Greetings from The Aero Experience Team


The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Monday, April 17, 2017

Heart of America CAF Wing Continues Midwest Aviation Warbird Tradition 

By Carmelo Turdo
The Aero Experience continues our coverage of the Heart of America Wing, Commemorative Air Force, with more views of the visiting PBJ-1J Semper Fi, a look at the wing's aircraft and a tour of their museum.   As shown in our previous story, the two B-25s, Show Me and Semper Fi, were in town for the Fairfax B-25 Bomber Builders Reunion on Wednesday to begin the week-long celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the famed Doolittle Raid on Tokyo conducted on April 18, 1942.  Since our visit, B-25 Mitchell bombers from around the country have spent the weekend at Grimes Field Urbana Municipal Airport, OH and will move on to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton for more commemoration events.  The Heart of America Wing, along with hosting aircraft for special events, offers its own warbirds, ground crews and intellectual resources for the benefit of local and regional audiences.  

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.     


The Aero Experience thanks the Heart of America Wing of the Commemorative Air Force for making our visit enjoyable and memorable.  We also thank Dr. Dan Desko of the B-25 History Project, the crews of the B-25s Show Me and Semper Fi, the Fairfax B-25 Bomber Builders and all who made the week's activities a great success.

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