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E. Farmingdale show features WWII vehicles

Steven DeMeo, lower front, drives a Sherman tank

Steven DeMeo, lower front, drives a Sherman tank during a display of World War II equipment at the "Wings, Wheels and Track" celebration at the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale. (Sept. 1, 2012) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Forget looking at old, grainy photos or staring at hunks of metal gathering dust in a museum. History doesn't seem so distant this holiday weekend in East Farmingdale.

Visitors to the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport can, for a fee, soar in a 1941 Waco UPF-7 biplane, ride shotgun in an armored vehicle or take flight in the belly of a C-47 cargo plane.

Those attractions are part of the Wings, Wheels and Tracks exhibition -- an opportunity to see World War II-era military machines, many of them still operational.

"This is not an iPod experience," said Gary Lewi, a museum spokesman, after pulling up in an M-20 armored car.

Lewi said it's great to see grandparents who served in World War II or parents who served in Vietnam connect with kids who know little about military history.

"At the end of the day," he said, "the mission of the museum, and the mission of Labor Day, is to connect people."

Simon Shelton, of Port Washington, attended the exhibition with his son Dominick, 8.

Shelton said he visits the museum every Memorial Day and Labor Day. "It's unique because it's a working museum. They're fixing the planes, flying the planes," he said.

During the exhibition, visitors can ride in a P-51 Mustang fighter -- for $2,200. For a more modest $425, people can get a taste of D-Day in a C-47. Participants don authentic flight gear, strap into the metal benches lining the inside of the plane and take a trip around the area, stopping just short of actually jumping from the plane that once ferried paratroopers into battle.Steve Cayea, of Deer Park, took his 9-year-old son on the flight and afterward called it a powerful experience, "knowing we did this for fun and someone else did it for a job."

The exhibition runs through Monday at 1230 New Hwy. Admission is $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and veterans with ID, and $8 for children. Kids 3 and younger get in free. For more information, visit americanairpowermuseum.org.

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