If you haven’t heard, CAF is part of the leadership of what should be the most significant national warbird exhibition since WWII. At 12:10PM on May 8th , 2015 - the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE Day) there will be a flyover of 25-70 vintage military aircraft over Washington DC. These aircraft will fly down the Potomac and along the Capitol Mall at 1000 feet above the ground. Reagan national Airport will shut down while formations of 4-6 aircraft, spaced 2 minutes apart, fly this route. A key viewing spot will be the National WWII Memorial, where WWII veterans will be gathered to see this historic flyover. VP of Flight Ops, COL Bob Stenevik and CAF COL Mike Ginter have been the heavy lifters in the flight planning aspect; members of the National Capitol Squadron, along with good friend Mike Dale are helping make the logistics happen for the crews which will be based at the airports in Manassas and Culpeper. Other organizations leading the charge here include General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) and the Texas Flying Legends (TFLM). As I am finishing this article, we have just received the Exemption from the FAA to fly this event – the final step in the approval process – Hooray! There will also be a “black tie” Gala at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, on May 7th, with many WWII luminaries and other VIP’s celebrating the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover celebration.
This event is being supported solely by fund raising that the leadership team of the AoD can deliver. (of which I am a member) If you would like to help us get the maximum participation of airplanes (29 are currently scheduled to be CAF aircraft) feel free to contribute at www.ww2flyover.org . The CAF is the controlling institution and all donations are tax deductible. Stay tuned to that website for updated information. This is a big opportunity for the CAF to be seen by the National Public!
I thought I would write a blog with some catch up of events to start off the New Year:
If you have followed things in the bi-weekly Enewsletter On The Fly, we got through two votes by Dallas City Council with unanimous approvals towards our incentive packages. We have to perform to receive the funds, by moving Headquarters and raising funds, which will be matched. And we are starting on that right away. We have hired a new Chief Development Officer, Melissa Ogden, and she starts work this week. She lives in Dallas and has experience in capital campaigns. We had strong supporters in the City Council and even those with concerns voted for these incentives; and will see that we are good neighbors who will bring about economic benefits to the local area. As we start spooling up here, we will be employing local businesses and recruiting from the labor pool of the surrounding market.
We will take possession of the former Dallas Jet Center at Dallas Executive Airport this month and several of us staff will have offices there right away. So, if you are in or passing through Dallas, stop by and say “Hi” to me and the other staff members. This year we will have some aircraft hangared there, including the B-24 Liberator. We won't be open to the public per se; but we welcome people dropping by to learn more about us, or to join if interested! The remainder of the Headquarters Staff who have chosen to relocate, will do so this Fall.
I have made some last minute travel plans and will be at a few Units this month:
Jan 17 - CenTex Wing - Annual Banquet
January 18-19 CAF Airbase Arizona - Staff Assistance Visit (SAV) and meet the members
Jan 20 - SoCal Wing - Meet with Unit Staff and meet the members
So, if you are in the area for any of those dates, or are members of those units, please stop by to say “Hi” and catch up with me.
Just before Christmas, we held a press event to highlight our B-24 in concert with the opening of the movie, "Unbroken." If you haven't read the book, this movie is a good place to start. I have read the book and the movie does a really good job squeezing this huge story into 2 hours and 20 minutes. We brought over our B-24 Diamond Lil to Dallas Executive Airport (DEA) and flew in CAF COL Karnig Thomasian. Karnig is a WWII vet and former POW, who was held in a Japanese prison camp for 6 months. I met Karnig through a mutual friend and he came to the WWII Air Expo in New Orleans. He is a fabulous speaker and looks 20 years younger than his age of 90 years. The press showed up in droves to interview Karnig and see the airplane. It was a good way to show the community what the CAF is about. I recorded two stations that had stories. (See the clips)
In the November Dispatch, I wrote about the WWII Air Expo- New Orleans, held last October in collaboration with the National WWII Museum, which I referenced above. That Flight Lead article triggered some feedback and showed other examples of collaboration. One letter is below:
Dear Mr. Brown,
My name is Ben Jarvis, CAF member 20384. I live in Tulsa, OK and work at American Airlines as a structures mechanic on 757/767s. During the holiday base shut down I had a chance to catch up on some reading and the November issue of Dispatch was on the list of reads. As soon as I finished your piece on collaboration, I knew I had to write you and tell you my story.
