Alaska has quite a number of warbirds that still earn their keep carrying freight and passengers. If you spend a few days around Alaskan airports, you’ll hear and see retired military transports such as Douglas C-118 Liftmasters (DC-6), C-47/R4D/C-117 Skytrains (DC-3), DHC U-6/L-20 Beavers, and even the odd Curtiss C-46 Commando. Imagine my surprise though when I drove by the ramp at Anchorage’s Merrill Field and spied a few trainers and even a fighter in the distance.
Honestly, the first airplane that caught my attention wasn’t a warbird at all, but a bright orange, rather ungainly-looking monoplane – Alaska Air Museum’s American Airplane and Engine Pilgrim 100B, still wearing its original NC709Y registration. After hastily (and carefully, I might add…) reversing course, I pulled into a parking lot and there sat a number of warbirds near the Pilgrim; a pair of silver T-6s, a yellow Harvard, and – wait – was that a Zero replica? Looking closer, I was amazed to gaze upon an actual Mitsubishi Zero. As I walked up to the chain link fence, a pilot driving through an exit gate mentioned that I could probably get on the ramp for photos if I asked someone inside the adjacent hangar. And so I did, and the door opened for me to the Wings of Freedom Alaska Flying Museum.