A handful of lucky individuals had the opportunity to get an up-close view of the planes at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in Glenville Thursday afternoon. Five teams from Fireball Run Adventurally, a global television adventure series which doubles as a missing children awareness campaign, raced to the museum between 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to rack up points for their respective teams.
Earlier this year, on New York State’s Missing Persons Day on April 6, Clifton Park officials announced Fireball Run Adventure Travel Series would be rolling into the area this fall.
The planes at the museum are on display for the public to see, but the museum’s president Jim Ligori said “No one gets to go in them.” That was the case until Thursday afternoon, anyway, when the Fireball Run teams swooped in and stepped into the F3 Skyknight and the F5 Northrop, which was used in the movie "Top Gun."
Contestants also had the chance to step inside a 35-foot-long model of the Akagi Aircraft Carrier which was the lead carrier during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Akagi would have carried a crew of 2,000 men. The model was made for the 1970 film “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and donated to the museum by the estate of Charles Woods 20 years ago. The model is so large, the museum had to build an additional space to house it, according to museum representative John Pamoksi.
“These displays were never open to public access and never will be again,” said the museum’s vice president Kevin Millington.
Each team had the chance to earn points by simply taking a photo of one member sitting inside one of the planes. Additional points were available for those who could answer two questions - What’s the major falsehood concerning the F-5 Northrop in "Top Gun" and the meaning of the word “tora.”
According to Jim Rogers of the museum, the major falsehood related to the F-5 in "Top Gun" is that it’s used by the Japanese when it was really an American plane. And although literally the word “tora” means “tiger” in Japanese, in context with the war it meant “lightning strike.”
Fireball Run passed through Glenville, Clifton Park and Ballston Spa September 29, bringing with it a potential economic boost and a promising jump-start to the region’s efforts to increase tourism.
Kevin Kovel of Halfmoon’s Adirondack Basement Systems and John Bove of Mechanicville’s G.A. Bove Fuel represented the region in the race, although they didn’t make it to the Empire State Aerosciences museum in time to earn points. Fireball Run founder J. Sanchez said it’s “almost impossible” to get on a Fireball Run team, citing their 178 person wait-list.
Since its founding, Fireball Run has been committed to helping find America’s missing children by raising awareness for The Race to Recover America’s Children. Each of the 40 participating teams is assigned a missing child by the Child Rescue Network and receives 1,000 flyers featuring the missing child to distribute over the course of their 2,000 mile journey. According to Sanchez, Fireball Run’s awareness efforts have aided in the recovery of 47 missing children since it began 10 years ago.
Kovel was assigned to team 23, which is distributing posters of Brittany Barnoski, a runaway who was last seen March 3, 2015. Barnoski would be 16 years old now, is five-foot-five inches tall, black, about 170 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. Bove is representing team 82 which has been assigned Samantha Kibalo, who went missing Feb 3, 2001. Kibalo would be 17 years old today.
Southern Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Pete Bardunias expects the event to have a positive impact on the community, citing “the increased national and international media exposure as well as the actions of the contestants themselves as they stop and shop in our stores.” Bardunias added, “Fireball Run participants have been known to become interested and invest their money in communities they encounter on their journey. We want to put our best foot forward for them.”
This will mark the tenth season of the adventure series. Each season consists of 26 22-minute episodes. Sanchez estimated the show would infuse about $250,000 into the local economy each day it was in town.
Fireball Run contestants will leave the area Friday morning.
“We are hopeful that we will have an impact on the search for America’s missing children by helping our local contestants hand out posters and raise awareness. It will be a special blessing if one of those young girls is found because of our involvement,” added Bardunias.
Reach Gazette reporter Cady Kuzmich at 269-7239, [email protected] or @cady_kuz on Twitter.