Take to the Skies

From the moment you take a seat in the cockpit, the journey is thrilling. System checks are run, flaps are tested, engines start with a rattle of propellers then purr with anticipation as you roll down the runway, picking up speed, you… lift off!

When the pandemic closed its doors, the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire opened the sky, celebrating aviation by bringing the simulator to your living room. Their “Around the World Flight Adventure” gives the public online access to a virtual tour of the world. The best part? You have a view from the cock pit!

Humans have always coveted soaring above the clouds. In 1903, the Wright brothers finally found the solution to sustained flight. Amazingly, only 10 years later, biplanes were used in WWI. The ingenuity and technology that followed is impressive. By WWII, which began in 1939, the United States engaged monoplanes in the skies over Europe. And that is the moment in history where the Aviation Museum has stuck a pin and invited the public to join the adventure.

Your educational journey takes flight, as many WWII aircraft pilots did, from the runway at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Back then, it was called Grenier Air Base, a military staging point for U.S. troops headed to Europe for war.

You fly above the virtual scenery at 1,000 to 1,500 feet — a perfect viewing height for famous landmarks. A ChasePlane cam gives you an external perspective of the aircraft: a vintage, twin-engine Douglas C-47 Skytrain (DC-3). At the time of the war, these would have cruised at 4,000 to 10,000 feet (today’s airliners climb above 30,000).

The first five legs of your journey land to refuel at the friendly airports of Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland and England. They were all part of the North Atlantic Air Ferry Route, the tactical course the U.S. used to get to France to help ally ground troops prevail against the Axis powers.

Parents and teachers take heart; this is not another war game. It is a thoughtful and engaging educational excursion with references to science, geography, history and culture. Available for all ages, the program is designed for middle school students and teachers engaged in remote learning during the pandemic. Each step in the journey is accompanied by a mapped flight plan and a pilot’s log that piques curiosity by introducing central themes and historic topics with links to websites for more in-depth exploration. In addition, the on-board tour guide discusses fun and interesting facts about aviation and the countries you re-supply in or fly over.

The seventh leg of the journey was Memorial Day (dated May 25) and is a recording of the museum’s first ever live feed. A feature in Newsweek magazine prompted many passengers across the nation to join the crew, who answer questions and discuss their knowledge of WWII. This virtual flight over Normandy beaches offers a unique and poignant perspective of sacrifice and a better understanding of the important impact aviation had on the war.

To date, the adventure has been through Scandinavia, Germany and Italy. You can climb into the cockpit at any time and binge to catch up. New flights are added each week and the virtual sunny skies are a great place to escape on a rainy day. The “Around the World Flight Adventure” is expected to finish back in New Hampshire on Saturday, Aug. 15, to coincide with the Aviation Museum’s annual PlaneFest. Plans are in the works for a visit from a DC-3 aircraft to let adventurers see an actual version of the virtual plane they’ve been flying. Tune into their website — aviationmuseumofnh.org — for updates about events and re-opening. The Museum is scheduled to welcome the public back to new and reconfigured exhibits that meet COVID-19 health guidelines, on Saturday, July 18.

Many generous sponsors are helping the Museum make this free adventure possible. Donors and members of the Museum are an important part of its ability to preserve and celebrate our Granite State’s aviation history. As a nonprofit, it was also awarded a CARES grant from N.H. Humanities that will help defray costs and allow for future programming.

Human obsession with flight is boundless. In 1959, we touched the edge of space, and by 1969 we landed on the moon. Ingenuity and imagination still push new technologies into orbit today with the hope that humans can one day walk on Mars. The Aviation Museum in Londonderry could very well inspire your young aviator to be on that first trip to the red planet!