My husband Keith is a farmer, but when he was young, he was also a pilot. This was possible because Bob, his 2nd cousin, who also was his landlord loved planes and decided to buy a Cessna. Together the two took flying lessons deepening even further the bonds between the two. Bob Reichert was like a second father to Keith. Being family and shared history and an interest in flying connected the two.
Keith knew that when Bob was in the service he was in the Aviation Cadets and trained to be a navigator on a B29 bomber. When the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) came to Springfield’s Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, he and his brother Wayne stopped by to see FIFI, the B29 Superfortress. He watched her take off and land and came home wishing he had splurged and went for a ride.
These days it has come to our attention with the loss of those we love adding up, that time is fleeting and some things in life just come around once. With this in mind and knowing that it would not be a true economic hardship I told him, “Why don’t you do it?”
It was like a light went on and he was as excited as any five year old on Christmas morning when he and I and his brother Wayne set off to the airport. I had booked him a ride online and Wayne and
I were contemplating a ride on the Bucket of Bolts a very cool C45 which was more in line with my budget. I also decided to interview these amazing pilots and some of the riders for a story for Veteran’s Day for Senior News &Times. The visit of these war bird planes is history preservation bringing it right to our doorstep.
On our arrival, Keith soon met up with George and Bob Schultz, two brothers who’s father had flown 25 missions in a B29 during WWII. Carl Norman Schultz, their father was shot down over Iwo Jima, but lived to tell about it. It was George’s dream to take a ride and he brought a picture of his father and his the crew to take along on the flight.
Ginger Bricker was in the Air Force in the late 1970’s and had worked on airplanes during her service. Her father John Compardo Jr. was a 2nd Lt. in USAF and he was a bombardier on B29’s, she too wanted to remember him in flight. Keith wanted to sit in the same seat that Bob sat in so many years ago.
Mark Novak, the pilot of the B29 mentioned that one of their goals is to bring airplanes to the people because only 1% will go to a museum and see them. “We want to honor the men who flew them and the women who built them,” he added.
Along with a bit of education, these men and women of the CAF are making dreams come true. Keith flew with George and Ginger and they had the time of their lives. George’s brother Bob and I sat in seats and took pictures as they rose over the Land of Lincoln in the majestic machine that changed the course of WWII.
Wayne and I had our moment of glory as well. We took our ride and loved every second of it. Keith’s other brother Craig and his wife Debbie came up and were excited to tour FIFI too. While it was great family time and so cool to see the planes and hear the stories of those involved, for me it was all about Keith living a dream, and remembering a man he loved.
If the CAF comes to your town, have your own adventure while preserving history. If you don’t want to go up in the air, take a walk through these icons of our history while they are still available to see. Log onto www.airsquadron.org for more information.