St. John-Hudson students learn some history at the Great Bend Airfest.
It was a big plane but the space inside for pilot and crew was small. That was one of the impressions St. John-Hudson high school students got when they toured the B-29 Doc at the Great Bend Airfest air show on Sept. 28.
There are only two flying B-29s in the world and both were on display at Airfest, said St. John-Hudson teacher Joanna McAlister who accompanied the students on their visit to the air show.
Juniors, freshmen, fifth and sixth graders all made the trip to Great Bend to attend the show. Science teacher Clint Kinnamon took the freshmen to the air show to teach them flight and aerodynamics then went to a drag strip to study cars and their aerodynamics as well.
Social studies teacher Jon Bauer took the juniors for a history lesson about all the air craft and learn some history about WWII.
The fifth and sixth grade students made the trip to the air show just to enjoy the event and see the planes, McAlister said.
The juniors got up close to the aircraft and especially enjoyed getting to see Doc and actually go inside the plan. The other B-29 FiFi was also on display but people only got to go inside Doc.
Students quickly discovered that B-29s were not built for tall people. A couple of the students were over six feet tall and they found it was cramped.
While the plane was big on the outside, students found that the individual space for each crew member was very small and didn’t give them much room to operate, McAlister said.
According to their teachers, the students were very impressed with the aircraft and enjoyed getting to visit with the flight crew. They found out what it takes to fly and maintain a plane that is over 70 years old. Students were photographed next to Doc and inside as well.
Part of the reason the students went to the airshow was to see the variety of the aircraft, see their design and learn the history of the planes. The teachers impressed on the students that they were seeing the only two surviving flying B-29s in the world and they were together in Kansas at the Great Bend air show.
“We wanted the students to get a bigger appreciation of history,” McAlister said.
As part of their activities the freshmen also got to try out a flight simulator. Everyone got to see and explore other displays of military equipment including a tank and amphibious equipment.
While the students had a good time exploring the aircraft, the teachers had a good time too and were just as excited. And that was an important part of why the students enjoyed the air show.
“When a teacher expresses excitement about history, students get excited as well,” McAlister said.
Because of weather, there was no flying the day the St. John-Hudson students visited the air show.
Low-hanging clouds and strong winds kept most planes grounded, though a helicopter was able to give rides to paying customers throughout the day.
Besides the B-29s, the air show featured other World War II era aircraft, later era aircraft plus some current aircraft including a Black Hawk Helicopter. A World War II motor cycle belonging to a Barton County farmer was on display and there were re-enactors dressed in authentic style and some cases true authentic clothing from WWII. A display of WWII weaponry caught the attention of some. A special treat as the show was a woman who actually helped put the rivets in Doc, one of the Rosie The Riveters that helped make the B-29 program a success.