|By Carmelo Turdo|
Thursday morning dawned with the U.S. Navy type of B-25J, the PBJ-1J named Semper Fi from the Southern California CAF Wing, on the apron in front of the CAF Wing's hangar. Semper Fi is the only U.S. Navy PBJ currently flying, and has been active less than a year since her 23-year restoration was completed. The aircraft was on it's way to the 75th Anniversary of the Doolittle Raid event, and it was arranged that it spend Wednesday night through part of Friday at the Heart of America CAF Wing for an appearance at the Fairfax B-25 Bomber Builders Reunion. It was a treat to have Semper Fi visit this Midwest Aviation event, and we were allowed a quick look inside after the engine run-up and meticulous cleaning of the aircraft.
The Heart of America Wing had its own aircraft tucked in the hangar since Wednesday night, and they were receiving some maintenance on Thursday. The Stearman PT-13 Kaydet and Fairchild PT-19 represent basic trainers of the World War II era, and are available for warbird rides at various times throughout the year. The PT-13 tail wheel was being repaired, and the PT-19 was in the middle of a restoration process that may render it out of action for the year. Warbirds require significant time and resources for safe operation, and the Heart of America Wing makes sure that their aircraft are in excellent condition. While in the hangar, we also found a Link Trainer and a Taylorcraft L-2. Included here are some photos from the outdoor display on Wednesday.
The Heart of America Wing maintains a museum on the second floor of one end of the hangar, and it is well worth a visit. Curator Ron Wright (U.S. Army Col, Ret.) gave The Aero Experience a tour and described many of the items on display. Exhibits in the museum cover mostly the World War II era, but the Korean and Vietnam War periods are also represented.
Items of note include shot glasses and autographed memorabilia from the 100th birthday party held at the wing in September 2015 for surviving Doolittle Raider Dick Cole (Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, USAF, Ret.), then Colonel Doolittle's copilot, who is also the guest of honor this week at the 75th Anniversary festivities in Dayton. There is a gallery modelled after the movie set in 12 O'clock High featuring an exhibit honoring 1Lt. Robert Zulauf, a B-25 pilot who lived much of his life after his World War II service in the Kansas City area. Another exhibit, a favorite of Curator Wright, honors former CAF member USMC pilot Major Charles Esterline who flew 300 missions in an F-4 Phantom II over Vietnam. Esterline lived in the Overland Park, KS area and was a successful businessman after his Vietnam War service. Both Zulauf and Esterline have passed away, but their service to nation, family and community will not be forgotten.