Five pilots of the Texas Flying Legends Museum (TFLM) landed their warbirds at the Kingman Airport Thursday, March 17, for a “fuel pit stop” and lunch break after launching their mission from Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, four days earlier.
The squadron of vantage WWII combat aircraft was making the journey from Texas to the Los Angeles County Air Show held March 19-20, at William J. Fox Airfield in Lancaster, Calif.
The pilots, crew and their aircraft were originally scheduled to “wing their way” into Kingman Tuesday, March 15, but unfortunately two of the warbirds had “mechanical problems” in Midland, Texas, that delayed their arrival.
There is an old saying, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, you’d have no luck at all.” The FG-1D Corsair “Whistling Death” and the A6-M2 Model 21 Japanese Zero “Last Samurai,” that were originally part of the group of aircraft, had a mishap when the two hit each other while taxing at the airport in Midland. According to FTLM officials, the two aircraft will probably stay at Midland for about four months while undergoing repairs.
However in true TFLM team spirit, dedication and a can-do attitude, some of the flight crews flew back to Houston after the two-aircraft mishap to pick up a Spitfire and then flew onto Minot, N.D., to pick up a General Motors FM-2P Wildcat so they would have six aircraft for the air show in California.
Bad luck did not end in Midland. It was determined that the TBM Avenger 3E torpedo bomber had a cracked engine cylinder forcing the aircraft had to land in Chinle, Ariz., for repairs. “Once the repairs were completed on the Avenger,” said Vice President Operations and Chief Pilot for TFLM Warren Pietsch, “the aircraft then continued to California to participate in the air show.”
Because the squadron normally has the slowest aircraft in the lead, the Avenger originally led the group of planes soaring their way across the western U.S., but when the Avenger was grounded due to a mechanical problem with its engine, the B-25J Mitchell bomber took over the honor as lead aircraft.
The vintage warbirds made their debut performance in California at this year’s show in Lancaster. During their participation at the air show, the group performed choreographed routines of formations and simulated dog fighting while a narrator told the story of the war in the Pacific.
The TFLM aircraft that participated in the 2016 Los Angeles County Air Show included a B-25J Mitchell Bomber, a TBM-3E Avenger, a Curtis P-40K, a General Motors FM-2P Wildcat, a Spitfire and a P-51D Mustang.
The specific aircraft and their pilots included in the flight to California are:
Grumman TBM Avenger-3E torpedo bomber piloted by commercial pilot and Congressman Sam Graves of Tarkio, Mo. His Avenger had been previously flown by Houston native and former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, the youngest ever Naval Aviator as a 19-year-old pilot.
North American Aviation B-25J Mitchell bomber “Betty’s Dream” piloted by Delta Airlines Captain and Instructor Alan Miller from Hawaii and co-piloted by Mark Murphy, a realtor from Amsterdam, N.Y.
Curtis P-40K Warhawk “Aleutian Tiger” piloted by TFLM Director of Maintenance Bernie Vasquez, an aircraft restoration professional from Vacaville, Calif.
North American Aviation P-51D Mustang “Dakota Kid II” piloted by Casey Odegaard, an aircraft restoration professional from Kindred, N.D.
Spitfire MK959 piloted by TFLM Vice President of Operations and Chief Pilot Warren Pietsch, an owner of a fixed base company from Minot, N.D.
FM-2P Wildcat “The Wild Cat” piloted by Michael Schiffer, who flies on contracts with county, state and federal officials protecting the public’s health and forests of the U.S. for mosquito control and pilots a crop duster from Ovid, Mich.
“TFLM members are dedicated to honoring past generations and inspiring the leaders of tomorrow through active display of WWII warbirds,” Pietsch said. Highlighting the drivers behind America’s success, TFLM’s programs serve to remind them of the values and freedoms that make our county great and to challenge visitors to give back to their local communities. They are proud to do their part to ensure that America remains “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Pilots, crew and aircraft of TFLM have an extremely very busy 2016 schedule besides the Los Angeles Air Show. It includes: Planes of Fame Air Show in Chino, Calif., April 29; Minot Airport Dedication in Minot, N.D., May 6; Sioux Falls Air Show in Sioux Falls, May 6; EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., July 25; Owls Head Transportation Museum Rockland in Owls Head, Maine, Aug. 6; Northern Neighbors Day in Minot, N.D., in Aug. 13; WWII Monument Dedication Flyover in Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada, Sept. 16; CAF/AVG Reunion 2016 in Atlanta, Ga., in Sept. 24; Wings of Freedom Air Show in Sidney, Mont., Sept. 24; Sky Ball in Dallas, Texas, Oct. 22; and Wings Over Houston in Houston, Texas, Oct. 22.
The TFLM was founded in 2010 and it motto is “To Inspire The Young And Honor The Heroes.”
(Note: Some of the information contained in this story is courtesy of TFLM)