Eric Dobson, of SkyVista Aviation, cleans the Douglas SBD Dauntless housed at the Union County Airport Thursday morning. The plane left later that day. SkyVista hosted three historic planes from the Commemorative Air Force for the past three weeks.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Will Channell)
For the past three weeks, the Union County Regional Airport has hosted a trio of World War II-era aircraft.
This is courtesy of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), a Texas organization dedicated to preserving historical aircraft. The last of those three planes, a Douglas SBD Dauntless, left the county Thursday.
The other two planes the airport hosted were a Vought Corsair and a replica of a WWII Japanese bomber, a Nakajima B5N.
According to David Holden, the owner of the Union County Airport-based SkyVista Aviation, the pilots were staying in Union County between airshows.
“They asked if they could stay here and they asked how much it would cost,” Holden said. “We thought, well, you guys volunteer your time and effort, we’re going to volunteer our time and money.”
SkyVista agreed to host the pilots at the airport for free, though the pilots did buy fuel from SkyVista.
“We’re just honored to have them here, and help with the effort just to preserve these things,” Holden said.
One of the biggest thrills for the folks at the Union County Airport was the chance to work on older planes. The Corsair had some problems that were fixed at the airport.
“We actually did some maintenance on it,” Holden said. “The fuel pump was bad, so we repaired the fuel pump, and that was all free of charge. It was really interesting to do.”
Eric Dobson, of SkyVista, spent some of Thursday morning cleaning the SBD. He said cleaning an old dive bomber is labor intensive, but they were happy to do it.
“You thank them by cleaning it,” he joked.
Holden said it’s a “labor of love.” He said there are only three SBDs still flying, so this is a rare opportunity.
“How often to do you get to put your hands on something like this?” he said.
Tony Stein, the pilot of the SBD, said the CAF if a “flying museum.” The organization has about a 160 airplanes across the country, all of which can still fly. Stein is part of the Dixie Wing, a CAF branch based in Peachtree City, Georgia.
The Douglas SBD, which took off for other skies Thursday, was a dive-bomber and scout for the U.S. in the Pacific theatre of WWII.
“They would be over a ship and diving down at a ship to drop that bomb on it,” Holden said. “Amongst all the flak and machine gun fire.”
The plane also included a backseat gunner who could swivel around when needed.
The CAF put on airshows and mock dogfights to entertain crowds and veterans, but it’s also to remind people the cost of WWII.
“It’s all there just to try and educate people about how things happened in WWII, and we’ve still got a lot of veteran from WWII out there,” he said. “This is kind of honoring their sacrifice.”
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