Update for May 23, 2013
HAAF Fly-In spreads wings
By Diane Cosgrove
Several thousand visitors to South Texas Regional Airport in Hondo enjoyed beautiful chamber of commerce weather Saturday for the fourth annual Hondo Army Air Field Fly-in. The Tex Hill Wing of the Commemorative Air Force greeted Warbird crews from the Gulf Coast Wing, Devil Dog Squadron, High Sky Wing, Highland Lakes Squadron, Centex Wing, West Houston Squadron and the Alamo Liason Group. In addition, 30 general aviation aircraft flew in from all over.
Opening ceremonies began with a welcome by City of Hondo Mayor Pro-Tem Keith Lutz, followed by presentation of the colors by Medina Valley High School AFJROTC TX 20009, under the leadership of color guard commander Cadet Dallas Peterson.
The national anthem, followed by military service songs, were performed by the Gateway Brass, members of Lackland’s Air Force Band of the West. Tex Hill Wing Leader John Gibeau encouraged friendly competition between the various branches represented there as each group of veterans sang their particular song.
The theme of this year’s event was a celebration of the AVG – American Volunteer Group and the Flying Tigers. A special mention was also made of the 40th anniversary of the return of the last known POWs from Vietnam, which was in April.
Brigadier General John P. Horner from Lackland AFB addressed the assembly, noting that his own father trained at Hondo Army Air Field’s navigation school. “That generation of flyers was just phenomenal,” he said of his father’s. “I last flew with the Flying Tigers – the 74th Fighter Squadron – in Afghanistan in 2002. I guess I’m getting to be an old war bird myself,” he quipped.
The weather cooperated well, and although temperatures above 100º were expected, the wind blew all afternoon, so it was bearable. Toward the end of the day, clouds gathered, blocking the sun, further shielding attendees.
Four of the attending Warbirds were providing rides: the B-25 Devil Dog, the AT-6, the C-47 Bluebonnet Belle; and the B-17 Texas Raiders; however, the B-17 ran into a problem with one of the landing gear and the crew had to cancel the remainder of her rides that day. The issue wasn’t significant enough to ground the aircraft, but the Warbird would return to base in Tomball to complete her maintenance.
Aircraft performed fly-bys throughout the day, offering photographers many opportunities for spectacular, rare shots of the aircraft. The P-40 Warhawk, painted to resemble David A. “Tex” Hill’s Warhawk, flown by Ray Kinney, made multiple low passes roaring over the crowd, much to everyone’s delight, and several other aircraft flew in loose formation at various times.
On Friday, prior to the fly-in, a special promotional flight was made aboard Texas Raiders. Passengers included a former B-17 pilot, Frank Gear, and a Purple Heart recipient from the Vietnam War, WO Mark J. “Skully” Skulborstad. Other passengers were Bob Page, Warren Holmgreen, Chuck Duffin, Sue Calberg from KENS-5 TV, and several Tex Hill Wing members, Larry Stacy, Doug Hill and Wendy Bigelow.
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