Along with being a CAF life member, I am also a member of the Flagship Detroit Foundation. You may or may not know about Flagship Detroit, but it is the oldest flying DC3 in the world. She was the second DC3 bought by AA back in 1937. She comes to Tulsa quite a bit for maintenance and for the winter months where she can rest inside. She's here now until April getting the #2 engine overhauled, but that is getting ahead of the story. Let me take a step back....
Back in August, FSD came to Tulsa for two weeks for routine maintenance and cleaning. September 10, she left and went to Sioux Falls, SD for an air show. Well as we all know when working with 70 year old aircraft, things seem to happen! While in Sioux Falls, a cylinder went south and needed changing. All the volunteers here couldn't take time off to travel up there, so I did a little research. Turns out, FSD was at the same airport the Joe Foss Squadron meets at! I gave the Director of Maintenance, Jim Gentry, the name and number of the squadron leader, Rick Tupper, and told him he should give him a call. Old airplane guys stick together and I figured they would be glad to help out. Well they did help out- a lot! I don't have names since I couldn't get up there, but I wanted you to know they were instrumental in getting her going again. Unfortunately, that was the end of the air show season. The decision was made by the board members that an engine overhaul was necessary on the #2 engine.
We all know there are thousands of little parts that make up these planes, and some of them are getting pretty hard to find. While looking for engine mounts and having no luck, I decided to call up the Arizona Wing. I grew up in Tempe and became a member there when I was 18. I learned a lot from those old boys and I knew they had their stuff together even back in the 1980s/90s. I called them because FSD has Wright 1820's, not P&W 1830's, and thought there may be something available in Mesa. I have talked to Pete Loguda and Luke (didn't get his last name), and the info they've given is priceless! While talking to Luke, I found out that the rubber mounts we need were made by Dow-Elco and the company is still around. Then he gave me their phone number! I called them up and we were able to purchase new ones for almost half of what we could find from the parts hoarder guys!
So, that is why I wanted to write to you. I wanted you to know that the generosity of the CAF members is also helping to keep other antiques flying too. I have always been proud to call myself a CAF colonel. I thought that someone should know that the members of the Joe Foss Squadron and CAF Airbase Arizona are doing great things. Any time they come to Tulsa, we'll be here willing to get our hands dirty with them. It does indeed take a collaborative effort to keep 'em flying.
Sincerely, Benjamin Jarvis
FSD pit crew (left to right): Jim Gentry, Bill Brown, Ben Jarvis, Dave Romere
I hope that everyone had a good holiday season...Spring and the air show season are just around the corner and I can't wait to see you and to keep the positive momentum rolling!
Today was a Big Day in the history of the CAF, as we received a 14-0 vote from the Dallas City Council. From today forward we will endeavor to build a world-class aviation attraction, like no other, and continue to make a positive imprint upon Americans, as do all of our units, members and airplanes around the country. I look forward to having a CAF National Airbase that is centrally located and is of such a presence that all members will feel proud of their CAF Headquarters.
It has been a long two years that this metamorphosis has taken place - from the initial board decision to make the move, to the 23 cities that so graciously bid for us - and the final selection of Dallas Executive Airport. More than ever I am convinced that this is the best location for us and the most welcoming. The community has been overwhelmingly supportive, as evidenced by the kind words of many City Council members and the unanimous votes in favor of the economic incentives both last month and today.
