Legendary: Spirit of Aviation Lives through Wings of Freedom Tour

By David Brown

Inspection of #4 engine on 909 before the afternoon flight. Maintenance is an ongoing campaign with these old airplanes. (David Brown)The annual Wings of Freedom Tour is operated by the Collings Foundation and involves a number of vintage warbirds circumnavigating the USA, displaying the aircraft and giving rides, but mainly to keep the spirit of WWII aviation alive.

For the tour in 2017 a quartet of aircraft is involved:

  • ·        B 24J Witchcraft (N224J)
  • ·        B17G “909”
  • ·        B-25 Tondelayo
  • ·        TP-51D Mustang “Toulouse Nuts”

After wending their way from Florida to Texas, and stopping at many cities, the tour arrived in Southern California during the latter part of April. A crowd of more than 200 people is clustered on the ramp at Torrance airport, centered at the Western Museum of Flight near the base of the tower. A cellphone rings to inform us that the bombers have left Van Nuys. However, the Mustang has a mechanical problem and will be along later… maybe. The sky is overcast. It’s just the maritime layer that is common along the California coast.  And we wait.

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Foreign-born Airmen Deploy, Live Their American Dream

By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Gonsier, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Editor’s Note: This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.

The Air Force is proud of its diversity, providing Airmen the opportunity to live and visit places they never would imagine going and working with people from all walks of life.

Two Airmen, who are deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, as part of the 451st Expeditionary Support Squadron, are emblematic of the diverse force.

Staff Sgt. Nana Dankwa and Airman 1st Class Yongqin Li did not grow up in the U.S. They emigrated from their respective countries and gained citizenship while serving in the U.S. Air Force.

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2017 Dayton Airshow Marred By Thunderbird Accident But Highlighted by Other Performers

By Mike Heilman

The Thunderbirds diamond practices upon arrival to 2017 Dayton Air Show. The Thunderbird arrived on Monday before the show but had to cancel their performances due to mishap with the team’s two-seat F-16D. (Mike Heilman)In 2106 the Dayton Air Show attendance suffered from a cancellation of the headline act two weeks before the show, when the U.S. Navy Blue Angels experienced a tragic accident at an air show in Tennessee.  Once again in 2017, the show experienced another cancellation of the headlining act due to a near tragic accident of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. The mishap happened at the Dayton International Airport less than 24 hours before the show was scheduled to open.

Thunderbird number 8, the two-seat F-16D “Fighting Falcon,” was conducting a crew familiarization flight in the Dayton area when upon return to the airport the jet skidded off the runway and flipped over trapping the pilot Capt. Erik Gonsalvas and Tech Sgt. Kenneth Cordova for almost two hours.  The Thunderbird crewmembers were transported to a local hospital in good condition. There was heavy rain at the time of the mishap from remnants of tropical storm Cindy.

On Friday Michael Emoff, Chairman U.S. Air & Trade Show Board of Trustees, held a press conference to discuss the weekend’s show after the mishap. “When you first hear about something like this you pray that everything is okay and for the health of those involved.  Once you understand that everything is under control, you then start working on what I can do. My job as Chair of the air show is to ensure that we produce a safe and quality show for our community.”

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First-Hand Account of Thunderbirds Mishap at Dayton

By Mike Heilman

Capt. Erik Gonsalvas and passenger Tech Sgt. Kenneth Cordova taxi out in Thunderbird number 8 on Friday 23rd at the Dayton International Airport. (Mike Heilman)The United States Air Force Thunderbirds Demonstration Team experienced a near-tragic aircraft mishap at the Dayton International Airport a day before the 43rd annual air show.  The Thunderbird’s mishap occurred in very rainy conditions as remnants of tropical storm Cindy pushed through the Dayton area.

Lt. Col. Jason Heard, Thunderbird Commander, explains what happened: “The United States Thunderbirds were conducting a single ship familiarization flight Friday, June 23, 2017. Upon landing there was a mishap at the Dayton International Airport with our F-16D “Fighting Falcon” at approximately 12:20 p.m. The plane sustained damage. The pilot and his passenger, a tactical aircraft maintainer, were taken to a local hospital where they are receiving care and are currently in good condition.”

