WWII planes and Christopher Columbus ship replicas in Dubuque - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

WWII planes and Christopher Columbus ship replicas in Dubuque


American history is flying and floating in Dubuque this weekend.

World War II-era planes will be in the skies through Saturday, and replicas of two of Christopher Columbus' ships will be in the Port of Dubuque through Tuesday.

"If you're a history buff, it's wonderful stuff," Terry Adams said. He's a senior pilot with the North American Trainer Association, which is at the Dubuque Regional Airport this weekend, celebrating the 7th anniversary of the AT-6 airplane, also know as an SN-J, Texan, Harvard or pilot trainer.

"They were World War II airplanes," SN-J pilot Don Stamp said. "Everybody that flew in World War II flew one of these airplanes, and so what is very special is to bring these airplanes to air shows and the veterans come up and they stand beside the airplane."

He took to the skies over Dubuque County Thursday to train another pilot on formation flying.

"Formation flying was started in World War I," Adams said. "It was done that way so that the pilots could protect each other from the enemy."

To commemorate these planes' 75th anniversary, 22 of them will fly in a formation as the number "75" Friday and Saturday over the Dubuque Regional Airport at 1 p.m.

Over in the Port of Dubuque, an even older piece of history sits in the Ice Harbor.

As most people learn in grade school, "In 14-hundred and 92, Columbus sailed the ocean blue," and he did so with a fleet of three ships: the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Replicas of the former two are in Dubuque through Tuesday.

"Think of the ships as floating museums," captain of the Nina replica Vic Bickel said. "You step on board and you step back in time, really. You see the 15th Century while you're here. You can touch it, it's right in front on you. You can handle the line, the chains, the lumber and so on, so it's a really unique experience."

The Nina and Pinta replicas will be open to the public Friday through Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It costs $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $6 for students, and Bickel said visitors can stay as long as they like.

"Usually the first thing we'll hear when people come aboard is a comment about the size of the ship, how small they actually are," Bickel said. "Vessels are going to go across an ocean, people expect to see much larger vessels, but 65 feet on the deck, that's Nina."

13-year-old Tyler Grall and his grandpa Dave Grall were jet skiing on the Mississippi River Thursday afternoon and decided to pass by the old ships to take a look.

"With the museum and the Port of Dubuque, the Ice Harbor, you know, there's so much history in Dubuque," Dave Grall said, adding he wanted to give his grandson a look at even earlier American history.

"It's just cool how they made these hand-built with no machine tools," Tyler Grall said. "Built it all by hand."

Indeed, Bickel said, "this ship was built with the same tools that were used in the 15th century. Nothing else. That's one of the things that makes her so remarkable is that just axes, hammers, chisel, handsaws, wooden pegs and dowels holding her together."

For 11 months out of the year, the two replica ships stop for several days at a time at ports all throughout North America, giving people a taste of the 15th Century.

Whether by water or by air, both attractions in Dubuque this weekend have the same mission.

"Someone's got to keep history alive," Adams said.

People can observe the World War II planes, including a few P-51 Mustangs, for free at the Dubuque Regional Airport through Saturday. There's an observation area to the left, right as people drive up.

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