Warbird Mission to BMT 2010 Fly-In
By Russ McDonald (guest Yankee aviator and a member of the infamous Hooligans Flight Team)
Everyone has special missions in his life that he has always wanted to be a part of in some way. Last month I was fortunate to live out one of mine by being invited to Darrel Berry’s fun fly-in, barbecue, and aviation festival.
For those of you who don’t know Darrel Berry, you’re missing a most unique individual. Every year in October, BMT Aviation (aka Darrel and Georgia Berry) puts together a weekend event that is unbelievable in every sense of the word.
This year was still another high. I was lucky enough to lead a three-ship of T-34s (the Hooligans) down to the event held at the BMT field. Imagine, if you can, steel-blue skies, unlimited visibility, and no wind for three full days.
En route, the radio garble is fun to listen to as fellow warbirds were converging from all directions. Checking ground speeds, getting directions on how to operate their GPSs, and on and on – boys and toys.
Upon arrival the field tower operator, “Charles,”welcomes us and advises the current traffic situation. We come around the field in parade formation twice, showing our skills as formation pilots and continuing to the break and land. As soon as the engines stop, there’s Bob bringing some much needed water and a fuel truck. After debrief we catch a ride across the active runway to a line of hangars where we become reacquainted with old friends.
The field is a WWII-style sod runway complete with a tree in the middle of the approach to 31 and a set of wires on the end of 13. The tower is right out of somewhere in the Pacific theater; you can’t help but think Pappy Boyington is just around the corner of the hangar or maybe a Flying Tigers P-40 is going to be taxiing out with Tex Hill at the controls.
Sitting on the ramps is every type of military vehicle you can imagine, and in the distance, gun fire – yup, Darrel has his own gun range!
Reconnecting with old friends is the part that really hit me hard this year. I bought my T-34 in 1996, and the famous Charlie Nogle told me, “Your life will never be the same!” My, was he ever spot on. I’ve met so many friends since then, many I’ve flown formation with and a few I’ve taught formation, and it occurred to me that these people are really my true friends. Here are people that share my passion and ideals.
We sat and renewed old friendships and told stories of past years. Not much time went by until a mission was put together: “Let’s fly!”We flew three hours of formation over the weekend, some with 25 aircraft, some with seven, and some with three.
The best of the best were there. The formations were the best I’ve ever seen. The Tennessee group was as hot as ever, setting the mark of excellence.
The Red Star guys were there showing all of us how to fly aerobatics. They put on a real show. Good job, guys.
Now here’s where it gets really good: the food. Both Darrel and Georgia are master chefs, and you couldn’t ever find better food than what they prepare. I can’t hope to describe it, but ribs, chicken, brisket, pulled pork, and on and on – so good it melts in your mouth! And Georgia’s nanner puddin’, oh my, it’s to die for! (How many people do you know with a tractor trailer barbecue rig?)
BMT has approximately 250 restored military vehicles at the field museum, many of which were out being operated during the weekend. What a deal.
Well, as with all things, it had to come to an end. We all were really tired after so much good food, good fellowship, and great weather. It just doesn’t get any better. Oh yes, one more thing – Darrel and Georgia picked up the tab. Must be a dream, I said to myself.
To Darrel and Georgia, how can we ever thank you both for what you do for all of us!