Yesterday, I had the good fortune to play a part in one of those magical and increasingly rare moments when an old warrior revisits his past. I was up on the wing of the Mustang when Shirley Murphy approached and asked me if I could take a moment to talk to an old WWII Mustang pilot. I told her that if the gentleman was up to it I would like to give him a cockpit tour. With some effort and help from Ron Fleishman and Mike Hohls we got him up on the wing. He told us that his name was Hal and that he flew in the 8th Air Force out of Steeple Morden, England. I asked him if he wanted to try to get into the seat and he said, “you might get me in but you’d never get me out!” I was amazed at how quickly he remembered the layout of the cockpit and the little details. He touched the trim wheels and said, “that’s how you fly this baby”. He talked about the 85 gallon fuel tank behind the cockpit and how they never put more than 65 gallons in it because the plane would become unstable. He said the automatic radiator doors often failed so they would have to go to manual. He said that he saw a lot of B-17s go down. He said many things. After about twenty minutes he told us that it was time for him to get down. Just before he stepped off of the wing he kissed the palm of his left hand and reaching into the cockpit he patted the throttle and then gave it a little squeeze . It was then I heard him whisper, “goodbye baby”.

Dan Newcomb

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