I also want to extend my special thanks to those members who attended the city council meeting today, in person, dressed in their CAF uniform. We had 25 Colonels sitting tall and looking good - and this left a definite impression upon the Council members - Thank You for taking the time to come! Also, thanks to all of you that have offered their support through letters and emails - they have meant a lot to me and to the process.
We are excited about the next stage, where we go forward to design the attraction and raise the funds to execute that vision. We will ask for your support and welcome your input.
And I have no doubt that we will be successful!
Let's Keep the CAF Flying....because we ARE moving forward!
The Commemorative Air Force reached an important milestone in the CAF National Airbase Project. On Monday, Nov. 3 we met with the City of Dallas economic development committee and discussed many of the details about our creating a World War II aviation attraction and CAF Headquarters at Dallas Executive Airport.
Since announcing that we selected Dallas as our location for the CAF National Airbase in April, our team has been working hard to make sure our transition to Dallas is a smooth landing. Some of our management staff, including Adam Smith and I, are already working out of Dallas. The rest of our management staff will be joining us next year.
We are meeting regularly with city officials, area residents and local companies to begin establishing relationships and laying the foundation for the CAF in the City of Dallas. In October, we held our first CAF WWII Air Expo at Dallas Executive Airport, which drew over 5,000 attendees and included an Education Day where hundreds of students came for a free tour of aircraft by CAF members and World War II Veterans.
The education day was strategic in establishing that the Commemorative Air Force is committed to education in a fun, unique way. As expected, the response was stellar. Brooke Syverson, a Dallas school teacher contacted the CAF to express her appreciation. She said “The enthusiasm of everyone involved at the CAF WWII Air Expo and the variety of information from history to aviation to military kept all of my students engaged. It was a wonderful ‘hands-on’ learning experience.”
We’ve also started working on a critical component of our project, fundraising. As part of the incentive to build in Dallas, the city council’s economic development committee has agreed to recommend final approval to City Council on the first part of $8.7 million in proposed financial support. (their vote will be November 12th) The second part including our Lease will be reviewed by this same committee on December 3rd. This money will be paid out over time and will be awarded based on our ability to raise matching funds, create local jobs and build a world-class aviation attraction. We are gearing up to begin our fund raising efforts in earnest this January, after we receive final approval from the Dallas City Council.
As you can see, we are fully committed to making Dallas Executive Airport the future home of the Commemorative Air Force National Air Base. And the City of Dallas is behind us too. The CAF’s headquarters at Dallas Executive Airport will infuse new life into the local community. The future aviation museum attraction will become a world-class tourist destination for our city. Not only will this be a wonderful tourist attraction, but it will be an opportunity to create more jobs, and be a true economic boost to the city over the next 20 years.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed a new policy on July 22, 2014, to address the non-aeronautical use of airport hangars. A summary of the proposed Non-aeronautical Use of Airport Hangars rule stated on the regulations.gov website reads, “Under Federal law, airport operators that have accepted federal grants and/or those that have obligations contained in property deeds for property transferred under various Federal laws such as the Surplus Property Act generally may use airport property only for aviation-related purposes unless otherwise approved by the FAA. Compliance inspections by FAA staff, as well as audits by the Government Accountability Office, have found that some hangars intended for aircraft storage are routinely used to store non-aeronautical items such as vehicles and large household items. In some cases, this storage interferes with—or entirely displaces—aeronautical use of the hangar. Moreover, many airports have a waiting list for hangar space, and a tenant's use of a hangar for non-aeronautical purposes prevents aircraft owners from obtaining access to hangar storage on the airport. At the same time, the FAA realizes that storage of some small incidental items in a hangar that is otherwise used for aircraft storage will have no effect on the aeronautical utility of the hangar. The FAA is proposing a statement of policy on use of airport hangars to clarify compliance requirements for airport sponsors, airport manager, airport tenants, state aviation officials, and FAA compliance staff. This notice solicits public comment on the proposed policy statement.”
