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Jackson: Special guest will highlight this year’s ‘Wings Out West’ show

Dave Hamilton is a veteran of the June 6, 1944, English Channel crossing. (Courtesy)

Dave Hamilton is a veteran of the June 6, 1944, English Channel crossing. (Courtesy)

Topflight? Well yes, it would be hard to top the Wings Out West air show that will be winging its way over Prescott on Saturday, October 5.

The event at Prescott’s regional airport will be enhanced by the presence of a special guest, long-time Prescott area resident Lt. Col. Dave Hamilton, USAFR, who was commemorated recently – on June 6 – in England and France during the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing in Normandy. His first mission – at the age of 21 – involved piloting a C-47 Pathfinder aircraft containing 18 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers who were dropped in German-held Normandy on D-Day and now – at age 96 – he stands out as the last living Pathfinder pilot from World War II.

That first mission was a harrowing one too, as he flew the C-47 some 50 feet above the English Channel so as to stay under the German radar. Upon his return to his home base at North Witham in mid England, an inspection of the plane revealed more than 200 bullet holes from ground fire, the magnetos shot out and a wing tip shot off.

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Honoree Dave Hamilton is a veteran of the June 6, 1944 English Channel crossing. (Courtesy)

Hamilton, who joined the Army Air Force on December 8, 1941 – one day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor – was awarded numerous medals during his military career including the Distinguished Flying Cross, which is America’s oldest aviation medal for heroism – prior to retiring from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel following the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis. Hamilton is slated for induction into the San Diego Air & Space Museum Hall of Fame in November.

Jerry Kidrick, an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, is the director of the Wings Out West air show. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the City of Prescott co-sponsor the show. Kidrick is a retired Army helicopter pilot whose military career spanned 35 years, including a deployment in Iraq as a combat advisor.

Space won’t allow for a complete overview of all the WWII aircraft gracing the show, but among them will be a B-17 Flying Fortress named “Sentimental Journey” from the Commemorative Air Force Wing in Mesa, which will be on display all week leading up to the show, and “D-Day Doll”, from the CAF Wing based in Riverside, Calif., which was among the planes crossing the channel on that historic day 75 years ago. “D-Day Doll” and a couple dozen other C-47s and C53s from the U.S. and Europe, one of which carried Hamilton, were part of last month’s nostalgic reenactment flight. A Spitfire is in the mix, too, along with another C-47 from CAF Mesa, a T-6 and a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber from CAF Grand Junction, which is the model aircraft that future president George H. W. Bush was piloting when it was shot down by the Japanese during the Pacific war. And, Kidrick notes, a specialized act during the October 5 show will include “D-Day Doll” dropping a team of WWII paratrooper reenactors. An additional special treat for war bird enthusiasts will be that many of these aircraft will be offering rides for sale to the public the day before the show.

Among the other planned events, according to Kidrick, will be a parachute flag jump by the Misty Blues jump team, a performance by the ERAU Golden Eagle flight team, Department of Defense fly-bys, a WWII jet-single-ship demo British Vampire flight (the Vampire’s dual fuselage is reminiscent of the war’s U.S. Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter), and – for kicks – a comedy act by Kent Pietsch.

Wings Out West will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. October 5, and will feature free admission and free parking. Also, special seating honoring WWII veterans will be provided. Kidrick adds that if any local aircraft owners or those with military vehicles would like to put them on static display for the show that they should contact Cathy Watt at wattc@erau.edu for the static display form.

So mark your calendars for the potpourri of compelling, propelling planes of mouthwatering magnitude. A prediction: You’ll be mighty glad you did!

Contact the columnist at editorial@prescottaz.com.

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