By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE — World War II buffs and those interested in the history of military aircraft have only a few days left to tour the “Spirit of Freedom,” a C-54 Skymaster parked at the Penn Valley Airport.
The Skymaster, a flying museum, is part of the Berlin Aircraft Historical Foundation fleet and was a corridor airplane during the Berlin airlift, beginning about 1948, said Dave Hall, Penn Valley Airport’s director of operations.
At the end of WWII, a defeated Germany was divided among the victors, the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France. The Soviet Union took control of the eastern half of Germany, the Western half was divided among the U.S., Great Britain and France. Like the rest of the country, the capital city of Berlin, sitting dead in the middle of the Soviet-controlled eastern half, also was divided into four parts, one half being Soviet controlled and the rest divided among the others. A four-power provisional government, called the Allied Control Council, was installed in Berlin.
“When the Soviet Union blockaded the allies from delivering supplies by trucks and trains, the only way to get supplies into the city was by airlift. This plane was part of that massive mission,” Hall said.
One of the most poignant stories is how this airplane became known as the Chocolate flier.
“The plane’s commander, on his approach to Berlin, dropped some chocolate bars attached to makeshift handkerchief parachutes to children waiting below,” Hall said. All of that is documented inside the plane’s fuselage, the museum part of the aircraft.
The Skymaster is available for guided tours for the next few days, Hall said. “After that, the plane will be participating in an air show in New Jersey this weekend.”
The plane is 94 feet long and 27 feet high with a wingspan of 117 feet.
There is no cost for the tours, but donations are accepted.
“If you come by between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., we’ll try to accommodate you,” Hall said.
But the tour is not for everyone. The only way into the plane is a steep stepladder.