According to Stephan Brown, president and CEO of the Commemorative Air Force, “the CAF and many other non-profit aviation museums around the country exhibit static and flying aircraft in hangars for the purpose of education. However, many non-aeronautical items are also displayed in order to tell these stories. Additionally, food service, merchandise and other revenue-producing operations occur that are supplementary to education and crucial to the business operations of aviation museums. In addition, the CAF’s 60 unit locations, along with hundreds of other aviation museums, experimental, limited and standard category aircraft undergo multi-year restoration efforts - this new rule would threaten those efforts. The CAF is requesting an extension of the comment period on the proposed rule for non-aeronautical uses of aircraft hangars in order for more comments to be registered and for the FAA to delve deeper into the unintended consequences of this proposed rule.”
The Commemorative Air Force will continue to coordinate with the responsible government agencies as well as track this situation because of the potential direct impact to the organization’s operations. To bolster the organization’s efforts, the CAF has made requests to its membership and supporters to voice their concerns about the potential impact of this proposed rule via public comment. Those wanting to voice their opinions must do so before September 5, when the public comment period ends.
The CAF’s official statement requests the policy clearly establish aviation museums/static aircraft displays, aircraft building/restoration, non aviation historical/educational supporting artifacts, signs and other museum support functions such as food and beverage operations, as an approved aeronautical purpose. The statement goes on to say “all of our hangars are used for storing, restoring and performing maintenance on our flying aircraft, as well as museum educational operations. Within some of the larger hangars, they maintain artifacts associated with the history of the airplanes, the wars and battles associated with the era and use them to tell the story about the role of the aircraft and the men and women who flew them to preserve our peace and that of our allies. In some cases we maintain multiple hangars and buildings as a campus, some of which are for the interpretive displays and viewing of artifacts by the public. In all cases, the focus is on our educational mission, as a flying museum and we display the static elements as supporting and necessary elements of the total story and history.”
Aviation enthusiasts and members of various aviation organizations have posted over 700 comments. Several comments expressed concern regarding restrictions affecting the early stages of the homebuilt aircraft projects. “With the comments mounting and actions being taken directly with government agencies, the best outcome would be an industry meeting with the FAA to be sure they understand the concerns and possible impact on aviation non-profit organizations and museums,” concluded Brown.
Comments may be placed by visiting the following link: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FAA-2014-0463-0538
In 1957, a small group of ex-service pilots pooled their money to purchase a P-51 Mustang, beginning what is now called the Commemorative Air Force (CAF). With the addition of a pair of F8F Bearcats, the CAF became the founders of the Warbird Movement, an effort to preserve and honor our military history with the rallying cry to “Keep ‘Em Flying!” Nearly 60 years later, the CAF is the premier Warbird organization, with a fleet of 162 vintage aircraft. A non-profit educational association, the CAF has more than 12,000 members and its fleet of historic aircraft is distributed to more than 80 units located in 26 states. For more information, visit www.commemorativeairforce.org or call (432) 563-1000.
Photo- Hangar flags over the CAF Old Dominion Squadron Stinson OY-1 Sentinel. Photo by Jim Euverard.
Last week, Adam Smith (CAF Executive Vice President of Strategic Development), Gerald Oliver (CAF General Staff, B-29 Squadron), David Oliver (B-29 Pilot) and I visited Museum of Flight (MOF) and Paul Allen's Flying Heritage Museum in Seattle, WA. The following day, Neils Agather (CAF Chief of Staff) joined us at Future of Flight and the restoration facility for MOF. We packed a lot in, especially with Ralph Bufano who is the President Emeritus of MOF,
Unknown to any of us, there is a model of
the CAF B-29 FIFI at the Museum of Flight.
who led us and spoke to us about the process of designing, programming and fund raising for a major attraction such as this. They have over 500,000 paid visitors each year and really do things right, so it was great to look through the lens of developing our CAF National Airbase. Our goal as we travel around the country is to look at many different attractions, not just aviation, and then borrow, tweak or re-package the best of what we see, to design and construct an aviation attraction like no other.
