In 2019, the Air Zoo celebrates four decades of flight and family; people, planes, and programs; spacecraft and science; education and exhibitions! They may have opened their doors in November of 1979, but visitors will get the chance to celebrate the 40th Anniversary all year long in 2019! Exciting exhibits, public and VIP events, fly-ins, open houses, special visitors, symposiums, and ice cream challenges are just a handful of the inspiring opportunities this year will bring.
Memories & Milestones: 40 Years of the Air Zoo
The celebration began earlier this month with the debut of an Air Zoo exclusive exhibit appropriately named Memories & Milestones: 40 Years of the Air Zoo. Visitors can “flip” through forty years, decade by decade, of Air Zoo scrapbooks featuring some monumental moments, including the first admission tickets, an array of vintage photographs and artifacts that brought the Air Zoo to life. The exhibit celebrates the Air Zoo’s continued commitment to its community, and highlights accomplishments in aviation, aircraft restoration, science education, innovation and aerospace artifact acquisition. The Air Zoo invites guests to share their own stories and memories of the Air Zoo – from their favorite artifacts to their most cherished memories – with other visitors as they post messages in an interactive portion of the exhibit.
“This exhibit reveals the Air Zoo’s strong foundation and remarkable growth. Our community will truly appreciate and identify with many facets of our incredible story. I am more excited to be a part of the upcoming decades than ever before”, shares Air Zoo President & CEO, Troy Thrash.
D-Day 75: En Route by Plane and Parachute
The Allied invasion of northern France on June 6, 1944—the largest seaborne invasion in world history—required air power and air defense for success. As America reflects on the 75th anniversary of D-Day this year, the Air Zoo presents an exhibition which explores the invasion through the lens of all things air in a special exhibit that will open to the public on Thursday, May 30th.
Visitors will see D-Day through the eyes of POWs, glider pilot Darlyle Watters and paratrooper George Rosie, and through artifacts from the Air Zoo’s collection, including aircraft in the Flight Innovation Center, such as the P-47 Thunderbolt, C-47 Skytrain, and WACO CG-4A. Local and Michigan-based companies who supported air power and defense will be featured, such as Gibson Guitars. Visitors will leave aware of how essential pilots, planes, and parachutes were to Allied success. In conjunction with opening weekend, visitors will also have the opportunity to see the Yankee Air Museum’s pristineBoeing B-17G Yankee Lady. Tours of and rides on this World War II aircraft will be available onsite through the Yankee Air Museum. To schedule a flight on the Yankee Lady, visit yankeeairmuseum.org/fly.
The Apollo 11 moon landing, which put the first humans on the moon on July 20, 1969, not only made history but also served as a moment shared by a nation. Today, many Midwesterners recall enthusiastically tuning in as NASA broadcast the lunar module, the Eagle, as it came in for a landing (hence, “The Eagle has landed!”). To celebrate 50 years since that cosmically cool lunar adventure, the Air Zoo is excited to recreate that nationally-shared public memory with an exhibit depicting a typical suburban living room plucked right out of the summer of ‘69! Visitors can relax on the sofa with their family and watch the moon landing broadcast on a console TV. Guests will explore the Apollo 11 story inside and outside the immersive living room. Find out about the teamwork it took to put to people on the moon and learn more about the ways the space program impacted American life in the late 1960s and how it shaped the technologies we know today. You can even get up-close-and-personal with a piece of basalt brought back from the moon! The exhibit will debut on Wednesday, July 10th.
2nd Annual National Aviation Day Open House
On Sunday, August 18th, in honor of National Aviation Day, the Air Zoo’s Flight Discovery Center (Milham Rd.) will be open to the public at no charge, from noon to 5pm. There will be activities the whole family will enjoy! The Air Zoo will observe normal general admission at the Flight Innovation Center on Portage Rd.
National Aviation Day activities at the Flight Discovery Center
• Enjoy family activities and refreshments (while supplies last)
• Observe fly-in aircraft and mingle with pilots and enthusiasts
• Get involved with our WWII aircraft restoration programs
• Explore engines, planes, cockpits and more!
