Airplane aficionados will tell you the Pilgrim was top-notch for its time.

The red airplane boasts steam heating, overhead luggage racks and a small faucet -- though its time was 1931.

"It's the first commercial airplane with a bathroom," pilot Terry Holliday said at Merrill Field. "Well ... with a honey bucket."

Holliday soared into the air above Anchorage inside the transportation artifact Wednesday evening, zipping around with World War II-era aircraft and turning the sky into a historic site as the pilots prepared for this weekend's Arctic Thunder open house and air show.

Every two years, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson opens its gates to the public for two days of free aerial demonstrations, military equipment displays and aircraft tours. It has a history of drawing quite the crowd. Organizers estimate that about 125,000 people flooded the base each day at the 2012 show.

"It's the largest single event in all of Alaska," said Dave Peters, treasurer for the Alaska Air Show Association, a nonprofit that assists in organizing Arctic Thunder.

The open house runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and features both military and civilian acts. Interested spectators can enter at either the Richardson and Boniface base gates. In 2012, the Anchorage Daily News reported that traffic began tangling a mile from base, prompting some people to walk or bicycle to the air show. So prepare accordingly.

"This is a world-class air show -- there's no doubt about it," Peters said.

The ever-popular U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration squadron will perform at 3:45 p.m. both days.

For Shawn Miller, a member of the Commemorative Air Force, the air show is about education.

Miller grew up in Cold Bay at the tip of the Alaska Peninsula, where flying was the easiest way out. He said he took a liking to airplanes early on and sought jobs or hobbies that revolved around the runway. Over the weekend, he will point out the different dials in the cockpit and how each aircraft is used.

"That's the whole mission," he said. "Take these old airplanes and keep them running and teach kids about their roles."

Arctic Thunder open house and air show

Where? Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, enter through Boniface or Richardson gates

When? Saturday, July 26 and Sunday, July 27

When? 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cost? Free

Correction: An earlier version of this article included incorrect schedule information for the event.