'Warbirds' help commemorate the reopening of original runway at Punta Gorda Airport
The newly-reopened Runway 4-22 at Punta Gorda Airport was recently commemorated with special takeoffs and landings by four vintage military aircraft, or “Warbirds.”
A team of three pilots flying T-34 aircraft flew in formation as the “Veterans Airlift Command Tribute Wing.” The Beechcraft T-34 Mentor is a single-engine, basic trainer aircraft designed and manufactured by Beechcraft for the US Air Force and US Navy. Walt Fricke, A former Army combat helicopter pilot and Vietnam Veteran, AirBoss and Founder of the Veterans Airlift Command non-profit, led fellow pilots Mike Grossmann and Dan Blackwell in a three-man formation.
Jim Lyons, pilot of a North American P-51 Mustang, also joined the commemorative flights with his iconic aircraft. The P-51 Mustang is an American long-range, single-seat fighter used during WWII that was based at Punta Gorda Army Airfield.
All four pilots are based locally and offered to coordinate this special flight as a tribute to the airport’s rich history, and the future of aviation.
The airport, home of the Veterans Airlift Command, first opened 80 years ago as the Punta Gorda Army Airfield, where it reached its peak with 1,097 enlisted men. Runway 4-22 was one of the airport’s original runways, and its year-long rehabilitation was completed in mid-January.
The Veterans Airlift Command provides free private air transportation to combat wounded veterans and active service members for medical and other compassionate purposes thru a national network of volunteer aircraft owners and pilots.
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