We also got to see FIFI back at its parent company, when it was at Boeing Field and I know that their employees were excited to see and tour a piece of their corporate history. The B-29 relocated at a nearby air field, where they were booked up with rides!
Many people I run into ask if we have "moved yet." The Headquarters will not actually move until next summer, including some of the employees that plan to move. Personally, I am moving right away - I sold my home in Midland and purchased one in Arlington. I will go back and forth between Dallas and Midland, with much of my time devoted to the CAF National Airbase. But, as is always the case, I will be traveling and visiting units. I am able to do this because of the fine Headquarters Staff in Midland and those scattered at remote locations. I am proud of the Staff we have and their knowledge and skill allows me the flexibility to focus outside the daily operations.
On the weekend, I shot down to see my son Austin, who is working at Moffett Field at the NASA facility. He is assigned with Army Test Pilots who handle development of new software and hardware for Army Aviation. He has come to have a big desire to go to flight school and he has focused his studies at Mechanical/Aeronautical Engineering. Of course flying with test pilots is making the fever rise!
I will be back in Midland this week to work with the High Sky Wing.
I am writing this from the audience of an air show in Cameron, Mo. where we have a CAF Red, White & Loud concert underway starring our pal andCAF Col Aaron Tippin. Here are a couple of photos. Aren't we lucky to have such a patriotic performer extending our CAF brand to his fans?!He's a class act who cares about our mission.
Leah recently informed me that people are actually reading this blog and that now you can sign up to receive an email alert! So, thanks to all of you that are doing so – I will work hard to make this informative, entertaining and somewhat regular; hopefully without too much frequency to avoid it being annoying. I have a love-hate relationship with the monthly article I wrote for Dispatch - Flight Lead. I love when I find a topic that people are impacted by and have gotten feedback that I sometimes hit that desired mark. Usually I am dreading the email from Leah Block reminding me that she is waiting on this column. I will make this blog less formal, but feel free to give me feedback on anything I write. Whether we agree or not – I enjoy the discourse!
I visited the CAF Red Tail Squadron and CAF Minnesota Wing two weekends ago – boy I love their weather in the summer time! It was good meeting with the Red Tail Squadron mechanics, who have done such a fabulous job both restoring and maintaining the aircraft, as it travels the countryside with the CAF Rise Above Traveling Exhibit. We had some good discussions about the plans to have the Red Tail Squadron base out of CAF National Airbase, which is some years away, and how beneficial that will be for the Rise Above theme and the continued national impact that the program will have. I also discussed the next steps with the unit leadership. Although we have not made any decisions, this is our focus. (If you haven’t been thru the trailer and seen the movie, you have to go! It is powerful. And be sure to talk with Terry and Jennette Hollis, who travel on tour with the trailer, they are the best.)
I met the next night with the CAF Minnesota Wing for a nice dinner that they provided (tasty lasagna!) It was a beautiful evening and a good turnout showed up midweek to welcome me. I spoke to them for 45 minutes and gave them a blow-by-blow synopsis of the last 18 months regarding the move, the vote, the search the process and the decision. I realized that it reads like a novel as I went through it and I feel confident from the looks on their faces that it was eye opening and intriguing as I told them about the hard work done by so many to convince people of the long-term wisdom of making a move, through phone calls, emails, articles and one-on-one conversations. All of that effort to encourage 2200+ people to vote….only to get the required 75% by two votes!!! Even I couldn’t believe it, except that I lived it. Some have scoffed, but the votes were received and handled by an independent audit firm (the same firm who handles our financial audits and all recent elections)…after two recounts, 2 votes were the margin of victory! Of course the obvious fact is that an election where 75% of anybody votes for anything is a super-mandate. The Minnesota Wing enjoyed and were enthralled by the story and I think this story will become legendary in 20 years when we look back from the heights I expect CAF to rise too.
Preview: Next Blog – Austin Brown, my son, the West Pointer goes to summer training and preps for his Senior Year.
