For a gallery of photos of Thursday activities at the air show, click here. http://portal.havenews.com/photogallery/?CatID=8&AlbumID=2316
Maj. Gen. Bob Hedelund has spent much of his career as a helicopter pilot, but he got a behind the wheel of a classic World War II bomber on Thursday.
Hedelund, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, flew around Cherry Point in a B-25 Mitchell just like the type that was once based here.
“Much of it is familiar to the plane that I flew, a CH-46,” Hedelund said after his 20-minute flight. “The aluminum’s the same. The rivets are the same. The ‘uncomfort’ of it is the same, but very different than say an F-18 or a Joint Strike Fighter. You really have to fly it. It doesn’t fly itself. You have to be on top of it all the time.”
The B-25 was one of the first aircraft placed on the base after it opened in 1942, about three months after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese.
“From what I understand, 70-plus years ago this was a B-25 base for quite a while, so it’s kind of nice to make the trip back here 70 years later and see it on the flight line again,” Hedelund said.
Squadrons of the medium bombers based at Cherry Point were then sent for duty in the South Pacific during World War II.
George Louis Bartlett, who retired as a brigadier general from the Marine Corps, was an original crew member of a B-25, coming to Cherry Point in 1944 as a forward gunner and bombardier.
“I lived in the barracks here on the base when I was here,” said the 89 year-old.
He still enjoys the B-25.
“It’s a little tougher to climb up into, but it’s fantastic,” Bartlett said. “It’s a great plane. For the last 10 years I’ve been going to air shows with them. They take me along to tell old war stories, some of which are even true.”
Bartlett said he loves coming back to Cherry Point.
“It’s been a great base and I always enjoy coming down here,” he said. “It’s a good Marine attitude here. Everybody does a good job and we have a lot of fun.”
He said the base hardly resembles the one in the 1940s.
“In 1944 as a sergeant, it is a little different than being here now,” he said. “Where I am sitting here was full of airplanes. We had four or five squadrons of B-25s here as well as C-118s, so there were a lot of planes here, of course no jets in those days but it was a fantastic place to be. We did a lot of training.”
Bartlett flew to Cherry Point with the plane to share the message of the Disabled American Veterans and share information about the organization’s programs that benefit veterans and their families.
Hedelund said much effort has gone into preserving the aircraft.
“We deeply appreciate the hard work,” he said. “I know that it is a labor of love for them. We are really the beneficiaries. I hope that many of the young folks that are going to see the aircraft this weekend take the time to shake their hand and tell them how much we appreciate the work that they’ve done. The amount of work that keeps these airplanes flying is not cheap. For them to come out and donate some of these rides to wounded Marines and the disabled veterans is just fantastic.”
The plane, nicknamed “Panchito,” is scheduled to take to the sky around 12:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday as part of the air show. Other times, the plane will be on static display.
The air show is scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Cherry Point. Parking and admission to the air show are free, though upgrades to bleacher, box or chalet seating do cost varying on the day.
Gates open for the Friday Night Show at 5 p.m., with performances scheduled for 6:45 p.m., culminating in a fireworks show at 10 p.m.
Gates open at 8 a.m. for the Saturday and Sunday shows with performances scheduled for 10 a.m.
After Saturday’s show, country singer Bryan Mayer, known for his singles “This is Me” and “Leaving Town,” is scheduled to perform at 4:30 p.m.
For more information, go online towww.cherrypointairshow.com.