Flight museum offers a ride to the past

Galveston features a number of attractive features for travelers. In the Texas island town over the weekend for the US debut of Carnival Cruise Lines new Carnival Magic, Gadling got to sample a few of them. One that stands out as a must-do for aviation buffs is the Lone Star Flight Museum. This rare collection of restored war aircraft ranks as one of the finest and most rare in the world. Uniquely, many of the museum’s historic aircraft still fly today and were flying while we were there.

Tours of the museum that can take as little as a hour ($10 per person) for the “just curious” or far longer (and far $more) for “this is my dream come true” aviation fanatics. That later group might enjoy a ride in one of these “warbirds” and for them, the price may be well worth every penny.

The B-17 Flying Fortress ($425 per person with group rates) was flying while we were there and was an Army Air Corps heavy-duty bomber in World War II. The four-engine aircraft flew strategic bombing missions over Europe armed with .50 caliber machine guns and five thousand pounds of bombs. 13,000 B-17’s were produced over the course of the war, of which only 13 still are airworthy today. The aircraft flew around Galveston Island while we were there, offering a birds-eye view and perspective not possible driving in from Houston. The Flight Museum’s B-17 is painted in the colors of ‘Thunderbird’, an aircraft with the 303rd bomb group which flew 116 missions during World War II.

Another prize of the collection, the B-25 Mitchell was a versatile medium-duty bomber which flew in both the Pacific and European Theaters during World War II. The Flight Museum’s B-25 was the official aircraft of the Doolittle Raiders. It honors the 80 brave men who flew 16 land-based B-25s off the USS Hornet in the first raid against the Japanese on their own soil. A ride on this one runs $375 per person with group rates.

Probably one of the best parts of a visit to the museum is the walking tour led by aviators who have flown these aircraft and offer a unique perspective on their contribution to the wars they were used in.

“The logistics of even being able to fly these aircraft in a European war are staggering” said Larry Gregory who heads the museum. “Some of these burn 200 gallons of fuel an hour, would fly four hour missions, and thousands of them could be in the air at any one time, all very far from the United States. Getting them there, keeping them repaired and loaded with fuel and ammunition was an immense job, a tribute to American ingenuity and one of the main reasons the US prevailed.”

The internationally recognized Lone Star Flight Museum contains an award winning flying collection of over 40 historically significant aircraft that also includes a P-47 Thunderbolt, F4U Corsair, F6F Hellcat, Spitfire and Hurricane.

Photo: Chris Owen