Historic Flight Foundation Provides a Unique Glimpse Into Aviation’s Golden Age
A Different Kind of Education
As a living hangar that seeks to bring planes to the people, HFF has been able to develop some exciting educational opportunities that few others can. Sessions lays out three of HFF’s distinctives, none of which can be found anywhere else.
First, for pilots interested in gaining experience in some unique warbirds, the museum offers a handful of programs. Ground schools have been offered for the B25 and HFF plans to offer others, including for the P51 and T-6. The schools go through the entire pilot operating manual for the individual aircraft, focusing on checklists, emergency procedures, and systems. They run about $250. The museum also offers SIC (“second-in-command”) training, which gives anyone with the experience and money necessary a chance at a right-seat flight rating in the B25 bomber.
The second major component to the HFF cadre involves the more typical relationship with schools. The program is evolving, but it basically revolves around a tactile experience combined with historical re-enacting. Both components are designed to be brought into grade-school classrooms, whether through re-enacting the preflight briefing of the Doolittle raid with period-dressed performers or bringing in wood ribs for a shop class to see up close.
The third component, which Sessions calls “grand and ambitious,” involves creating a serious restoration program over time. Billed college level and up with a heavy historical component, Sessions envisions the development of a program that will set the standard for classic aircraft restoration and maintenance. Over the next three years, Sessions and HFF intend to bring together some of the best and most knowledgeable minds in the restoration industry to create the standard and then hammer out a curriculum (no small task) that will result in the participants receiving “a highly regarded credential at the end,” he says.
While Sessions sees such a program as a valuable resource in producing fully-credentialed classic aircraft mechanics, he also sees this as an enrichment opportunity for others. He envisions a wide cast of participants, anywhere from longtime engineers at the mammoth Boeing plant nearby to Southwest mechanics who have always worked on the 737, getting the chance to dirty their hands on something different, something that gives context and meaning to their daily work as they learn the ins and outs of the great-grandparents of the Dreamliners and 747-8s of today.
As a way to wrap up our experience with the HFF, NYCAviation was given an opportunity to fly with them aboard Grumpy from Fairchild AFB back to the Kilo 7 Hangar. Nine thousand feet over eastern Washington state, the B-25 bomber is humming along nicely with pilots Lance and Nancy Robertson at work in the office. In the back, Crew Chief Chris Russell, fellow photographer Lyle Jansma, and I each scan the horizon for a visitor. We finally spot Impatient Virgin, the museum’s beautifully restored P-51B, piloted this time by Sessions, gradually pulling up beside us. I make a point of marveling at the closeness of the Mustang and at the beautiful scenery just out the window. Just after passing over the Cascades, Sessions breaks formation and bugs out, descending gracefully through what looks like thousands of feet until he is barely in sight. I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, in that moment, I am sold. Mission accomplished.
To learn more about the museum and the stories behind their planes visit them at their website, HistoricFlight.org
NYCAviation would like to thank the Historical Flight Foundation for their dedication and assistance to this article, and owner John T Sessions and mechanic Chris Russell specifically. NYC would also like to thank Lyle Jansma of Jansma Design and Liz Matzelle of IceHawk Media for their contributions.