Often during summer weekends I am reminded by loud airplanes buzzing over my head that I live near a tourist attraction. The planes are fascinating; the noise can be annoying.
Maybe that’s not the way I should begin this column, when my purpose is to tell you about the expanding Flying Heritage Collection and other aviation attractions at Paine Field in Everett, Washington. When I moved into a house near Paine Field more than a decade ago, I was concerned about air traffic. I’ve been nervous about airplanes since high school when one crashed into a neighbor’s house, killing my best friend from childhood, and I’ve known other people who died when small planes crashed. So, when planes fly low and their engines roar, I get worried.
Paine Field’s main purpose is to serve as a runway for Boeing, which assembles its widebody jets, including the Dreamliner, in an adjoining plant. The airport also serves private planes, and may one day have commercial flights, although that is a controversial issue that is unresolved after years of debate.
The most popular times to visit the airport are when the skies are filled with historic aircraft on Paine Field Aviation Day in May and Vintage Aircraft Weekend around Labor Day.
There are two large and highly valuable collections of old aircraft that can be viewed at Paine Field. One is the Historic Flight Foundation’s collection at the Kilo-7 hangar on the west side of the airport. It focuses on planes built between 1927, when Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic solo, and 1957, when the Boeing 707 debuted. The Flying Heritage Collection, on the east side of the airport, is devoted to warbirds—military aircraft from World War II. Paine Field also has the Museum of Flight Restoration Center, where you can see historic planes being put back together, and the Future of Flight Aviation Center, where you can learn about aviation and tour the massive Boeing factory.
Airplanes are pulled out of the collections and flown on various summer days. Although the loud sounds may irritate old cranks like me, the roar of the engines is part of the thrill, and everyone can appreciate the splendor of historic planes in flight. There is an admission charge to enter the hangars and view the entire collections, but you can watch the planes take off and land for free on fly days.
The Flying Heritage Collection, amassed by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, has recently expanded from one hangar to two, nearly doubling the display space. The hangars contain 19 World War II planes from the U.S., Germany, Russia, Britain and Japan. Also on display are tanks, anti-aircraft weapons, and the newest acquisition, a German V-2 rocket, the weapon that terrorized England and was the first rocket to reach outer space.
The planes were recovered from battlegrounds and airfields around the world, and great care has been taken to restore them with parts that are original or exact duplicates. Executive director Adrian Hunt said this meticulous devotion to authenticity and the determination to keep the planes airworthy make this collection unique.
The collection includes famous World War II planes such as the B-25 bomber, the North American P-51 fighter, the U.S. Navy’s Grumman Hellcat and Japan’s Mitsubishi Zero. In many cases, these are among the few planes of their type still in flying condition.
The new hangar includes a 49-seat theater. The Flying Heritage Collection commissioned the production of four 10-minute films related to the collection, and the theater also shows other films on World War II and aviation.
Hunt said 25,000 people viewed the exhibits last year, and 20,000 attended the free flying events on Saturdays. This year, planes will fly at Paine Field on June 8, 15, and 29, July 20, August 17 and 31, and September 7 and 21. In addition, the collection’s P-47 will be in the air at the Arlington Fly-In July 13 and the B-25, Hellcat and Zero will fly during Seattle’s Seafair celebration July 31 to Aug. 4. Planes from the Historic Flight Foundation fly on a separate schedule during the summer. It will have planes in the air June 15-16 and 22-23, July 27, Aug. 30-Sept. 1 and Sept. 7.
The Paine Field aviation attractions draw a combined total of 275,000 visitors a year. Most go to the Future of Flight Aviation Center to take a 90-minute tour of the Boeing plant. But anyone who neglects to add a visit to one or both of the collections of historic planes is missing a treat.
Write to Mike Ward, editor at RV Life magazine, 18717 76th Avenue West, Suite B, Lynnwood, WA 98037 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Find First Glance online at rvlife.com.