High-flying fun Yorktown offers history lesson to all ages

Bella Vuong, 2, of Atlanta, looks out the window of an SH-3G Sea King helicopter on Sunday on the flight deck of the Yorktown.

Heather Stanley of Mount Pleasant has been visiting the aircraft carrier Yorktown since she was a child, and now she’s passing on the experience to her children.

They were among the scores of families checking out the aircraft on the flight deck on Open Cockpit Sunday. Children and adults climbed inside the F/A 18 Hornet, A-6E Intruder, S-3B Viking and SH-3G Sea King, imagining what it was like be on the lookout for enemy submarines.

“There’s such a history,” Stanley said. “You feel the connection. This ship just kind of grounds you and makes it all real.”

Her two children, Austin Jessup, a sixth-grader, and Landon Stanley, 5, soaked it all in. She drew their attention to the tailhook on the back of one of the planes, designed to snare a cable while landing and stop the plane on deck.

“That’s the only thing that stopped this plane,” she said. “If that hook broke, you were shark bait.”

Inside the S-3B Viking, Heather and Jesse Stanley and the children talked about spotting enemies in the water below.

“We were pretending we were bombing ships,” Austin said with a smile when he got out.

Chris Cobb of Daniel Island, a loadmaster at Charleston Air Force Base, was giving his two children a guided tour of each aircraft. He’s been busy hauling equipment out of Afghanistan and was enjoying a day off with wife Carrie, Mia, 7, and Brady, 4.

“We figured we had to do something outside today,” Carrie Cobb said. “It’s just so beautiful.”

Skies were sunny and blue and temperatures in the low 70s.

Leon Vuong of Atlanta was there with his two children, Joshua, 3, and Bella, 2. He used to live in Charleston and made sure the Yorktown was on his itinerary for a weekend trip here. “My son loves anything that has to do with airplanes,” he said. “He’s 3, and his dream is to design a spaceship to fly to the moon.”

This was the third Open Cockpit Sunday of the year and the seventh since the program started two years ago. Attendance was typical for a sunny day this time of year, meaning a continual flow of visitors to the landmark ship.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.