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  • Luke Nickerson

Some Reflections and Summary Comments


Foremost, thanks to all Aerometal International staff and their various vendors. Your hard work on preparing the aircraft laid the groundwork for a safe, comfortable, flawless journey. Everything you did worked the way it was planned. Those of us who flew on the journey are indebted to you.


We logged about 40 hours on the airplane. All mechanicals worked perfectly in all flight conditions we encountered. We had a few hours of IMC flight, some in heavy rain, and some in freezing air. We gathered a little bit of airframe ice on a couple of occasions and she behaved as expected. Descent to warmer air or change of course to non-icing areas rectified any build-up. If memory serves right we also made two IFR approaches (both ILS). Since there is no auto pilot aboard both pilots got plenty of stick time.


The new interior was comfortable and quiet and met all our needs. For those who have not been aboard her in flight, 121 airborne is like flying along in one’s living room – plenty of space, comfort and privacy when needed. The new heaters worked superbly, as did the galley, the head, all the USB ports, the home-made ADS-B reader and the air-show. No other airplane in this exercise was equipped to the high degree that we were.


We developed a nice routine over the days. Upon landing everyone would help install gear pins and control locks, lend a hand wiping engine oil off of cowlings (radial engines are notorious for leaking) and unloading bags. Without fail Luke would take care of all FBO-related matters (fuel, lav service, coffee, etc.), supported by others, and Paul would check/service engine oil and hydraulic fluid. Invariably, sometime just after reaching cruise altitude Jeff Petersen would come forward with hot coffee for the flight crew. At the completion of each day the cabin was vacuumed and straightened for the next day’s flight.

In-flight provisioning was planned and executed by Gary and Wake. The combination of granola bars, trail mix, and peanut M&Ms was perfect and abundant. We drank hot coffee and water all day long, every day. On the couple days we did not have three-square meals, these items held us over just right.


I want to mention again the joy it was to have four Englishmen aboard from Duxford to Normandy. Their perspective, character, and wit added greatly to our experience. I have for many years heard of and observed the so-called special relationship between the UK and the US. It isn’t easy to explain, but a unique kinship was clearly evident, substantial and enjoyable. It leads me to conclude, once again, that the special relationship is real, and endures. I hope they feel the same, but in a superior sort of way.


Now that this journey is complete, Presque Isle, Maine; Goose Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador; Narsarsuaq, Greenland; Reykjavik, Iceland, are no longer mysteries to me. Particularly around WWII these were aviation’s storied stepping stones across the Atlantic. While we flew a vintage airplane our avionics and on-board navigation aids were modern. Eighty years ago pilots were using a compass, radio direction finder, some times a sextant, dead-reckoning and just plain intuition to navigate - very crude and very difficult to say the least. I am dumbfounded aviators could find their way from Goose Bay to Bluie West One on southern Greenland, or from there to Reykajvik, even on a CAVU (clear) day.


The general environs of Normandy are also now familiar to me. While it is impossible to realistically imagine the horror of war, or the suffering it causes, I can now at least put a face to some of the names - the steeple on the church in Sainte-Mere-Eglise for example. Over the course of the trip I read The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan. Upon arrival in Normandy I was able to finally lay eyes, both from the air and on the ground, on the beach heads and battle fields Ryan describes, and to try to imagine from those vantage points the pain, suffering and destruction that took place on those days in 1944. It is trite, and perhaps meaningless to write, but I have nothing but gratitude for the effort and sacrifice made by so many starting on 5 June, 1944. I enjoy an easier life today because of them, and I am thank-full for what they did.


In our stops at each place we could see the strategic value they held at one time, and may yet come to hold again (albeit for different reasons). The residents are justifiably proud of their heritage and as we visited and watched and listened we absorbed their pride. Perhaps it was the demographics of our group (old, history-buff, pilots and some military vets) but I found we did more listening than talking and we were more than a few times thanked for the gesture of this trip (particularly in the UK.) We were treated, in all places, in all cases to a very high level of courtesy and warmness. I find this to be the case most everywhere I go, yet the popular press would have us believe otherwise. I am going to believe my own eyes. On behalf of all who were aboard I express thanks and appreciation for the great reception we got everywhere we stopped.


In closing, I offer a salute of gratitude to my fellow travelers. Your support and encouragement both before and during the trip helped in more ways than you know. You made the journey memorable in ways I did not anticipate. My only regret in any of this is that the years of planning and preparation, and the thirteen days of execution, are complete and behind us. (see https://www.kgw.com/video/news/local/dc-3-flying-from-oregon-to-normandy-arrives/283-b91573a7-4633-4fe3-90e3-ba2901d99a03 ).


Lastly, as you can gather from the website, the photos and the stories, many times along the way we were able to remind ourselves, and others, to Remember Normandy. In conclusion, I think we hit the nail squarely on the head.


Pete

June 2019

www.remembernormandy2019.com

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