Both of my kids are infatuated with airplanes. They love the Disney movie “Planes” and “Planes: Fire & Rescue.” We have frequented the Observation Gallery at BWI airport many times and enjoyed a visit to the College Park Aviation Museum. Recently, I saw an event called “Open Cockpit Day” at the Glen L. Martin Aviation Museum at Martin State Airport in Middle River, and figured the boys would love it. A day where my little plane enthusiasts could actually climb into these massive jets? Count me in!
But then I made a rookie mom mistake. I went there completely uninformed. There wasn’t much information on the Facebook event page or the museum’s website, so that should have been a red flag. I should have called ahead to ask questions. But I didn’t.
I did remember to pack a big lunch for us, but then left it in the van when we arrived. I assumed we would eat it on the drive home. The event was scheduled from 11 a.m – 2 p.m. and though we arrived right at 11, there was already a small line outside the front door. Another red flag. But I didn’t think much of it, just grabbed the kids and got in line.
We inched along for almost an hour just to get inside and pay the museum fees, and were then told to go into another room for a “safety briefing.” The poor volunteer was trying to yell over the hum of whining children and exasperated parents. After our briefing, everyone was expected to sign a waiver, but there were only a few clipboards available and probably 30 people all trying to sign at once while wrangling their kids. Chaos. But apparently the signed form was our ticket to board a bus that would shuttle us to an airstrip nearby where the planes were. This was all news to me. I looked around at the many mothers with young infants and loaded up strollers and wondered if this was news to them also.
Since it had now been over an hour since we arrived, my kids were hungry and had to use the restroom. After the potty break and a quick trip to the van, where I retrieved our lunches, we got into yet another line for the bus, which was quite long by this point. We waited another 45 minutes or so and were all getting very tired as it was now officially my 2-year-old’s nap-time. Finally the bus arrived and after a 5-minute drive to the airstrip, which is closed to the public, we arrived where the planes were all lined up. The kids “oohing” and “ahhing” as we drove onto the airstrip was priceless.
We spent about an hour climbing up into various aircrafts including fighters, bombers, a helicopter and a 1950’s-era airliner. Again there were more lines, but they moved pretty quickly as friendly volunteer veterans helped kids in and out of the pilot seats. It was a little nerve-wracking at times keeping my two boys steady on the metal staircases and walkways leading up to the tall planes, but they loved it. It’s like the two hours of waiting had never even happened. I enjoyed talking with some of the veterans about the planes and their experiences. The boys loved being able to push buttons and pretend to “shoot down the bad guys.”
During our hour at the airstrip the shuttle bus only came back twice. We made sure catch the second bus.
I heard many families complaining and saw lots of posts on their Facebook page about how long the lines were. I overheard some volunteers saying that the April “Open Cockpit Day” had been rained out, and that explained the crowds. According to the website, over 500 people attended that day.
Unfortunately my kids had an awesome time, which means I will probably end up going again.
“Open Cockpit Days” are scheduled once a month during the summer, weather permitting. The cost is $5 for adults and $1 for children. The museum is located at Martin State Airport Hangar 5, Suite 531, 701 Wilson Point Road in Middle River.
I would highly recommend checking the Martin State Airport website or calling ahead to confirm upcoming events. Next time, I’ll be sure to pack lots of food, another adult to help and plan to arrive at least a half hour before it starts to try and be first in line.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 4-year-old James and 2-year-old Luke.