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Rare Air
updated: May 13, 2014, 11:55 AM

By John Wiley

Wow! Some SB days are just enchanted. Yesterday my wife and I volunteered to help people tour the WWII planes that arrived at SBA yesterday. When we found out they'd stopped to pick up veterans in Camarillo and would be over an hour late, we took a short flight of our own. To my great delight, the B-25 Mitchell arrived earlier than expected and we got these pix of it rumbling over SBCC and some SB swimming pools.

Back on the ground we watched the B-24 taxi in with that cool "cowboy" lookout man riding up on top. Last to arrive was the P-51 Mustang, snapping eyes skyward with the staccato symphony of the Merlin engine. After a hot and tiring but rewarding day guiding people of all ages out to the planes, I got an astonishing treat! Since they had a spare seat for the 5pm B-24 flight, the crew offered me a ride in this Liberator bomber like my late father-in-law flew in combat (see his obit for a remarkable story).

Immersed in the thundering music of those four giant radial engines along our peaceful shore, I smelled the rare air he once breathed for long hours hunting the Pacific islands. I saw the man in "his" left seat aided by a skilled woman co-pilot. I scrambled into the bow (nose) turret where his ace gunner Claude W. Hawkins, who passed just a week ago, helped him expand the limits of this bomber by doing things only fighter planes were supposed to be capable of. This was a very exciting day for one who loves to fly, and who loved these two brave aviators.

The planes are here until tomorrow some time, if you'd like to take a look and help keep these rare birds flying.

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