Klingon took over the cockpit




 Klingon took over the cockpit  

 By Matt Kawahara

A Klingon took over the cockpit of a U.S. Air Force aircraft on Saturday afternoon.

OK, the Klingon was really an employee of the Aerospace Museum of California, who had wandered over from the nearby "Star Trek" exhibit.

And the plane was one of more than 20 military and civilian aircraft on display at the museum, their cockpits open for visitors to climb inside, explore and imagine.

For a day at the museum on the former McClellan Air Force Base off Watt Avenue, many lived a piece of their dream behind the controls of an airplane.

By his count, Conor Hilts shot down 10 "bad guys" on Saturday afternoon while at the controls of a Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star.

Judging by the shooting noises emanating from its cockpit while 5-year-old Conor sat inside, at least a few of those battles happened in this particular jet fighter.

The F-80 models were involved in the first jet-vs.-jet combat in the Korean War, according to a placard that stood by it on the museum lot.

When Conor's father, Carl, asked, "How many bad guys did you shoot down today?" Conor held up all 10 fingers.

The dream of Jim Kozick, a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, was to be a fighter pilot. He failed the Air Force eye exam three times and instead joined the Navy.

Sitting in a McDonnell- Douglas F-4C Phantom II on Saturday, Kozick eased the throttles forward and toyed with the pedals and yoke.

"It's a dream that never came true," he said.

At her son's behest, Natalie Mitchell of Rio Linda buckled 3-year-old Ashton into the co-pilot's seat in a Lockheed EC-121D Warning Star.

Ashton likes flying, plays with airplane toys and seems to like it when airplanes show up on TV, Mitchell said. They were at an air show last month, but being able to go inside the airplanes is a new experience, she said.

"And at this age, they're little sponges if you get them into it now," Mitchell said.

Malcolm Torrey, 84 and a museum volunteer watching Ashton have his fun, said he used to be that type of kid. He built airplane models out of paper and balsa wood. He grew up to be part of an Air Force crew on an EC-121.

"I'm glad to see people being interested - and to find out if they are really interested," he said.

Call (916) 643-3192 for the next Open Cockpit Day.


Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/10/17/3110263/military-cockpits-opened-to-visitors.html#ixzz12cV4kj8Z


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