of their airplane flight testing nearby at Huffman Prairie Flying Field.
A short walk from the memorial is an overlook that gives you a view of Huffman Dam, Wright-Patterson Airstrip and if you look really closely you can see part(s) of Huffman Prairie Flying Field. The views from atop this bluff are actually pretty cool, even if you’re not into history.
Next we drove the one mile over to the Huffman Prairie Flying Field. You have to pass by a golf club and military shooting range and several other landmarks before you actually arrive. Once you start seeing tall white flags you know you’re getting close.
The white flags (of which there are 5-7) outline what was once Torrance Huffman’s pasture. Huffman allowed the Wright Brothers to use his pasture for their flying practices, for free, they just had to promise to move the cows and horses and make sure no harm came to them.
You can walk out into the field and read the plaques that are out there but we’d been warned about ticks by one of the rangers at the visitors center so we opted to view from afar.
However, we did get out and check out the replica hangar and catapult. Much smaller than I would have expected. These two determined men made the long trolley ride from Dayton to Huffman Prairie, lugged whatever equipment they needed and worked tirelessly to provide us with one of man’s finest accomplishments….flight.
Our main adventure for the day was a ‘Behind the Scenes Renovation Tour‘ at the National Museum of the Air Force. The tours are done one day a week on Fridays at 12:15 pm and you are required to register in advance. There is no cost. There are a lot of security precautions and you’re on your feet for 2+ hours…so keep that in mind.
We arrived to the museum early (about 10:45 am) so that we had plenty of time to enjoy lunch at Kelly’s Kitchen. We found a table at one of the shelters and unpacked our yummy salads (the day’s special) only to realize that somebody forgot to pack forks…or any eating utensils for that matter.
Michael went to the truck to see if perhaps there was something in there as we always have napkins and straws. He came back with straws…LOL…we tried using them like chopsticks and/or shovels but it was slow going.
Thankfully, a group of 13 kids from a daycare had joined us under the shelter and one of their chaperones took pity on his and gave us some spoons! Hooray! Our day was saved by two spoons. We finished out lunch, packed up our things, took them back to the truck and then headed into get in line for our tour.
We got checked in and made our way to the auditorium to wait for the rest of the tour participants. When everyone was checked in and seated we got a short briefing about security and were allowed to go to the bathroom as that would involve an act of congress during the tour.
There were basically two groups. The first group had about 45-50 people in it and took the shuttle bus over to the renovation hanger first then came back and got our group of 26.
When we arrived at the renovation we were broken up into 5 smaller groups…leaving us with just 5 people in our group, plus our guide. Our guide, Beverly, was very soft-spoken so it was a good thing that there were only five of us so that we could huddle around her to hear what she was saying.
The tour took just over 2 hours and was pretty interesting.
We started in ‘the attic’ where aircraft is stored until they get around to restoring it. Anything stored in here will one day be worked on it’s just a matter of when.
A loft above the attic is called ‘the attic of the attic’ and it holds equipment that will not be restored but might someday be useful. Airplanes, wings, tails all in various stages of disrepair can be seen.
There is no air conditioning in the hangar so it got pretty warm while we wandered around. Thankfully, in the main hangar the door was open a bit and there were large fans in strategic places which helped quite a bit.
At one point it started raining outside…pouring actually and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees outside (or so we were told) and that helped a lot to cool things off a bit too.
The current BIG project is the restoration of the Memphis Belle. The Memphis Belle was a B-17 used during World War II and had two movies made about it. Other projects were underway when the Memphis Belle arrived at the museum to be restored but those were put on the back burner and the ‘Belle’ became the spotlight.
One of the other airplanes we got to see was the ‘Swoose‘…a combination of Swan & Goose. The Swoose was also active during World War II and survived to become the oldest B-17 still intact. Although if you see her now…she’s not intact…but in pieces!
The Swoose was my favorite…so much history. The original Swoose emblem along with her crews names are still visible on her side…Frank Kurtiz, Marvin MacAdams, Aubrey Fox, etc.
On her nose are the remnants of what were once very colorful flags of all the places the Swoose had flown…Borneo, Panama, Nicaragua, Australia, Haiti, etc etc etc.
Even more interesting is that the pilot, Frank Kurtz, named his daughter after the Swoose! Ever heard of actress Swoosie Kurtz? She’s even been to the museum to visit the Swoose since it’s been there and remembers being in the Swoose when she was about 4 years old.
After returning to the museum we made a quick visit to the restrooms and then went to the information desk to get a stamp for our Wilbear and then walked through the museum to the Aviation Hall of Fame where we got a second stamp….giving us eight stamps and we only needed seven!
We made a quick stop back at the Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center so that we could turn in our ‘stamp collection’ and receive our Wilbear! The ranger on duty did a great job of posing with Wilbear before handing him over. He’ll being our new traveling companion.
We were supposed to go out for pizza at LaRosa’s but Michael waved Chinese in front of me and I couldn’t turn it down! (Sorry, Donna…we’ll get there…I promise!)
We tried Tsao’s cuisine in a tiny shopping complex as it had fairly good reviews and was located pretty conveniently between the museum and the air force base.
Michael threw me for a loop when he ordered teriyaki beef and not his normal sweet & sour chicken. I’m pretty sure that that’s the first time he’s ever ordered something different. I ordered beef & vegetables. We each got a bowl of our favorite soup and shared some crab rangoon. Everything was good…just not exceptional. I think if we were to be in the area again I’d try somewhere different.
We got home just about 5:00 pm and in the house when the sky fell out…again. It rained and thundered for a while and then stopped for the rest of the evening.