Pilot Journal
Sunday, July 1, 2007

Refueling The Tacos

The Stratotanker Visits Davis-Monthan

refueling the tacosFrom the cockpit jump seat of a 1954 Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, our clunky, creaky roll on takeoff seems a stark contrast to the day’s activities at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tuscon, Ariz. After what feels like an eternity on an endless runway, we slowly lift off, leaving behind an incredible assortment of U.S. Air Force fighter jets, including F-15 Eagles, F-16 Falcons, F-4 Phantoms, A-10 Warthogs and two F-22 Raptors, on the ramp below." />

Commissioned in 1941 by President Roosevelt, Rickenbacker came to life as an Army Air Base originally named Lockbourne. It was created with the purpose of training B-17 pilots and Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP). In the 1970s, it was renamed in honor of World War I ace Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, and although it was closed approximately 10 years later, the reserve and guard units stayed on. Today, the Columbus Regional Airport Authority shares operational duties at the airport.

Between September 27 and 30, Rickenbacker and the U.S. Air Force will host Air Force Heritage Week, during which a special event, the Gathering of Mustangs and Legends, will take place. Approximately 100 P-51 Mustangs are expected to partake in the festivities—more than 15,000 of these aircraft were produced, but only 150 are still in flying condition. Steeped in history, the attending Mustangs will include favorites such as Crazy Horse and Crazy Horse 2, both owned by Lee Lauderback, and other beautifully restored airplanes such as Cripes A’ Mighty 3rd, owned by Kermit Weeks, and 44-72339 owned by Jim Cavanaugh (see “Cavanaugh’s Flight Through Time” in November/December 2006 Pilot Journal).

But aircraft aren’t the only stars of the show. Fifty-one legendary pilots will also be honored, including WWII aces, Tuskegee Airmen, WASPs and accomplished aviators such as Chuck Yeager, the test pilot who first broke the sound barrier in 1947, and Bob Hoover, the ultimate pilot’s pilot (see “The Man in the Straw Hat” in May/June 2007 Pilot Journal). In addition to the Heritage Flights, additional performances will be flown by other World War II fighter aircraft, air show performers such as the Red Baron Pizza Squadron, and the USAF Thunderbirds. More than 200,000 visitors are expected to attend this celebration of aviation history and its heroes.

One pilot, Humberto Lobo de la Garza, intends to fly his P-51 Mustang, Shangri-La, from Monterrey, Mexico. “For me, the gathering represents a dream come true. I can’t wait!


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