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Head Over to Planes of Fame Today 

Plane of Fame Air Museum
SAT. AUG. 5th, 2017
F4U Corsair ‘Whistling Death’    
Featuring: WWII F4U Corsair Pilot Mitchell Flint  
Admiral Don B. Shelton, RADM, USN (Ret.)
Author Michele Spry
Warbird Pilot and Collector Richard Bertea

Kevin Thompson Moderator and Historian
The F4U Corsair is scheduled to fly at 12 pm
Featuring the F4U Corsair which is an actual WWII Veteran and flew in combat over the Marshall Islands.  A speaker panel of distinguished aviation experts and historians is featured, followed by a question & answer period. The F4U Corsair  will be on display and perform a flight demonstration.
At 12:00 noon, the Raffle Flight will occur. Become a member to enter the Raffle. All members are eligible to enter the Raffle, but you must be present to win.
READ MORE… (Schedule subject to change)
Author Michele Spry is  an accomplished author. On July 4, 2106 she released her second children’s book titled “A Trip To Remember”. When Michele started her second children’s book, she was looking for a specific character.  Over the next year she would capture his story. Lt. Col. Ferrill A. Purdy had two prominent pieces of information. He loved flying Corsair planes and he spoke very highly of his wing man, Major John TashjianMichele started researching the planes that Lt. Col. Purdy flew and discovered Lt. Col. Purdy had flown the F4U-1A Corsair (17799) that is owned by Planes of Fame on June 24, 1944 and again on July 3, 1944. In the 50 years that Planes of Fame Air Museum has owned this plane they have never been able to connect it to a veteran until June 15, 2016! READ MORE…
Cmdr. Mitchell Flint (USN ret.) volunteered at age 18 to serve as a pilot in the US Navy and earned his Naval Aviator Wings at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. He served on CV18 USS Wasp flying dive-bombing missions in the F6F Hellcat before transitioning to the F4U Corsair, in which he chased down and splashed a kamikaze flying the extraordinarily fast C6N. During his service, he earned three Air Medals and eight Navy Unit Commendations .READ MORE.
Admiral Don B. Shelton RADM, USN (Ret.)
entered the Navy in 1939 as an enlisted man. He served in the battleships New Mexico (BB-40) and California (BB-44) before attending prep school and then the Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1944. He had wartime duty in the light cruiser St. Louis (CL-49) before completing flight training. During WWII a Kamikaze attack on USS St Louis at Leyte Gulf, inflicted major damage but the USS St. Louis was not sunk. Don was among the Navy’s pioneers in night fighter operations and later served as a test pilot. Don served two tours as Test Pilot at NATC Patuxent River.    READ MORE 
Richard Bertea acquired Corsair F4U-5 124486 in 1988. After Honduran service as serial 606, this Corsair was registered N49068 and displayed widely at airshows in Southern California. The aircraft was restored to represent Guy Bordelon’s aircraft initially with the correct “NP” tail codes, but later with the initials of owner Richard Bertea. Richard has also owned a variety of aircraft including an F7F Tigercat and a Skyraider. Richard will talk about owning and flying these incredible aircraft. READ MORE
Book Signing in the Gift Shop
Sunday August 6th 11am - 2pm

The Life and Disappearance of World War II Pilot Gertrude Tompkins  By James W. Ure

Award-winning author James W. Ure leads readers through Gertrude’s fascinating life; provides a detailed account of the WASPs’ daily routines, training, and challenges; and describes the ongoing search for Gertrude’s wreck and remains. The result of years of research and interviews with Gertrude’s family, friends, and fellow WASPs, Seized by the Sun is an invaluable addition to any student’s or history buff’s bookshelf.

James W. Ure is a former staff writer and editor at the Salt Lake Tribune and wrote features for the Deseret News. He is also a former publicist and executive director of the Sundance Film Festival. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Planes of Fame ~ Chino Airport
Museum is Open to the Public, General Admission: $11, 11 yrs and Under $4, Ages 4 and Under : FREE! (excludes special events)
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