|By Carmelo Turdo and Fred Harl|
The much anticipated annual Pumpkin Drop was held Saturday at St. Charles County Airport. The event, sponsored by St.Charles Flying Service, the Missouri Wing of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 32, gave local pilots a chance to prove their pumpkin bombing skills and provided an opportunity for the community to see World War II aircraft up close on the apron and on their "bombing missions." The Missouri Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Wing aircraft, North American B-25J Mitchell, Grumman (General Motors) TBM-3E Avenger and Aeronca L-3E, were on display. Other aircraft from around the region flew in for the day. The Aero Experience was in site to report on the day's activities and share this aero experience with you.
Upon arrival at the airport, one can quickly gain a sense of appreciation for the rich aviation history of the region. The airport is also referred to as Smartt Field in honor of Ensign Joseph G. Smartt, killed in action on December 7, 1941 while serving with Patrol Squadron 11 at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Dallas, Texas native was commended for his actions in alerting the Kaneohe Naval Base to the air attack. The USS Smartt, Destroyer Escort DE-257, was also named for him. Ensign Smartt took flight training at Naval Reserve Air Station, St. Louis (Robertson), Missouri. A marker, sponsored by the Missouri CAF Wing, is located near the wing's hangars.
The Missouri Commemorative Air Force Wing is based at Smartt Field, in part using an historic wood hangar dating to the 1940s when the U.S. Navy conducted flight training there. The CAF Wing's missions are to preserve World War II aviation history and share that history with the public using the actual hardware of the period (aircraft, vehicles, etc.). The wing also has a museum containing significant historic artifacts located next to the hangars. The World War II-era aircraft and vehicles were on display next to a lookout tower representing Tacloban Field, Leyte, Philippines.
Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 32 is also based at the airport, and they had an excellent display inside and outside their hangar. The chapter pilots volunteer their time and aircraft to give Young Eagle Flights to youth aged 8-17 each month through the spring and summer annually. Chapter members build and fly their aircraft throughout the year and are always ready to give advice and assistance to others in the local aviation community.
Local pilots flew in and displayed their aircraft on the apron or participated in the pumpkin drop. A variety of aircraft types were present, including several Grumman Tigers, experimental aircraft and three beautiful Beechcraft Twin Bonanzas. An Air Evac Life Team crew also flew in during the morning to meet with the crowd and show off their Long Ranger helicopter.
Several warbirds besides the Missouri CAF Wing aircraft were available for public display and flights around the local area. Included here are Mark Schuler's Nanchang CJ-6A, J.P. Mellor's North American AT-6G Texan Spanish Lady and John Fester's North American T-28A Trojan. These former military trainers also performed other important missions during their military service such as weapons training, forward air control and counter-insurgency.
The pumpkin drop began at 10:00 A.M. and continued through the afternoon. Crews flew their aircraft or rented them from St. Charles Flying Service, aiming their small pumpkins at an aircraft wreck target. At noon, the Missouri CAF B-25J Mitchell Show Me and Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber made several bombing runs at the target and also several more passes to the approval of the gathering crowd.
The Aero Experience thanks St. Charles County Airport, St. Charles Flying Service, EAA Chapter 32 and Missouri CAF Wing personnel for producing a safe and successful Midwest Aviation event!