Spring flying season has arrived and the event that kicks things off is Sun 'n Fun down in Lakeland,Fla. I arrived here yesterday and for the first time in 7 years, we didn't bring Hangar 57 to put on display. We have too many things going on this Spring and too few people going too many ways...so we decided to focus elsewhere this year.
The good news is that we have at least two significant aircraft here (so far) and I stopped by to talk to their crews. The Texas Raiders team is out on tour for the first time in a long time and they have met with strong success. It is fun to see their excitement.
The SB2C is also here and Ed Vesley was busy making things happen when I went by- so I will check in with him today. The airplane looked good, although a little bit lonely on the Warbird ramp. Hopefully more aircraft will arrive today. I ran into Jim Cavanaugh and Doug Jeanes on the as well and they were happily enjoying the sunny weather, displaying their Sky Raider and two T-28s.
In the "who's who" walking around was Aaron and Thea Tippin who are camping out on site with their two boys. Aaron became a CFI this past year and solo'd his oldest son Ted- so the Tippin's continue to be "airplane crazy!"
I didn't get too far on without running into old aviation friends and the topic people were interested in was the search for our National Airbase. I will tell all of you that we are getting closer to a decision. The CAF General Staff is meeting this weekend in Dallas for final discussions and probably make a decision as to which location we will enter into the final negotiations. However, due to the fact that wherever they pick will need to get final approval from their local governmental authorities, we won't be able to publicly reveal anything for as much as 8 weeks. Sorry about that, but there is no way around it. I can tell you that the offers have been very exciting and the future for the CAF continues to look brighter every day.
Last night I went to listen to the leaders of AOPA, EAA, NBAA and HAI discuss the challenges ahead. You can all read their thoughts in their respective publications, but it is good to see their collaboration. To digress a little on this topic- Bob Stenevik and I went to Washington D.C. two weeks ago and met with the FAA. Although we had and have concerns, we had a positive meeting with the leadership that oversees the regulations that deal with warbirds. I am hopeful we will see some positive movement or a status quo at the least; for the immediate future.
Finally last night I met up with John and Martha King of King Schools fame for dinner. They have instructed at least 50% of the active pilots today though one or more of their courses- wow! They are always entertaining as well as educational to talk with and I enjoyed hearing about the state of GA in China, of all places. They said that only a tiny percentage of the 1.3 billion people can afford to fly- by that the is still a lot of people! They are on their way over and it is fascinating to think about flying in Chinese airspace- if not a little scary....
So, that was the happenings yesterday and I will let you know if I see anything else of interest today!
It’s been a week now since Wing Staff Conference ended, so I am late on the Blog; but I left town last Monday and spent the last week playing with cows (see photo – that was my view.)
But I had time to reflect last week and I must say that this was the best WSC in the seven years that I have been involved. Besides the fun of our annual Staff Skit (Although I don’t have Facebook, I am sure there are plenty of photos around of that!) where I get to make a fool of myself; and the CAF’s Got Talent (where others join me in foolishness) – there was a ton of good information exchanged. Beside the new Headquarters Staff members that have added a new dimension to the classes, there are many new leaders showing up and learning from the more seasoned leadership. However, this new blood is also bringing fresh ideas to the table!
Of course, don’t just take it from me – here is an email that I received from Stan Turner, the Houston Wing Leader regarding WSC:
I would like to thank you and your staff for putting on a solid program this weekend for WSC. The reminder of "Why We Are Here" was very motivational. Many unit leaders like me get bogged down in the grind of trying to move our groups forward while being constrained by things like day jobs, time and energy. Attending an event where practical knowledge is shared as well as genuine honesty is very appreciated…”
Although not everyone got the word, last year I made it mandatory for each unit’s Leader to attend WSC. Why did I make it a requirement? Because we operate aircraft and our member’s lives are in our hands. Additionally, large amounts of the CAF’s revenue are in the field and in the hands of Unit Staff Officers. Therefore, if you are signing up to lead these units and their members, then you need to attend the annual conference where important issues, including Membership, Safety, Ops and Finances are discussed. So, if not for the fun and camaraderie, come because you owe that responsibility to your unit’s members. That is why every unit leader is required to agree to attend WSC, prior to running for election. That may sound heavy handed, but in reality, these are just the High Standards that the CAF is steadily establishing for ourselves. World Class organizations have very high standards. But beyond the Unit Leader, others on the Unit Staff, or just members at large should attend. There is too much info being disseminated for one person to get it all.
