Misawa city's aviation museum soaring high

6 Wayne Specht/Stars and Stripes Aug. 8, 2003 Sensation of weightlessness is experienced by a visitor riding a special weight and balance seat allowing riders to soar above a carpeted floor at the Misawa Aviation and Science Museum.


By WAYNE SPECHT | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 12, 2003

MISAWA, Japan — Doors to the cavernous Misawa Aviation and Science Museum opened to the public Friday, showcasing the contributions to flight by Misawa and Aomori prefecture.

A bevy of politicians, led by Aomori Gov. Shingo Mimura, snipped the grand-opening ribbon on the $61.8 million structure housing full-size aircraft and dozens of interactive educational exhibits.

Displayed in the 117,000-square-foot building is a replica of Miss Veedol, a single-engine Bellanca aircraft that made the first trans-Pacific flight from Misawa’s Sabishiro beach in 1931.

It ended 41 hours later in Wenatchee, Wash.

Interactive educational exhibits on the principles of flight are grouped on the museum’s second-floor terrace. They include a display that uses smoke to demonstrate how tornadoes are formed.

Children and adults can take the controls of airplane and helicopter simulators that provide as-real-as-it-gets thrills, ride a chair demonstrating the moon’s weightlessness or float on a 26-foot column of air in the vertical wind tunnel.

Strapped to a device that creates sensations of inertia thrilled 8-year-old Joshua Canfield.

“I felt weird,” he said.

“I hated being upside down, it felt like I was going to fall off the end of the world,” Joshua’s brother, Derrick, 12, said after he experienced the ride.

Tech. Sgt. Mike Sibley, the historian at Misawa Air Base who home-schools his children, Robert and Carly, called the museum “pretty impressive.”

“It reminds me of the Smithsonian in Washington, where kids have a lot of hands-on things to do,” he said. “This museum is very educational.”

A three-story observation tower provides photographers unobstructed views of aircraft taking off from adjacent Misawa Air Base.

Housed in the museum’s east wing are an aviation library, gift shop and small restaurant, and there are several indoor and outdoor playgrounds for children.

Museum admission fees are 500 yen ($4.35) for adults, 300 yen ($2.60) for children ages 15-18, and free for children 15 and under.

Regular museum hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except Monday. If a Japanese holiday falls on a Monday, the museum will be closed the next day.

However, officials said the museum will be open on Mondays only during August because of the summer school break.

A replica of Miss Veedol, a single-engine Bellanca aircraft flown in 1931 by Hugh Herdon and Clyde Pangborn on the first trans-Pacific flight between Misawa and Wenatchee, Wash. is displayed inside a wooden hangar at the Misawa Aviation and Science Museum that opened Friday.

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