Open cockpit day at Castle Air Museum this Sunday

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comMay 27, 2013 

— Castle Air Museum will open the doors of its historic aircraft on Sunday for an intimate viewing event that happens only twice a year.

The 17th Open Cockpit Day, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., will give people an up-close look at 30 to 35 planes from the museum's 56 restored aircraft.

"It's a great family event not only for entertainment and value, but also education of our nation's history," said Joe Pruzzo, the museum's chief executive officer. "Bring your families out for a wonderful day of entertainment and a historical experience back in time."

In addition to viewing nearly 75 years of aviation history, helicopter rides will be available. Historic military vehicles will be on hand as well as law enforcement displays.

The kids can enjoy bounce houses and snack on bomber burgers and hot dogs.

A vintage aircraft will fly over the museum about 1 p.m., Pruzzo added.

Castle Air Museum, which opened in June 1981, displays restored aircraft from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War era.

On Friday, a rare World War II Navy SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber will join the collection — just in time for display at Sunday's event.

The aircraft hasn't been restored, a process that can take four to five years. It will appear as it did when recovered from the South Pacific Island of New Guinea, where it crash landed in 1944.

In the past seven months, the museum has seen a significant boost in visitors hailing from 40 countries, Pruzzo said.

"We have evolved into the county's number one tourist attraction," he said. "We have people visit the museum from all corners of the world."

Castle Air Museum, which Pruzzo called the "crown jewel of the region," hosts an Open Cockpit Day in May for Memorial Day and September for Labor Day.

Tickets cost $12 for adults, $8 for seniors, $30 for a family of four, $5 for youth from ages 6 to 17. Children 5 and younger and active-duty military with ID are admitted free.

For more information, call (209) 723-2178 or go to www.castleairmuseum.org.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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