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Arsenal of Democracy: Quite a Day for EAA, Warbirds of America

  • Image from a mounted camera on Aluminum Overcast
    Image from a mounted camera on Aluminum Overcast shows the B-17 approaching the National Mall in Washington.
  • Looking out the bombardier nose glass of Aluminum Overcast
    Looking out the bombardier nose glass of Aluminum Overcast at the Washington Monument during the May 8 Arsenal of Democracy flight.
  • From left, Jim McBride, Edward L. “Whitey” Feightner, and Chris Roseberry
    From left, Jim McBride, Edward L. “Whitey” Feightner, and Chris Roseberry were special passengers on board EAAs B-17 on a rehearsal flight May 7.

May 13, 2015 - Perfect weather and large crowds greeted the 70th anniversary commemoration of Victory in Europe (V-E) Day on Friday, May 8, in Washington, D.C. EAA’s B-17 Aluminum Overcast was among the 56 warbirds that had the honor of flying over the National Mall at midday in tribute of those who served in World War II.

EAA’s Sean Elliott and George Daubner were in the cockpit with EAA staffers Jim Busha, Jason Toney, and Brady Lane on board. Also along for the flight was Dick Johnson, a B-17 pilot during WWII and author of Twenty-Five Milk Runs (And a Few Others), a book about his experiences during the war which included 32 combat missions with the 303rd Bomb Group (Hell’s Angels). Two of those were D-Day missions.

Elliott put the event into perspective: “I was realizing that we were carrying the torch for the Greatest Generation, and that everything we do and everything we are is in thanks to them.” The flight over the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall, and other historic sites were incredible, he added.

“Flying past the U.S. Capitol and over Washington, with EAA leading the B-17 flight saluting ‘Big Week,’ was just one of those moments,” Elliot said. “We hit every one of our marks right on time and it was perfect. It’s one of those moments that you’ll never forget.”

The practice flight on Thursday welcomed several distinguished passengers, including Rear Admiral Edward L. “Whitey” Feightner, a WWII Hellcat Ace fighter pilot who once served with Butch O’Hare in VF-3. He later served with VF-10, the “Grim Reapers,” aboard USS Enterprise, and authored the book, Whitey: The Story of Rear Admiral E. L. Feightner, A Navy Fighter Ace. Also on the flight Thursday were Feightner’s nephew, Jim McBride, who flew F-8 Crusaders in Vietnam, and Chris Roseberry, active duty Army Airborne, who lost a lower leg in combat.

“I definitely sensed a brotherhood among them,” Busha said, describing the mutual respect he witnessed among the generations. “It was very humbling and very moving. It was an honor to be on the flight. It was well choreographed, and the pilots and controllers certainly orchestrated everything safely.”

Thursday’s rehearsal flights included a surreal scene of classic warbirds flying simultaneously, including the CAF’s B-29 and B-24, along with a P-38, several P-51s, a Helldiver, Corsairs, an A-26, and a TBM among others.

EAA’s B-17 serves as the backdrop for this story that aired on Fox News Sunday, May 10.

Additional photos of the fly over can be found in our Facebook page photo album.

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