T he Pacific Northwest Naval Air Museum in Oak Harbor is seeking docents so it can offer tours of the interior of its PBY-5A Catalina aircraft to the public this summer.
Museum President Wil Shellenberger said it has been years since the museum has been able to offer tours of the interior of the aircraft. Volunteers have been hard at work restoring the interior to make it safe for the public to climb inside.
Now visitors can safely move about the interior and get a peek of the bunks, navigation area and cockpit of the WWII-era plane.
He said he hopes to begin offering weekend tours in June, but the museum needs more volunteer docents to facilitate the tours.
“That would be a real big help to us,” Shellenberger said.
The tours would be offered every weekend from June to Labor Day weekend. Volunteers would spend four hours on Saturday and Sunday. Ideally, there would be four docents at the plane every day that the tours are offered, he said.
He has reached out to local organizations for volunteers and said individuals are welcome to join the summer docent program.
One volunteer would be stationed at the entrance of the plane to monitor the number of people boarding the aircraft. Another volunteer would be perched just behind the cockpit in a compartment that housed the navigation and radio devices. Other volunteers would be outside of the plane to help visitors learn about the aircraft and its history on Whidbey Island.
The PBY-5A Catalina aircraft were the first to be based and operated out of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The plane sitting outside across the street from the Navy museum flew from the air station in 1943 and was deployed to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.
The museum boasts an impressive display of items from the aircraft, including an engine, in its building across the street from the aircraft itself. Visitors can browse through photos of PBY-5As in action and learn more about the Battle of the Aleutian Islands during World War II.
It’s a tight squeeze through some of the doorways inside the plane, but Shellenberger said it can accommodate up to four visitors at a time to get a hands-on look at history.