Taking a vintage warbird for a spin over Anchorage

You've seen vintage warbirds at the annual air show at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and maybe you've wanted to fly in one -- or even take over the controls for a while. It's possible, as Alaska biologist Bill Streever -- author of the books "Cold" and the upcoming "Heat" -- writes in a travel piece for The Wall Street Journal. He flew in a North American AT-6 Texan aerial combat trainer out of Merrill Field Airport in Anchorage.

For people like me -- those interested in flying but with zero experience at the controls -- History Flight provides a firsthand history lesson as well as an unforgettable thrill. Always up for a new adventure, I signed up for the 30-minute Barnstormer package, which includes an introduction to piloting the AT-6 Texan and some aerial acrobatics.

The lesson starts with a short ground briefing that focuses on the plane's history. A few minutes later, I step up onto a wing and climb into the cockpit. I cinch a parachute harness tight around my shoulders and thighs, then buckle into a seat harness that goes around the shoulders and over the waist, held fast by a quick-release buckle. I am shown a D-ring on the left side of my parachute harness that will, if the airplane has to be abandoned, release the chute. If I have to leave the plane, I am told, I should dive head-first behind the wing. That way, I am less likely to collide with the plane's tail.

Read more, and see photos, at The Wall Street Journal: Try these hot wings