Dear Fellow Pilots,
I apologize for the short notice, as most of us have our summer schedules already set in ink. Each June a group of yacht owners organizes a flotilla to travel up the Hudson River carrying wounded warriors through the “Hope for the Warriors” organization, Purple Heart recipients through the Military Order of the Purple Heart, and veterans from all wars since, including WWII and Gold Star Families from all the wars who have lost a loved one in the fight for our freedom. Each town they pass honors the veterans in their own distinct manor ranging from bands, to escort boats with water cannon honors, etc.
For the last two years the town of Newburgh has engaged the United States Military Academy at West Point to fly our UH-72 helicopter and parachute team over the flotilla while it transits our stretch of the river. The veterans are the most excited about having aircraft “escort them” through our stretch of river.
This year will feature 8 WWII veterans, one is 100 years old, another is an Army Air Corps veteran. I’m in the process of trying to assemble some brief bios of each veteran to put a face with the number.
Along with tasking our helicopters, I’m planning to fly my Stearman along with another Stearman owner over the flotilla, and thought…”Hey..I know quite a few other warbird owners within a tank of gas who might like to honor these veterans too.”
So, if anyone has a WWII aircraft, primary trainer to bombers, transports and fighters, It would be my privilege to invite you to the first of hopefully many future “Wounded Veteran’s Flotilla Fly Over” on Saturday, June 24th. To be clear, this isn’t sponsored by the U.S. Army, West Point, or anyone else. It’s just me reaching out to other warbird owners and organizations. However, if you choose to accept this assignment, we will be briefing, and staging at Stewart Airport (formally Stewart Army Air Base), and the historic West Point 2nd Aviation Detachment hangar.
An organization has already offered to provide meals all day of the event for participating crews, and I’m working fuel and lodging discounts if you choose to arrive the evening before, but no guarantees. There is lodging less than 1/8 mile from 2nd Aviation’s hangar, and we can make sure everyone gets a ride to alternate lodging if required. The timeline is such that most can arrive in the morning by 10:00, fly the event, and be wheels up returning home by 15:00. As soon as I have an idea of the numbers of interested crews, I can send out timelines and logistics. I will conduct the brief the morning of the fly-over, and handle any coordination issues that might arise. The Stewart Airport administration and operations personnel are extremely cooperative when it comes to warbirds and veteran’s events. The actual flying time for the event will be less than 45 minutes from takeoff to landing. An ancillary event will be a fly over of West Point enroute to the flotilla. If you’ve ever wanted to legally center punch the United States Military Academy in your warbird with the Commander of the aviation department in the lead, this is your chance.
I completely aware of what a financial burden flying your planes can be at events where compensation isn’t provided. This isn’t an airshow, no gate fees are collected, nobody is being paid to advertise, it’s one yacht club that decided to put our Nation’s heroes on the water to be the guests of honor for a day long parade. Your planes will be secured at 2nd Aviation, the public is not allowed into the facilities. This is event if 100% focused on the veterans we are flying for. Give it a try once I promise you’ll love the facilities at West Point, the camaraderie and mission focus of what we’re assembled to perform. I have visions of making the location for future invitation only warbird gatherings, BBQs and formation clinics.
As owners and operators of these flying pieces of history, I continually hear “We’re just custodians of these treasures, we fly and maintain them to honor the memory of the sacrifices made by our Greatest Generation and those veterans of subsequent wars that have kept us free.” Without being overly dramatic, this is it, these are the citizens and warriors we claim to fly for.
I’m relatively new to the Northeast and haven’t had the opportunity to make many contacts within the warbird community. Please feel free to forward this email to anyone you think might be interested. The only equipment requirement is to fly a military aircraft from WWII on, and have an operating two-way radio. There are still several details to sort out, but if you’d like to participate, please contact me via email or cell so I can continue to provide updated information and add you to our roster. Sign up deadline is June 14th.
I’ve attached the official announcement from the originating yacht club, as well as a video of last year’s event to give you an idea of what we’re supporting. I look forward to sharing the honor with you all.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFIcCaq ... e=youtu.be
C (360) 485-7207
AKA: CW4 Michael Rutledge
2nd Aviation Detachment, USMA