American history and breathtaking San Diego views with a side of adrenaline - That's what you get with the "Fly a Warbird" tour from Air Group One in San Diego. And, you can feel good about spending a little money on this awesome San Diego flight because all proceeds go to charity! I was lucky enough to experience flying in the beautiful SNJ-5 WWII Warbird named "Sassy" and it was something I'll never forget.
A fan of everything 1940's, I've always been intrigued by life during WWII. It was a time of heartache and tragedy as well as heroism, bravery, impeccable style and the romance of war torn passion. A time when in-home TVs were rare and movies were in black and white starring the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracey. The popular dance, The Lindy Hop was gaining popularity and homes were filled with the sounds of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. It seems like a world away, but folks can get a taste of this vibrant time with a birds-eye view tour of San Diego from inside a vintage WWII Warbird --
As I arrived at the hangar for my flight, I was quickly greeted by a friendly and knowledgeable crew and my pilot, Mr. Erich Moulder. He was decked out in authentic vintage gear including a leather flight helmet and made me feel like I was taking a step back in time. As I caught site of "Sassy", the stunning SNJ-5 WWII Warbird I would be soaring over the city in, my heart skipped a beat. I felt like I was in a scene from the movie Pearl Harbor, about to be whisked off my feet by a little bit of history.
I clumsily climbed into the back of this two-person training plane and was strapped into my seat. Once I was situated, headphones on, I was able to communicate with the pilot as we began taxiing down the runway. The rumble of the engine was intoxicating and I started to feel a bit jittery thinking about this over 80-year-old plane lifting me up into the sky. I knew I was with a seasoned pilot and felt reassured as he explained in detail the process of getting this vintage plane in the air. We began to pick up speed down the runway and before I knew it, my stomach dropped and we were flying, soaring over the foothills of San Diego.
We flew over the local college and Pilot Moulder pointed out familiar landmarks as we headed west. Then we saw it - a crystal clear view of downtown San Diego including the San Diego Bay in it's entirety, elegant Coronado Bridge, never-ending Pacific Ocean and the elusive Coronado Islands. We dipped down over Mission Bay and out to the coastline of Pacific Beach, taking a sharp left over Crystal Pier. We were close enough to watch the waves crash and see surfers paddling in the water below. The view was unbelievable. We cruised all the way down the coast of Point Loma and through the San Diego Bay catching glimpses of the USS Midway, Naval Air Station North Island and Cabrillo National Monument, all the while my pilot shared interesting historical facts about San Diego and it’s vast military history.
I have never experienced San Diego this way before. Seeing it from the air gave me an entirely new perspective on the city I love so much. We were literally making it's rolling hills and jagged coastline our own aviator's playground as we sailed through the sky.
Once we landed and the flight was over, I realized there wasn't a moment of the tour that I wasn't smiling and was so caught up in the moment that all fear was forgotten. I now have an overwhelming love for this classic vintage plane and wish I could go back and take her out again. I have been on every kind of tour imaginable in San Diego from harbor cruises to kayaking La Jolla and I can safely say "Fly a Warbird" is the best tour I've been on - hands down.
Air Group One is the San Diego Wing of the Commemorative Air Force based at Gillespie Field. As a huge military hub, San Diego has one of the fastest growing Commemorative Air Force groups in the nation and as it continues to grow, it needs the help and support of the public. It's a non-profit organization that survives solely on it's incredible volunteers and generous contributions. This is what makes the "Fly a Warbird" tour so special. It's not only an incredible opportunity to experience a unique and inspiring piece of WWII history, but all proceeds go toward the maintenance of vintage airplanes, support of veterans, education of youth and eventual construction of a new museum and hangar. "Fly a Warbird" tours and gift certificates are available through the Air Group One website and could be considered a charitable donation and tax write-off. If you're interested in getting more involved, Air Group One also hosts great events like AirShow San Diego (formerly known as Wings Over Gillespie) and they are always on the lookout for new volunteers.
To learn more or book a tour visit http://ag1caf.org/fly-warbird/
Or, call 619.259.5541