Something new that came out of WSC was the issuance of one (1) FREE Nomex flight suit to each qualified aircraft crew member. The purpose for this is Safety and to help with the newly created CAF regulation requiring all crew members to wear a Nomex flight suit. This fire retardant suit saves lives, as evidenced in the presentation given by CAF Col Doug Jeanes, who told the story of the CAF’s P-47 which caught on fire. He managed to land it quickly and he walked away….barely! But his helmet and scorched Nomex flight suit told another story….of what could have happened had he not been wearing same. By giving every flight crew member one suit for free, we are stressing the importance of safety and our commitment to our most highly exposed members. This program will cost $100,000 this year and was paid for from last year’s (2013) Operating Surplus. It will continue on beyond 2014 to include all future flight crew members receiving this free Nomex flight suit.
While making this commitment, we also selected a Look of Uniformity for the flight suits. There is a standardized and an individualistic component to the patches and desert tan flight suit. But make sure you know what they are, because everyone will need to comply. (Again, Standards!) Please contact Bob Stenevik or Buddy Cooksey for details.
So, please make your plans to come and enjoy the fun, information and history (we induct our CAF Hall of Fame members each year) of Wing Staff Conference. The dates for next year are: Feb 19-22, 2015.
Last night I received the terrible news concerning CAF Col Ray Hofman. As I understand it, yesterday (Feb 18) Ray was at Breckenridge, Texas flying his Sea Fury that just came out of restoration. Soon after taking off on one of the flights, the Sea Fury crashed with the resulting fatality of pilot Ray Hofman.
All of us who have been in this business for very long have been impacted by tragedies such as this…which makes it no easier to handle; perhaps it makes it even harder… I first experienced it as a young lieutenant in Army Flight School when a member of my flight class and his crew were killed during instruction. It shook me up that a guy I had just been talking to at a party, only two days previous, had now simply vanished. I remember the feeling of 30 years ago…and it feels exactly the same today.
I have only known Ray for two years, but as I am sure with many, he made a deep impact. At first, he seemed almost too good to be true – a tall, handsome young guy who had been very successful, all on his own talents and hard work….and he was a nice guy; a VERY nice guy. But, Ray was the Real Deal. He was just that successful and just that nice – and generous.
A race car lover, who had decided to extend his passion to warbirds; when we first met, I was inquisitive as to why the new focus on warbirds? Ray told me his story about growing up in Canada and his childhood room covered with pictures of the CAF’s airplanes on the walls. And that when he had decided to move to Midland for the oil business, he arrived late in the night, only to wake up and see the CAF letters on the water tower. He told me he was so excited because he never realized that the CAF was located in the town he was relocating too! So now, more than 10 years later, he had the time and resources to pursue this passion.
And Ray pursued this passion with enthusiasm! He got the best instructors, bought the best aircraft and had them maintained by the best mechanics. And from all accounts he was a helluva pilot.
But, beyond his passion and success, Ray was a good family man and a good friend. I had the pleasure of seeing him with Janna and their four boys (Dylan, Justin, Byron and Jayden) several times and it always brought a smile to my face. Their home is a young boy’s dream and he got to be the fifth little-boy in their backyard Disneyland…
Ray was very generous – sometimes men of means will get involved in warbirds but not get involved with us blue-collar CAF types. This was the opposite with Ray. He and Janna became active members of the High Sky Wing and were exceedingly generous with their time, resources and airplanes. He loved hanging out with any of the membership to talk airplanes and history.
