PRESS RELEASE – The New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Conn., will hold Open Cockpit Day on Sunday, March 16th. On that day visitors will be permitted to climb into the cockpits of up to nine vintage airplanes including two supersonic jet fighters, the Vietnam era Huey helicopter, the WWII P-47 Thunderbolt, the Vintage DC-3 airliner, and more.A special feature of the day will be a program on the Museum’s WWII Goodyear blimp car which is in its final stages of restoration. U.S. Navy blimps played a pivotal role in patrolling the U.S. East and Gulf coasts searching for German U-boats and in escorting North Atlantic ship convoys.
The Air Museum’s K-ship blimp car is the last of its type that survives. Built in 1942, the Museum’s K-ship served in three Navy squadrons in WWII, and was sold back to Goodyear as an experimental ship in 1946. It sat nearly forgotten for 32 years, but just as it was about to be scrapped, Goodyear decided instead to donate the blimp car to the Air Museum. Almost completely gutted by Goodyear, the car was in rough shape. The restoration of the blimp car to a WWII configuration was begun in May 1993 and is about 95% complete today.The K-class non-rigid airship was a class of blimps built by the Goodyear Aircraft Company of Akron, Ohio for the United States Navy. These blimps were powered by two radial air-cooled engines mounted on outriggers on the side of the control car that hung under the envelope. Before and during World War II, 135 K-class blimps were built, configured for patrol and anti-submarine warfare operations and were extensively used in the Navy’s anti-submarine efforts in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean areas.( source hock, James R. (2001). U.S. Navy Airships 1915-1962. Edgewater, Florida: Atlantis Productions.)
The Museum’s restoration team will present a brief talk and slide show describing Navy blimps’ tactics in WWII, and the history of this particular K-ship, from its wartime missions to its return to Goodyear, to its 20-year restoration at the Museum. The presentations will be at 11:30 and 1:30, and visitors will be invited to walk around the restoration area, view the blimp car interior through its large observation windows, and converse with the restoration team. The restorers will be glad to share the fruits of over 20 years of research, not only about the mechanical aspects of the K-ship, but also the history of naval lighter-than-air operations.
There also will be hands on activities for the enjoyment of the younger visitors during the event. For the convenience of all, a food vendor will be on site serving sandwiches, snacks and hot & cold drinks. The event will be held inside the Museum’s three large, heated display hangars.
The Open Cockpit program runs from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with the Museum and gift shop staying open until 5:00 PM. Sneakers or rubber-soled shoes are recommended.
Admission is $12 for ages 12 and up, $11 for seniors 65 and up and $6.50 for ages 4 to 11. Children under 3 are admitted free. For more information, visit www.neam.org or call (860) 623-3305.