As we head out of town with the planes for SUN ‘n FUN in Lakeland, FL, we reminisce about the adventures we had in St. Barths last month.
The flight to St. Barths was a major undertaking for our organization, in-and-of itself! On Saturday, March 21, 2015, the Texas Flying Legends Museum of Houston, Texas, and Lewis Air Legends, of San Antonio, Texas, flew eight pristinely restored World War II Warbirds at the 2015 Bucket Airshow Saint-Barthélemy, A Celebration of Freedom. This historic journey is one of the largest fleets of Warbirds to travel overseas since World War II ended. Official Press ReleaseOfficial press release.
Even for the pilots, flight in these beautiful machines, is never an ordinary experience.
Warren Pietsch, Chief Pilot, found he was smiling mid-flight and, just hearing him describe his experience may bring the same smile to your face. “One of my recollections of the St. Barth’s 2015 trip were the times (while airborne), I would back away from the rest of the formation and witness the grandeur of the other four Texas Flying Legends’ airplanes and their pilots (all significant pieces of history, all friends) winging their way across some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve seen. The emotions raised by that view are hard to describe, but include respect for the young people that crewed these aircraft during WWII, thankfulness for their victories, an appreciation of Mother Nature’s beauty and the gracefulness of the machines and nature working in harmony. I wish I could share it with everyone.”
Warbird Pilot Alan Miller had a truly awesome, and nostalgic sentiment as he flew the Texas Flying Legends’ B-25J Mitchell Bomber “Betty’s Dream” over the burial site of all four of his grandparents, in a rural area of Southwest Georgia. It was on their flightpath as they departed their first fuel stop in Dothan, Alabama. In that moment, he paid respects especially to his grandfather Marcine Cannon who spent most of the war in the South Pacific as an anti-aircraft gunner. His job was to shoot down the Japanese aircraft, like the Zero, when it attacked US installations. “What would he have thought about me leading a flight of WWII aircraft that included a Japanese Zero across his resting place?”
Pete Blood, our trusty Mechanic, said it was a “trip of a lifetime… no camera can do justice for how beautiful it truly is; sights of the ocean and its many reefs.” But more importantly, the crew was reliving history. Maintaining WWII airplanes can be a huge production and an even bigger responsibility! “This trip was really pleasant because of the fact that we had only minor squawks and routine servicing to do. Pilots and crew flew and work together like a well-seasoned team and pitched in with any tasks at hand. Every stop we made, the spectators and curious locals would admire the airplanes, share stories, and wish us safe travels!”
** “Squawks” is the term that is used to identify a problem that the pilot feels that the mechanics need to address. For example, if the radio is not working, or it is very weak, then the mechanic will diagnose and fix the problem. **
Lastly, our Facilities Manager Scott Tollefson often helps guide visiting school children through explorations of the planes and the stories that they carry into our current cultures. On the island of Anguilla, stories of our great nation and the amazing men and women who sacrificed for our freedom had a very special meaning to the residents of the British territory. “It was very heartwarming to talk to these students, and then hear them tell their stories of how their forefathers protected there little island from tyranny.”