On a personal note, Ray was a great friend to me in my role here at the CAF. He and I collaborated on the long-term plans for the CAF and he quickly became a member of my “kitchen cabinet”. He was very helpful and supportive to me during the turmoil created around the move of CAF HQ. He felt it was the right thing for the organization and worked behind the scenes to bring differing views together and he would often call or text me encouragement. Ray had great dreams about building a hangar across from the Commemorative Center and Janna and I had just met with the Airport to get things rolling. He wanted to be close to the CAF so that he could help improve our Museum with his collection of airplanes on display in OUR hangar – such generosity!
As I look back in my phone, his last text to me was a request to help him source WWII flags for his “hangar / museum”. That makes me smile – Ray planned on his new hangar being as much a museum for others to enjoy- as a repository for his fun.
I will miss you Ray.
Top photo by Frank Mormillo from AIRSHO 2012, other photos from Facebook.
Wing Staff Conference (WSC) is just around the corner and along with the fun and great information that gets passed along, the CAF Hall of Fame is an event worth attending by every member. If you attend WSC, your ticket is free for this black tie optional dinner, but even if you don’t attend WSC, a ticket for a fabulous evening and diner is only $60. What’s great about this Hall of Fame is that we “honor our own”. If you think about a Hall of Fame in the abstract, who among us would ever end up in such a place? I know that the answer is probably no one….I know that I would never end up in the Academic Hall of Fame at my school. I’m not the world’s greatest pilot, or world’s fastest (insert sport here). And most of us are in the same boat.
But in the CAF Hall of Fame, regular Joe’s (and Josephine’s) like us can end up in the CAF Hall of Fame; just through dedication and commitment. Don’t get me wrong, very few members end up there and all have dedicated much of their life….but it was not through some extraordinary fete or donation, or heroism. It was from doing a great job, for twenty or more years; with selfless dedication. The qualification in the CAF Hall of Fame Guide reads, “Must have dedicated themselves selflessly, resulting in significant contributions to the CAF's mission, growth and strength”.
This year’s inductees, like those who came before them, certainly qualify. Both George W. Lodge and Ted Short are members who I know quite well and had the honor of working for, as both were on the General Staff when I arrived. Those two men would not consider themselves exceptional, but fact is that they put exceptional love and dedication into the CAF and we are a better organization because of them.
Please come honor them and celebrate a wonderful evening together. Saturday March 1st. Call 432-563-1000 ext. 2221 for information or tickets.
My New Year’s resolution is to do better with my Blog and I hope to do so by just using short blips of info:
·In late December we received a donation of 3 (yes, three!) T-34’s – that made for 5 total airplanes donated to the CAF in 2013! And a grand total of 165 airplanes in the fleet…
·If you belong to AOPA, you might have read their President’s Position Report at the front of the mag. He / Mark Baker talked about the cooperation of all of the GA Associations – I totally agree! He listed a bunch of GA Alphabets, but the one that slipped his mind was the CAF. So, I wrote Mark an upbeat note reminding him about us and all of the wonderful work we do in air shows and educating Americans across the country!
·We are meeting with the finalist airports for National Airbase in the next 30 days and it is getting exciting – especially since we have been doing some conceptualizing with an architect.
·We also have a unique and talented “consultant” on our team who is helping our design and ideation team to think out of the traditional paradigm of Museums.
·Wing Staff Conference will be fun, educational and exciting this year – DON’T MISS IT. Feb 28-Mar21
·How about our two CAF Hall of Fame inductees - Ted Short and George Lodge. Two devoted CAF members embody the CAF spirit! ( I often introduce Ted as my Grandfather – he loves that!)
This is the first blog on the new website. The way it looks and how it works are very different. We are really excited to be able to have all the new options to notify you of new posts as well as alow you to repost the blog in an easy way. We hope you enjoy reading the blog!