• Licensed pilots will receive 50% OFF general admission to the Flight Innovation Center (main building). Pilot discount applies to Flight Innovation Center on Sunday, August 18th only. Veterans, active military, police officers and firefighters always receive 50% off general admission at the Air Zoo!
Fly-in for the 40th
Join the Air Zoo as it returns to its roots and hosts an authentic fly-in weekend! Guests will meet pilots and experience an open house of flyable aircraft. The Air Zoo is recruiting both classic and modern aircraft to appeal to all enthusiasts including the Yankee Air Museum’s visiting B-25D Mitchell Bomber! The event will span Saturday and Sunday, September 14th and 15th at the Air Zoo’s iconic Flight Discovery Center. Anyone interested in flying in their aircraft for display can call 269-350-2812 for more information.
Ice Cream Challenge
Introducing a scientific look into your favorite creamy cold delight – ice cream!!
The Air Zoo is calling all fans of frozen treats to their first ever Ice Cream Challenge to be held Saturday, October 26th! Join friends and family and test original flavors developed by area select businesses, all vying for your top vote! Through safe science practices, competing organizations will freeze their one-of-a-kind ice cream concoction onsite with liquid nitrogen, resulting in the creamiest frozen goodness ever tasted! Unlimited tastes are included in the price of admission – YUM.
SR-71 Spy-posium: Blackbird Revealed
As if having the world’s only Lockheed SR-71B wasn’t cool enough…. the Air Zoo is over-the-moon excited to announce an all-weekend event centered around this incredible machine, the “Blackbird.” Distinguished guests, including several of the men that flew this very aircraft to train pilots for strategic reconnaissance missions during the height of the Cold War, will be on-site to share stories, answer questions and… wait for it… tour the cockpit! Event schedule and ticketing will be available soon. Interested persons should keep an eye on the Air Zoo calendar as well as social media platforms for more information on this event that celebrates the fastest aircraft ever flown!
Big Birthday Bash!
Talk about a lengthy birthday celebration – As if all the exhibits and events thus far weren’t enough, the Air Zoo is pumped to offer the community a fun-filled birthday weekend from Friday, November 15th through Monday, November 18th as they celebrate 40 years of open hangar doors in southwest Michigan! Ace party planners are hard at work on all the details to feature activities special to both interactive flight center facilities, including (but definitely not limited to) a Saturday night party including music, dancing, desserts and cash bar; a members-only Rise-N-Shine Breakfast event; and an interactive Cake Chat consisting of a panel of past and present Air Zoo “historians.” Save the date (all four of them) and keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and airzoo.org for more information!
As you can see, this year boasts kilotons of activities and unique experiences for guests, partners and supporters of the Air Zoo. More information on these events, exhibits and educational opportunities can be found at airzoo.org or by calling 269.382.6555.
Waldo Wright’s Flying Service returns for the summer!
Beginning early May (weather permitting), the Air Zoo and Waldo Wright’s Flying Service will partner once again to offer guests unique, once-in-a-lifetime, barnstorming flight experiences! Waldo’s open-cockpit New Standard D-25 biplane seats four and is open to all ages. New Standard D-25 flights run $69.95/person (plus tax and fuel surcharge) for a 15-minute flight experience
Reservations accepted for 2 or more passengers; no aerobatics.
For those with dreams of piloting a vintage biplane, Waldo’s Stearman experience will make their dreams a reality! New pilots will participate in 6-8 introductory maneuvers of WWII cadet training and take the controls as they zip across the sky with Waldo! Flights run $229 plus tax and fuel surcharge – guests will experience a 30-minute hands-on flight; again, no aerobatics. Reservations required.
Yankee Air Museum visits the Air Zoo with Three WWII Aircraft
May 31st– June 2nd – The Yankee Air Museum will offer Air Adventures on board the pristine Boeing B-17G Yankee Lady for $450.00 per person during its appearance at the Air Zoo. These 25-minute rides provide a person with a multi-sensory, immersive experience in the type of World War II aircraft commonly called a Flying Fortress.
