PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - Aviation enthusiasts won't want to miss History Flight's Barnstormer Tour, part of the 4th Annual Warbird Weekend.
The event lands at the Punta Gorda Airport today and takes travelers back in time aboard actual World War II fighters. "It's not plastic airplanes, this is real aluminum and rivets," said John Makinson.Makinson and his AT-6 Texan are time travelers.
He is the chief pilot for History Flight, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the past and bringing lost servicemen home. "It's giving the families closure and honoring the people who fought and died to give us the freedoms we enjoy today," he said.
And that's why Makinson is putting this antique plane through its paces high above Punta Gorda.
"We give the general public and chance to experience what it's like to be in a real WWII airplane, to actually get to fly it, do some aerobatics, and combat maneuvers," Makinsonstated.
But it's not all barrel rolls, dives and loops.
This weekend, History Flight and Florida Warbird Squadron 24 are teaming up to bring history alive and raise money for organizations like Wounded Warrior Project and Veteran's Airlift Command.
"Our purpose is to preserve the memory of the veterans who've sacrificed so much for our freedoms. They [History Flight] also wants to restore and maintain and respect the image of the old planes and remember them and the sacrifices that our vets made. It's a perfect match," said Jim Olzacki, President of Florida Warbird Squadron 24.
"Airplanes are real and they're alive and they like to fly. Something in a museum sitting there static is on display, but when you come to an airport, you got the smoke, the sounds, the smells," said Makinson.
To date, History Flight teams have located the remains of over 200 servicemen missing in action.