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Tough to Say Goodbye

Tony Spicer
After last Thursday’s storm at Sun ’n Fun, which flipped Tony Spicer’s RV-3B.

Tony Spicer
After it was hauled off the field, Tony Spicer retrieved items from his airplane.
Brady Lane photos

April 7, 2011 — The tornado that struck Sun ’n Fun Fly-In last week damaged nearly 70 aircraft and many were declared total losses by insurance companies. But when high winds flipped Tony Spicer’s RV-3B, they wrecked much more than an airplane. Tony, a member of Team RV, a group of Van’s RV owners who fly large formation demonstrations, had built his turquoise-colored aircraft as a memorial to his father, a P-51 pilot in World War II, and his F-4 copilot who was killed in action during the Vietnam War.

The day after the storm, Tony went to his airplane, inverted on the field like so many others, and talked about the storm and his best efforts to mitigate damage to the aircraft before it hit.

Tony’s father, Col. Russ Spicer, flew a P-51B Mustang that had “Tony Boy” on the nose - after his son. Col. Spicer was shot down over the English Channel in February 1944, was eventually captured by the Germans, and became a POW. A large decal with Russ’s picture in front of Tony Boy graced the turtledeck of Tony’s plane.

Lee Tigner flew with Tony in F-4s with the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron in Vietnam. “The day he was shot down I wasn’t with him,” Tony said. “He was two days away from an R and R leave to meet his wife in Hawaii.” Originally listed as MIA, Tony paid tribute to his copilot with a POW-MIA decal on his plane’s vertical stabilizer.

Back home in Wilmington, North Carolina, Tony is intent on getting back to flying - and as soon as possible. His RV-3B, Tony Boy II, was declared a total loss by the insurance company, but he passed on buying back the salvage to rebuild it. Instead he’s looking for another RV - this time an RV-4 - and he may have found one; Tony recently made an offer that was accepted for an RV-4 in Maryland, and he’ll head up there over the next couple of weeks to pick it up.

“Everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I haven’t figured out yet why this happened, but I hope to someday.”

Watch this moving video as Tony describes what his airplane meant to him.


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