The Air Adventure begins with a briefing and then you take your station. The authenticity of this craft is spellbinding. After taxiing and takeoff, you will have 25 minutes in the air. Upon reaching a cruising speed of 150mph at an altitude of 1200 feet you are able to move to other positions in the Fort, including the Plexiglas nose, flight deck, bomb bay, radio room and waist gunnery section.
As your mission ends you’ll better know the courage of the sky men who flew vast armadas of these majestic aircraft, who commanded the clouds and rode on thunder, and you too will step off exclaiming “that was amazing!” Visitors can also purchase tours of this mighty plane for $8/adult and just $3/per child age 6-15. To schedule a flight on the Yankee Lady, visit yankeeairmuseum.org/fly.
August 10th – For one day only, the Yankee Air Museum will be visiting Kalamazoo with their C-47 Hairless Joe, formerly known as Yankee Doodle Dandy. Based at historic Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan, this plane pays homage to the heroic crews operating in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater of World War II and especially the 1st Air Commando Group.
The Yankee Air Museum will be operating and offering Air Adventure Rides at the Air Zoo. C-47 flights ($195/person) will give riders an exciting sightseeing experience over some of Kalamazoo’s most interesting and familiar areas. After boarding, taxiing and leveling off at a comfortable 1200’ altitude, the C-47 riders will be able to move about the cabin, visit the cockpit and enjoy all the views. Fly the pattern flight also available for $95/person. Tours of the C-47 are $5 per adult and just $3 for children age 6-15. To schedule a flight on Hairless Joe, visit yankeeairmuseum.org/fly.
September 14 (Fly-in for the 40th event) – Fly in the historic B-25 Bomber that has seen combat! The Yankee Air Museum’s beautiful and rare B-25D Mitchell Bomber is coming to the Air Zoo.
Guests can satisfy the anticipation of approaching this muscular aircraft, saluting its crew, boarding and buckling in as the twin Wright Cyclone radial engines roar to life. With only a fraction of its awesome power this efficient medium bomber, designed for close air support, strafing and pinpoint bombing begins to taxi. Completing a pre-flight checklist and run-up of the engines to maximum power, the pilots release the beast consuming you with sound and accelerating g-forces. This hot rod of a bomber leaps into the air and within moments you’ve reached your cruising altitude and can enjoy the view of the terrain below for $400/person. Tours of the B-25 will not be available on this visit. To schedule a flight on the Yankee Warrior, visit yankeeairmuseum.org/fly.
About the Air Zoo
Located at 6151 Portage Rd., Portage, MI 49002, the Air Zoo is a Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace & science experience with over 100 rare air & space craft, inspiring interactive exhibits, indoor amusement park rides, full-motion flight simulators, hands-on science-based education programs, and more. The Air Zoo is a not-for-profit organization and is open 360+ days per year. For hours, tickets and info, visit airzoo.org.
About Waldo Wright’s Flying Service
What started in 1995 with the dream of restoring two New Standard biplanes to recapture the “Golden Age of Aviation” has grown into America’s largest vintage biplane ride company offering rides in their open cockpit New Standard D-25 biplane. They also offer a hands-on-approach of their legendary Boeing Stearman, the primary trainer of WWII, to guests that have dreamt of piloting a vintage biplane. Rides are available May-September, weather permitting. [period] Rates can be found at waldowrights.com.
About the Yankee Air Museum
The Yankee Air Museum, founded in 1981 and located at Historic Willow Run, quickly grew when it acquired its flyable aircraft, B-17 Flying Fortress, B-25 Mitchell Bomber, and C-47 Skytrain, offering the public the chance to fly in some of America’s most iconic aircraft. In 2013, the Museum purchased a portion of the historic Willow Run Bomber Plant where B-24 Liberators were built during WWII. This would create a new, permanent home for the Museum, its exhibits, educational programs as well as its flyable and static aircraft. The Yankee Air Museum is rapidly growing and constantly producing new exhibits, educational activities, and exciting experiences for the public. Plan your visit today at yankeeairmuseum.org.