JANESVILLE—Museums offer memorable ways for people to learn about history.

Visitors can walk through displays and see pieces of history firsthand, perhaps gaining a more thorough understanding of what actually occurred than they might by flipping through the pages of a textbook or by surfing the Internet.

An upcoming celebration of American aviation history, however, plans to take that learning one step further.

Janesville Warbird Weekend returns July 19-21 to the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport. The event, coordinated by the Commemorative Air Force based in Texas, will feature an up-close look at planes mostly from the World War II era.

“They’re not just museum pieces you look at from a distance,” said Jacques Robitaille, public information officer for the Commemorative Air Force.

Those attending the event can get a look at the planes through ground tours, Robitaille said, and plane rides will be offered throughout the weekend.

“You can touch them and get inside them and really get a much better sense of how brave the men and women that flew these machines must have been,” he said.

Janesville Warbird Weekend offers a local spin on the annual Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture, a large aviation show that runs July 22-28 in Oshkosh. The CAF stops in Janesville on its way to the Oshkosh show.

The CAF is the world’s largest flying museum, according to the group’s website, and features an estimated 170 airplanes from the World War II era. The CAF was started as a nonprofit by former pilots who wanted to prevent historic aircraft from being destroyed.

Event coordinator Pete Buffington of Stoughton said he expects about 24 different planes at the event.

“The really cool thing is that there’s probably no time in history where all these different types of warbirds gathered in one place. It’s almost unheard of,” he said.

The weekend also will feature World War II reenactors, vehicles, food, a Beechcraft flyover and a visit from author Steve Snyder, who wrote “Shot Down,” a novel based on World War II.

A 1940s-themed hangar party, Swing & Wings, will take place from 7-10 p.m. Saturday. About three hours before the party, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s twin-engine Air Force One, a 1955 Aero Commander L-26B nicknamed “Ike’s Bird,” will arrive and go on display until it leaves at noon Sunday.

Other planes that will be on dispaly also have plenty of historic value, Buffington said. For instance, a B-29 Superfortress first flown in 1942 was used in Japan during World War II and the Korean War. The plane visiting Janesville is one of only two B-29’s left flying, Buffington said.

Another plane expected for the show, the B-24 Liberator, was the most-produced American aircraft of World War II, and it had multiple uses in the military, Buffington said.

Buffington hopes people will come out and see the planes’ histories for themselves.

“It just gives people the chance to see what our veterans were actually subjected to while flying in order to protect our freedoms,” he said. “It’s a pretty incredible thing to see what our vets did every day to protect us.”

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