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WWII Aircraft Returned to Airfield 65 Years Later

PT-17 Stearman
PT-17 Stearman

Nancy Ginesi-Hill
Nancy Ginesi-Hill

In 1944, a PT-17 Stearman biplane came to Eagle Field, near Dos Palos, California, and was stricken from US Army Air Forces records in June 1945 at the end of the war. It is particularly interesting that Nancy Ginesi-Hill is the current owner of this aircraft and has lived and worked at Eagle Field for several years helping to restore the field.

“I have been coming to Eagle Field for many years, and I have always wanted to own and fly a Stearman,” says Nancy. “But never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever own one that had been stationed at this particular field. When I bought the aircraft in Santa Rosa [California] from Jacques Gandolfo, I had no idea it had been at Eagle Field. But once I got it and started going through the log books, I found these entries indicating it had been there.”

During the war, aircraft were moved from the factories and depots to the active bases by women pilots, who were part of the Women’s Army Service Pilots, or WASP. With all of the qualified men at war, Jackie Cochran, a race pilot, proposed that women be taught to fly the trainers, fighters, bombers, and transports, and it proved to be very successful.

At one time, Nancy seriously considered starting a military-style flight school in partnership with Joe Davis, owner of Eagle Field. The plan was to teach students using tail draggers, which many say is the only way to learn to fly. The journey to bring the Stearman back to Eagle Field began at Lincoln Regional Airport near Sacramento, California, late one morning. It was a fitting time and day for this flight since Nancy arrived back at Eagle just in time for the big dinner, dance, and fly-in.

Each year, Eagle Field honors its veterans with several WW-II aircraft including B-25 Mitchell bombers, trainers, and others. Sounds of the Big Band Era played arrangements of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and others. Military uniforms made it truly a unique living history event, allowing guests to literally walk in the footsteps of our heroes.

Nancy joined the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an international group of women pilots, 20 years ago. The chapter is very active in promoting aviation in young and old alike. “Sitting there listening to WW-II aces and pilot stories, I could do all day long,” says Nancy. “I love the history of our men and women of the military, and I proudly fly my Stearman in their honor!”

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