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History in Flight: WWII AirPower Expo 2016

The WWII AirPower Expo displays various 1940s warbirds and allows the public to interact with the men who flew them.

Planes at The National WWII Museum. (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

One of the country’s great assemblages of artifacts from a most critical juncture in American and world history, the National WWII II Museum is a not-to-be-missed experience right here in New Orleans for locals and tourists alike. What makes the museum just so important is how it is a truly living and expanding archive: the museum continues to grow and find new and innovative means in which to represent the past, whether through the iconic 4-D event Beyond All Boundariesthe various live shows at BB’s Stage Door Canteen, the Campaigns of Courage exhibitions, or the lectures, book clubs, and film screenings provided through the museum’s Public Programming.

national wwii museum planes
The National World War II Museum hosts the AirPower Expo 2016 on Nov. 4-6. (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

The National WWII Museum continues in its mission to both explore and broaden our understanding of this global war through the WWII AirPower Expo 2016, a three-day event at New Orleans Lakefront Airport from November 4-6 that displays the various 1940s warbirds and allows the public to interact with the men who flew them. The National WWII Museum has partnered with the Commemorative Air Force and the New Orleans Sports Foundation to create a comprehensive and electrifying extravaganza: along with aircraft tours and WWII-era entertainment, there will be aerial demonstrations by different planes. The result is a rare and tremendous opportunity to witness the intersection of war history and the spectacle of flight.

But it’s not just warplanes: New to this year’s expo is the Boot Camp, where there are individual courses for both children and adults to replicate one aspect of a young soldier’s routine. The expo’s schedule is packed with events—including a number of incredible showcases—that draw on the deep well of resources from the National WWII Museum and beyond. The showcases are divided into two categories, Aircraft and WWII Vehicles and Artifacts, and occur throughout the three days.

The air show is a rare and tremendous opportunity to witness the intersection of war history and the spectacle of flight.

FIFI in flight last year. (Photo Courtesy: WWII)

WWII AirPower Expo 2016

Some of the showcase events include:

  • The “Stuart Tank and M3 Half-Track,” where visitors can both watch the tanks operate while being provided information about their various features and weapons
  • The “Atomic Mission,” which allows viewers to see “FIFI,” one of only two airworthy B-29 Superfortresses left in the world, take to the sky (after B-29/B-24 Squadron General Manager Brad Pilgrim, a U.S. Air Force veteran, provides a detailed history of this seminal aircraft)
  • The “Mustang Fighters,” a celebration of the P-51 Mustang, a warbird which, due to new drop tanks and extended range, allowed the Allied forces to delve deeper into Germany and provide cover for the bombers. This showcase will have the P-51s Gunfighter and Charlotte’s Chariot swoop out over the Lakefront Airport.
  • The “Pearl Harbor 75th Anniversary,” featuring the Tora ValTora Kate, and Tora Zero—three replicas of the infamous Japanese aircraft that were central to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent awakening of the American sleeping giant and her industrial powers.

As well as keeping your eyes to the skies, the Expo asks you to come Inside the Hangar, where the sights and sounds of 1940s wartime America are reimagined by the National WWII Museum’s very own Victory Belles. Along with these stage performances in the James Wedell Hangar, inside there is also the Peoples Health Veterans Tent, where expo attendees can meet and interact with WWII veterans, who will also take to the stage to be interviewed and tell their personal stories of WWII. In true New orleans fashion, the hangar also has great food and drinks provided by Messina’s.

A look inside the new "Road to Tokyo" exhibit. (Photo courtesy of The National World War II Museum)
A look inside the “Road to Tokyo” exhibit. (Photo courtesy of The National World War II Museum)

While there are general admission tickets available at the gate every day—available in advance through the museum’s ticketing website—as well as all-access passes, there are also limited tickets offered by the Commemorative Air Force for those who’d like to fly on one of the planes. Prices vary from aircraft to aircraft for this experience, but by visiting the CAF’s website you can review your options to feel the power and hear the sounds of these historic machines.

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