I’ll admit it: I don’t really like flying all that much. Take-offs make my palms sweaty; turbulence, even the gentle sort, causes me to reach for a rosary and say a few Hail Marys. But when I started dating a guy who’s getting his private pilot’s license, I realized I was going to have to set those fears aside and, y’know, learn to like it.
Boy, am I glad that I did. Otherwise, I would’ve missed out on this absolutely awesome aerial scavenger hunt that ended at (wait for it) an old WWII flight training camp in the middle-of-nowhere California.
The event, called an “Air Rally,” was sponsored by the flight school that my boyfriend attends. There were 9 groups participating, and each one group received a list of clues, similar to the one pictured below: “Locate the bridge at the indicated coordinates. Determine which of the following images most closely resembles the bridge design.” From there, we followed yet another clue to get to the next destination, and so on, and so forth.
One of the biggest challenges of an air rally is navigation. Because we didn’t know exactly where we were going before we took off, routes had to be created while we were in the air, drawing on the clues that we were given. Crazy, right?
Thankfully, the plane was piloted by a couple of very talented guys (my boyfriend and his best friend, who owns the plane), so I wasn’t *too* worried about my safety. 😀
Still… I was pretty glad when we reached our destination. And boy, what an awesome place it was!
The final destination was a big secret, so we were all pretty shocked when we found ourselves landing on a dusty field in Firebaugh, CA, located in Fresno County. Our location? Eagle Field, a decommissioned Army Air Force base that operated during World War II. There, 5000 pilots were trained between 1942-1944 to serve in all theaters of war.
Eagle Field went up for private auction in the 1980s, and was purchased by a man who is pretty passionate about keeping history alive. As a result, there’s an impressive collection of vintage aircraft, cars, tanks, and trucks. My favorites? The trucks left over from when Steven Spielberg used the location to film scenes from INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.
Eagle Field also plays host to a number of interesting events, including drag races and a yearly 1940s themed dance, which is held in the old plane hangar. The dance sounds like an amazing experience: everyone dresses up in vintage outfits and dances the night away while a big band plays old ’40s hits. It’s definitely on my list of things to do next year.
In addition to the air field and car collection, there’s also a museum with a ton of memorabilia from the war, including old uniforms, posters, photographs, and maps. The photo gallery below showcases a few of the highlights.
For more information on the history of Eagle Field, along with more pictures, check out the official website.