Thursday, August 1

Illinois again

Did we mention it was HOT?
On Tuesday, July 16th a group of Flagship pilots met in Tulsa to gather up the plane and head for Shelbyville, TN. The crew consisted of John Thatcher, Zane Lemon, Jim Skelly, Tom Taff, Bob Gross and his son, Riley. At the same time, Gene and Sheryl Christian were driving up from the Atlanta area to meet them. Our "man on the ground," Blake Butler had been preparing for the visit. Blake had arranged a tie down area in the grass for the airport ramp was under construction and unapproachable. He had prepared George's cabin for guests as well as his own adjacent home and arranged a BBQ dinner. Gene and Sheryl arrived in time to help with final prep. It was just before dusk when the tired and hot crew arrived to be met with a cooler full of cold beer. The nine friends had a great reunion that evening. Many thanks to Blake from all of us.
Zane in nose of B29 for a ride.
On the morning of the 17th, after a country breakfast at the famous ( to us anyway) Midway Diner, the seven guys launched for Carbondale, Illinois, home of Southern Illinois University and Zane's Alma Mater. John was dropped in Nashville on the way. SIU has a well respected aviation program for pilots, mechanics and aviation management. The mission was to appear at Aviation Day to treat current students and impress prospective ones on a college visit weekend. Also appearing was Fifi, the last B-29 flying, one of the last two B-24s and a B-25 along with assorted fighter planes. Things were a bit slow until the bombers arrived on Friday. The weather was very hot and still. Some complimentary flights were given, one to high school students visiting the campus. Dr. David NewMyer, Aviation Dept. Chair, took care of accommodations, fuel and hosted the crew for dinner at a local restaurant one evening. Zane returned home on Friday, and now there are five.
Back home in Stewart
Saturday morning early the crew launched early for the short flight to Marion to take part, along with the bombers, in Warbird Salute to Veterans. Many people toured all the planes that day. In the evening they flew back to Carbondale and on Sunday launched for Shelbyville. An early arrival in Shelbyville meant time to do recurrent training for Blake and Joe Roberts. George is back in town and hosted the crew and guests at the cabin for dinner.
Monday was an early, early departure to beat the thunderstorms in Florida for the Flagship is headed back to Stuart for an inspection. The remaining crew of Tom Taff, Jim Skelly and Bob Gross dropped Gene Christian at his home airport in Covington, GA at 8:30 AM and made an uneventful flight to Florida. The next mission is Rocky Mountain Air Show north of Denver in mid August. Check the calendar.

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