The Florida International Air Show flies into action March 26 & 27, 2011, at the Punta Gorda Airport (formerly the Charlotte County Airport). This morning I had the opportunity to check out one of the planes on display during the air show. In fact, I had the opportunity to fly in a piece of history aboard the Disabled American Veterans’ B-25 Mitchell Bomber flown in World War II including the Doolittle Raid in 1942.
A bit of white smoked drifted by the window after the engine roared. Nothing to be alarmed about, but the noise was deafening. Mark Buck, who rode in the back with me and a photographer from the Charlotte Sun (local daily), handed us each a pair of earmuffs to provide protection from the incredibly loud engine.
Mark explained the loud engine noise is the reason many of the airmen who flew in B-25s (and other military aircraft, I suppose) are deaf or hard of hearing. They didn’t have the high-tech equipment we do today and would sometimes use cotton to stuff in their ear. Or, they would protect one ear and leave the other exposed, causing deafness in one ear down the road.
Once the plane reached a cruising level, we were free to roam about the cabin. I sat atop the floor door and admired the incredible view of Punta Gorda out of a porthole. Yes, I was afraid I’d drop out of the plane but there were two doors, I just had to be conscious of not accidently releasing the emergency door.
I quickly found my air legs and was comfortable enough to look out the porthole and feel the breeze. Okay, it was more than a breeze, it was constant gushing of wind pelting me and trying to toss my iPhone, Flip camera and camera around. Rest assured, I was in control.
The view was amazing. I saw Punta Gorda and the elaborate canals and homes but to balance the urbanization, I saw miles and miles of untouched nature, pristine waterways and plenty of green spaces.
I traded places with the other photographer and crawled to the back of the plane and looked out. Although I was guaranteed I wouldn’t be sucked out by the wind, I was a bit cautious and kept a safe distance from the open end but was able to see a great deal of the beautiful waterways, sailboats enjoying Charlotte Harbor and preserved areas of land.
My body felt the change in altitude but could not tell when the plane was turning. It wasn’t until I looked out to see the horizon and noticed it was at a 45 degree angle.
Luckily, it was time to head to our seats, buckle up and prepare for landing.
The Disabled American Veterans participates in the Florida International Air Show and other air shows to advance its message of providing service to disabled veterans by helping them build better lives for them and their families. Founded in 1920, the non-profit organization represents more than 1.2 million disabled vets. This year marks the ninth season of the DAV Airshow Outreach Program and features the B-25 Mitchell bomber of World War II. Annually, the organization attends more than 25 air shows and reaches more than 3 million air show spectators.
If attending the Florida International Air Show or any other show, be sure to stop by the DAV booth to check out Panchito to hear about its role in American history and learn the good the DAV is doing for our American heroes.