Flights of Fancy
Updated: May 23
This blog will cover some of the aviation related things we were able to see on our trip up the East coast.
Landing at First Flight Airport in Kitty Hawk, NC
It all started at Kill Devil Hills in Kitty Hawk, NC. To the left of the picture above there is a small grass strip with markers representing the distance of the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers in 1903. It was measured in mere feet, but changed the world with its impact.
118 years later my 1000th flight hour was logged landing in the same location. While nowhere near a high number in the aviation world, it represents 42 years of following a passion for me. There is no military or commercial time in those hours, I paid for every one. It was a lot of fun and provided memories that will last a lifetime. My Aviation Journey (blackpearladventures.com) It is amazing to think how far mankind has come in such a short time.
Space Coast and a Shuttle Landing Strip fly-by
As we traveled through Titusville Florida I was able to cross another item off the flying bucket list, a low level pass over the Shuttle Landing Facility. It took a couple of days to make it work due to weather and the NASA tower being closed. But it finally came together and I heard "approved for low level pass at or above 500'".
Notice the Vehicle Assembly Building in the background and a Space Shuttle to the side to provide some scale to the size of the landing strip. My Kitfox could have landed sideways on this runway! Not sure which shuttle it was, but expect that it is the Enterprise which was used for flight tests but never actually went in to space. With the Shuttles now safely tucked away in museums the landing facility is rarely used. But the fuss would be major if anyone actually dared to touch down on it!
Just a short distance from the Landing Facility is the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
With the Depperschmidt family being raised in the Clear Lake City area of Houston on the back gates of NASA we had a front-row seat to the space race. From Gemini to Apollo and then with the Space Shuttle we lived with our neighbors and their families through good times and bad of the program. Some fathers left and never came home again. They were just Dad's who went to baseball games with their kids and served us dinners on Prom night. The entire area was thick with engineers, pilots and support personnel from all over the world. It was a great place to grow up and was a key component of my interest in aviation. I would sit under the final approach at Ellington AFB and watch the astronauts fly circuits in their T-38 trainers. So with this background the Visitor Center had a little more feeling for me than the average visitor might have. I actually knew the people behind the names on many of the space suits. Our first stop was the facility that covered the Apollo program and moon landings.
When we look back now at the vehicles and equipment that was used to get man to the moon we are awestruck at how seemingly crude and simplistic it was. My Kitfox has considerably better avionics and communications capability than what was available in the Apollo spacecraft. When we see what the astronauts used it increases the awe and respect for their bravery and commitment.
Our next stop was the Space Shuttle complex with the centerpiece being the Shuttle Atlantis.
Veteran of 33 missions Atlantis is an impressive exhibit. By the end of its final mission, Atlantis had orbited the Earth a total of 4,848 times, traveling nearly 126,000,000 miles or more than 525 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
Aircraft Carrier Yorktown - Charleston SC
Just a few decades after the Wright brothers made their first flight, the world found itself at war for the second time. In the second world war aviation became a major factor and in the Pacific theater the Aircraft Carrier became the essential tool for victory. One of the most famous of the Carriers names during that time was the Yorktown. The Yorktown in Charleston is CV-10. The original Yorktown CV-5 was sunk during the Battle of Midway.
Aircraft Carriers are HUGE! They are literally a floating city. Yorktown CV-10 was commissioned in April 1943, and participated in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, earning 11 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation. She was involved in the Korean and Vietnam wars in addition to serving as the recovery ship for Apollo 8.
Karen has a family connection to Aircraft Carriers as her father, Ed Fyffe, served on the USS Rendova (CVE-114) during the Korean War. USS Rendova - Wikipedia Rendova and crew were also present for two nuclear tests during Operation Ivy. Rendova was present for both atmospheric and ground testing. These tests were the first ever successful detonations of hydrogen bombs.
Karen's favorite part of the Yorktown tour was in the kitchens and crew quarters. Meals were prepared for over 3500 crew 4 times daily and consumed 120 tons of food every month.
Over the years the Yorktown was the home for multiple types of aircraft from propeller driven to jets. While the B-25 bomber did not fly from the Yorktown, the Doolittle Raiders did fly them off of the Hornet on their raid to Tokyo.
Disney Star Wars Ride
OK, it is fantasy. But it is still very cool and kind of puts a cap on our east coast Flights of Fancy adventure. The entire Star Wars area is very immersive and the ride is over the top. There is a theme to the entire thing as you become refugees being chased by the Empire. Some of it is a walking tour and the rest is on a vehicle that "floats" freely through multiple scenes. It is well worth the visit and any wait that is required.