A Day at the 'Zoo
Article and Pictures by Evan Wright
The first plane I was able to get in a was an HA-112, which is a ME-109 built under license in Spain. The difference
between the Spanish and German planes, is the engine. While the German built planes were powered by a DB-601 inverted V-12, the Spanish ones were ironically powered by the British Merlin.
The larger engine gives the Spanish planes a larger, and less streamlined looking nose (For a comparison, the recent movie Valkyrie showed one of each flying side by side). Still, you wouldn't notice any of this from the inside except that everything was labeled in Spanish.
The cockpit itself was very tight, almost cramped. It would have been even more so with a flying suit and parachute on. There also wasn't much clearance between the top of my head and the heavy, 150 pound, armored glass canopy.
The plane I liked the best was the Bell P-39 Airacobra. Although the P-39 is atypical, having a car-style door instead of a sliding canopy, it was still not easy to get in and out. The other
thing I noticed was that the canopy created a lot of blind spots. Unlike the P-47, which had a large bubble canopy, the P-39 canopy consisted of many smaller pieces of glass held together by a metal framework.
Still, there was something "right" about that plane that I really liked.
The museum also boasted what is called a 4-D theater. The theater played a 3-D IMAX movie about a B-17 raid on Germany. Although the dialog in the movie was a little "hokey" at times, the presentation was extremely cool from a technology standpoint. A touch that I thought was really clever was that the theater was styled as a WII Quonset hut.
The museum is also kid friendly, and has lots of rides and simulators to keep the little guys entertained.
If anyone is interested in getting a look into the planes, "Open Cockpit Weekends" in February may be an annual occurrence. If not, I certainly hit the jackpot! For pilots equipped to enter class C airspace, the museum is adjacent to the Kalamazoo airport.
Where To Now?
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A Frigid Flight to Dixon
A Day at the 'Zoo
The Flying Hogs Go Wild!
Itching to fly after a long dry spell