August 6, 2012

Visiting planes keep WWII in view

A Wiscasset event this weekend offers the chance to see vintage planes and hear their war stories.

By DEBORAH SAYER Staff Writer

History takes flight in Maine again this summer as a squadron of World War II-era fighter planes makes the Wiscasset Municipal Airport its seasonal base of operations.

click image to enlarge

Two people at the open house at Wiscasset Municipal Airport Saturday and Sunday will win a ride aboard the Dakota Kid II, a World War II-era P-51 Mustang plane.

Courtesy Texas Flying Legends Museum

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Open house featuring the war planes of the Texas Flying Legends Museum

WHEN: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

WHERE: Wiscasset Municipal Airport, 96 Chewonki Neck Road, off Route 144, Wiscasset

FOR MORE: flyingfreedom.us

For the second year, six modern and vintage war birds from the Texas Flying Legends Museum will provide aerial demonstrations, missing man formation fly-bys at veterans' ceremonies and exhibits that allow aviation enthusiasts an opportunity to see airplanes that served in World War II.

Wiscasset airport manager Ervin Deck said the squadron spends the winter at Ellington Field in Houston before flying to Minot, N.D., each spring and Wiscasset in the summer for three-month stays.

The privately owned collection is manned by pilots, some of them former members of the military, who enjoy regaling crowds with the varied stories of these war relics and the roles they played in battle.

Texas Flying Legends President Chris Griffith is quick to note, though, that the planes are much more than obsolete war birds.

"These are moving national monuments that played a big role in the service of our country during wartime," said Griffith. "Our mission is to present this moving collection to the people, giving them an opportunity to see the planes, touch them and learn about their stories and the men who flew them during World War II.

"While we own the planes, we do not consider them our private property," said Griffith. "Rather, we see ourselves as caretakers or stewards of an American heritage."

Deck agreed. "You don't get to see old World War II planes like these very often," Deck said. "(Such sights) tend to get aviation enthusiasts, like me, pretty excited."

Griffith said the planes typically are purchased at air shows and competition venues such as the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., billed as one of the world's largest air shows.

Many of these planes were stored in old barns after the war and later restored by crop duster pilots who bought them for air shows as a hobby, said Griffith.

"All of our planes are originals and Oshkosh grand champions. Some of them are very rare, including our Japanese Zero. It was present at the Japanese surrender during WWII and is the only one of its kind still flying in the world."

Other planes in the museum collection include an FG-1D Corsair, a P-40K, a P-51D Mustang and a Mitchell B-25 Bomber.

The nearly 75-year-old planes undergo yearly preventive maintenance check-ups and a mechanic is always on hand should a problem occur.

And, like the planes they fly, pilots typically arrive with an entourage of support staff: their family members, who rent seasonal homes to remain close during their stays.

Griffith said the pilots range in age from their 20s to 60 and older.

"We like to merge the generations so that the older pilots can pass their memories on to the younger pilots," said Griffith. "It's important to keep those histories alive in (perpetuity). Every year we are losing more and more of our older veterans."

The aircraft collection will be displayed this weekend at the airport in an event that also will feature food concessions and a raffle offering two winners the chance to win a ride in a vintage P-51 Mustang airplane. Funds generated from ticket sales will directly benefit the Wounded Warriors Foundation and the Wiscasset Chamber of Commerce College Fund.

The Bath Municipal Band will perform a concert of patriotic music from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday. The event is free and open to the public.

Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at:

dsayer@pressherald.com

 

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