Last August, my brother and I attended the “Thunder Over Michigan” air show at Willow Run Airport near Detroit. The air show was more than worth the price of the ticket. The main reason for going to the event was to take a ride in a B-17 aircraft. I mentioned this experience in a column about a month later, so I won’t rehash it again. However, the benefit of taking that flight entitled us to a free one-year membership in the Yankee Air Museum for each of us.
About six months ago we were offered the opportunity to participate in the first three-day trip out of country on a vintage World War II aircraft. The trip would include flying out of Willow Run Airport on a C-47 aircraft to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Once there we would tour the Canadian Air Museum, where we would also be treated to lunch. After the tour, we would travel by cab to Toronto and to our hotel, where we would spend two nights. We could spend a day doing as we wished in Toronto, but that evening we would need to meet our group for a gourmet dinner at the 360’ Restaurant at the top of the CN Tower. The next morning, we would be escorted back to Hamilton, where we would board our C-47 for the flight back to Willow Run. The question came up as to whether or not we should take advantage of this offer. The cost of this adventure was just under $1000/person. It didn’t take us too long to decide to make this dream trip a reality. If you love aviation, you’ll understand our reasoning.
We were a little nervous, because the aircraft can only carry twelve passengers. My brother and I were relieved when we finally received confirmation that we would be among the twelve selected.
I won’t bore you with the minute-by-minute details of the trip, but I do want to share the highlights.
After spending Thursday evening at my brother’s home in Ann Arbor, we both drove to Willow Run early Friday morning. Because I had to hurry back to Three Rivers after our return flight, we figured it would save me an hour, rather than going back to Ann Arbor and leaving from my brother’s house.
We were airborne by around 9:30 AM. We experienced some turbulence and rain, and one of the passengers experienced some ear pain, because the aircraft was not pressurized. We flew at an altitude of around 5000 feet, so we could see some of the great Canadian scenery, whenever there was a break in the clouds. After landing in Hamilton, we were able to stay on the aircraft while Customs came out and cleared us. We had sent copies of our passports prior to the trip, which made things easier.
The Canadian Air Museum was very interesting, if you’re into vintage aircraft from the World War II era. We were able to spend about two hours walking around, but we could have spent a good part of a day taking in all the sights. If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth the time, believe me.
As I mentioned earlier, Saturday was a day to explore Toronto on our own. We decided to use the many trolleys and the subway system. If you want to see the city, this is a perfect way to do so. We decided to take a tour of the Amsterdam Brewery. The tour was free, and we were able to meet some interesting people. I’ve never met a Canadian I didn’t like, and this feeling was reinforced during this visit.
A gourmet dinner 1400 feet in the air doesn’t happen every day. The salmon was delicious, and my dinner companions were interesting. I sat next to the C-47 pilot and flight engineer, so the conversation was lively. I have no idea what my dinner cost, because it was included in the package. I asked our tour guide if they were planning another trip like this one. This is when she told me that this was the first time they had ever done something like this, and they would have to see if it was worth it.
The flight home was just as much fun as the flight over. We landed in Port Huron first, so we could clear U.S. Customs. Clearing customs went well, so we were able to make the final leg of our journey in about thirty minutes.
The trip was well worth the price and spending quality time with my brother was priceless.
See you Out and About!
Submitted by Norm Stutesman