Vintage planes on site at Aviation Heritage Park

BOWLING GREEN, Ky-Over the weekend, residents in south central Kentucky had a chance to step back in time to see some of the planes used in military missions of the United States in years past and hear some of the stories that went along with those planes.

NASA astronaut Terry Wilcutt, originally from Russellville,  joined retired Brigadier General Dan Cherry and retired Colonel Arnie Franklin for the Saturday Open Cockpit Day bringing together every living Aviation Heritage Park pilot represented at the park with their respective aircraft. Visitors could take a few steps up ladders and get a view inside the airplanes and helicopters once used by the military.

Wilcutt touched down briefly at the park to share his stories from  his more than 1,000 hours of spaceflight. He is a graduate of Western Kentucky University and is the current Chief of Safety and Mission Assurance at NASA.

The purpose of the park is not to replace history books but rather to make the lessons from textbooks come alive and to add facts through real-life experiences to those history lessons.

Retired Air Force General Dan Cherry says each plane has a story about the men and women who flew the planes and beyond providing a history lesson, he’s hopeful students gain an appreciation for aviation. Maybe enough of an appreciation to make it a career.

And although the weather cooperated perfectly with today’s event, the eventual goal is to have an indoor museum. Building a museum would require additional community support. But Jones thinks the aviation heritage park is in just the right locale to grow into something bigger based on the level of support residents have shown the park so far.