When Betty Jane came to town last June she made a lifetime fantasy come true. My fantasy was to fly in a WWII fighter, such as a Vought F4U Corsair, P38 Lockheed Lightning or a North American P51 Mustang. The P51 was the most successful fighter in WWII with over 4000 German aircraft kills. The Betty Jane is a P51C that has been modified as the only P51 with a tandem cockpit with duel controls.
I have been reviewing just when and how this fantasy all got started.
As a youngster in 1941 we had family friends who's son John Forrest Luma had enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force ( RCAF) that summer. John earned the nickname of "Lou" in the RCAF. This was all before Pearl Harbor, however Canada being part of the British Commonwealth was already at war with Germany. Our family would occasionally receive Victory Mail from Lou from Europe.
The V-mail was highly censored so no one here knew where in Europe he was but we did know he was flying Mosquito Fighter Bombers. The Saturday Evening Post would occasionally have a center section article featuring various airplane squadrons. When I was about ten years the Post featured the Mosquito Bomber. I don't remember the details in the article, but I do remember a good portion
of one page was about the pilot John Forrest Luma.
In any case as a young kid, to me the pilots and their planes they flew were heroic and Lou was the best. I had picked a good hero for John Forrest Luma won both the American Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and the British DFC. I cut out lots pictures
of military aircraft and tried to draw pictures of them. I developed an ear for some aircraft that flew over the Northend -
B17's and the very unique sound of a P38. By the time I was ten I thought the greatest thing that one could do was to fly a single engine fighter and some day I would fly in one.
On June 26, 2010 Patrick McGarry, Check Captain Flight Operations of US Airways and I took off from Boeing field in the Betty Jane. As Captain McGarry was not real familiar with our part of the world I suggested the Skykomish valley up around Mt. Index. We flew north over Puget sound along the shoreline to Everett then turned east following the Skykomish river. When we flew over Mt. Index the Captain turned me loose. As I hadn't had a joy stick in my hand since the early 60's I at first just tried tight turns keeping the nose on the horizon. Part of the reason for suggesting this area was I wanted to fly over the mountains where
I have hiked in the last sixty five years. I wanted to see Blanco Lake from the air so I headed for Index. Once spotting the
Lake and the vertical drop of Troublesome Creek it was time to see how coordinated this old man might still be. The wingovers, victory rolls, and barrel rolls were far from precision but bloody damn fun. It was time to head home so Captain McGarry took over. He shot down a few clouds then did a tight roll into a steep diving descent. We wrapped around a sharp peak using it
like a pylon about thirty feet off our right wing as we dropped into the Snoqualmie River basin. We did a circle around Snoqualmie Falls. Captain McGarry wanted to check out the sights and I remembered I had a pocket camera with me. We returned to Boeing Field where we both agreed it was a good flight.
So it was a special day. For two years now my back has failed me first for skiing then a year later for hiking. To have a day where I felt a real adrenaline rush made me feel like I shook off a little rust. Not only did I get to fly in a P51 Mustang,
I got 1.2 hours as duel pilot in my log book. How about that song, "Your dreams can come true. It can happen to you, if you
are young at heart." Yes indeed I must be a kid again.
Note: When the United States joined the war Mr. Luma was brought into the United States Army Air Force, however because of circumstances he remained with the Canadians for an extended period. If interested in the story of John Forrest Luma, you may want to check out the following two websites: