On April 10th,
there was an event in Kissimmee, Florida called “The
Gathering of Mustangs and Legends.”It
was a fly in of many of the surviving P-51 Mustang fighters.
This was billed as the
largest gathering of Mustangs since Worald War II and the Korean
added attraction to this event was that several
pilots were supposed to attend.Among
these pilots was
Apollo 8 astronaut, Major General Bill Anders.Anders
is such a rarity at public appearances that it is hard to pass up an
where he is supposed to attend.
told my friend Andy Sheppard about this event and the two of us decided
for it.When we were checking in at the
airport, Andy convinced me to check in my luggage.Normally for a weekend trip I would have just
carried the luggage on.Since Andy was
checking his luggage though, I figured I had nothing to gain by
carrying mine since it would not save any time leaving the airport.That wasn’t
luggage did not make it on the flight with me for some reason.We got into Orlando
and waited until the luggage conveyor stopped, but no joy.So I filed a report with American and they
said it would probably come in on the next flight and they would
deliver it to
the house where I was staying.
great, now I all the clothes that I had to wear was what I had worn to
Friday.That wasn't a big issue, but I
would have preferred shorts and sneakers for the air show. You could
say that I
was a little over dressed for the occasion.
the biggest problem with the lost luggage was that my sunscreen was in
also. To compound the situation, I forgot to stop on the way out to Kissimmee airfield
and purchase sunscreen.The first thing
I did at the air show was buy a baseball hat.That
however did not protect my neck and it got
pretty badly sunburned.
than that, things went very well.There
were actually 63 P-51 mustangs that made it for the fly in. That was an
impressive site.Also impressive is the
fact that out of the 15,600 some that were made, only 150 mustangs
and we saw 63 of them.
walked along looking at the planes trying to find the ones associated
legends.Over at the end of the flight
line, we saw "Glamorous Glennis III" and "Old Crow".These are the two planes associated with
Chuck Yeager and Bud Anderson.
was walking around his plane and talking to another pilot.A few people were getting autographs, so I
got in the short line to get a copy of the book "Yeager" signed.Yeager is a pretty crusty old guy, bigger
than life in a lot of respects.
signed the book, I wished him luck for the day of flying, I and shook
hand.He didn't seem overly friendly,
but with General Yeager I think that is as good as it gets.
next person that I saw was Bud Anderson.Anderson was
credited with 19 kills in the war and is a good friend of General
Yeager's.They flew together in WWII.I stopped and asked Anderson
to sign a photo of him that was in the Yeager book.
crossed out the description of the photo that said "Wingman Bud
Anderson" and wrote in "Lifelong Friend Bud Anderson".He said that this was a first edition copy of
the book and it had a terrible error in it. Yeager was actually Anderson's
wingman not vice versa. I thought it was great that he corrected it.That was cool.
we started to walk back down the flight line.We
turned around and saw a mustang named "Val-Halla".This was Bill Anders' plane.Sure
enough, there in a blue flight suit with
an Apollo 8 patch on the shoulder was Major General Anders.We saw him sign something for one person so I
was hopeful for the chance of success.
we could reach Anders, a TV camera crew grabbed him for an interview.So we had to wait until that finished.It was kind of interesting while we waited,
because there were two guys in Air Force flight coveralls, prepping
plane.Looking at the name tag of the
two guys, they were also named Anders.They
were his sons.
started talking to a guy who wrote for Warbirds magazine.He was waiting to get Anders autograph as
well.He told us that Borman had left on
Friday.He was in Kissimmee
for Thursday and Friday, but left Friday evening.It
was disappointing to miss seeing Borman,
but Anders who was our primary objective was still there.
interview finally finished.I got in
line about second or third, to get to Anders.He
signed one thing for each of the people ahead of
me. Just as I got
there he said, "Well I'm going to have to go to a briefing pretty
feared that he would just walk off, but he signed an 8x10 card that I
printed up with the verse from Genesis that he read from lunar orbit on
Christmas Eve, 1968.I was thrilled to
get this signed.It now completed a set
of three signed cards by each Apollo 8 crew member.
friend Andy was in line after me and got an Apollo 8 crew photo signed.
I was pretty
excited with our success but was not yet satisfied. I still had one
that I wanted to get signed and that was an Apollo 8 crew photo. The
pretty small so Andy suggested I go back and get my crew photo signed.
didn't want to be too pushy, but since Anders still had not left, I
try.Sure he enough he signed my crew
photo.That was great, because the photo
already had Borman's and Lovell's signatures on it.Now that crew photo was complete.I was walking on cloud nine. Anders
was the "holy grail" of
signatures in the astronaut quest and we finally got it.
that they had a tent set up where various other Air Force legends and
autographing.We bought a couple of
programs from the event and had these people sign them.
about an hour, Anders, Yeager, and Anderson took off in a flight of
mustangs.It was pretty neat to see them
take off together. After about another hour, this flight of mustangs
waited for about 45 minutes before going over to where Anders plane was.I had another photo that I was hoping to get
signed and Andy wanted Anders to sign his program.Well, Anders was by his plane alright.About 5 people had lined up to get his
signature.He waved the first guy off
and said “I'm not signing now; there will be an autograph session
well perhaps we could catch him later.We
assumed by his remark that he'd be over at the
autograph tent at some
point.Later never came however, as
Anders never did come to the tent.
were very fortunate to catch Anders early in the morning when we did.If our timing had been any different, getting
an autograph from Anders would have been a washout.A brief 5 minute window of opportunity was
all that there was!
“Gathering of Mustangs” event finished Saturday afternoon.Sunday, I suggested to Andy that we go back
over to the Kissimmee
airport and visit the vintage airplane restoration museum there.I also suggested that we take Andy's dad. His
dad didn’t feel up to being out in the sun all day on Saturday and this
like a reasonable compromise.
went over to the airport and we got lucky.About
30 of the mustangs were firing up and taking
off.Andy's dad got to see some of the
and see them fly also.
saw some people who were gathered around a hanger.Judging by the crowd we figured that someone
important must be over there.We
probably were not supposed to be there, but that didn’t stop us. We
nonchalantly strolled over to the hanger acting as if we belonged
we got over to the hanger we saw the "Glamorous Glennis III".In a little while General Yeager came out,
climbed up on the wing and strapped on a parachute.
got in the airplane and went through his preflight checklist.A short while later he fired up the
engine.We were only about 40 feet behind
the plane.Dust and dirt pelted us as
the air wash from the prop swept the tarmac. Not only did we get to see
taxi for takeoff, we felt it! That was an unexpected bonus for the
was really pleased that Andy's dad got to see this.He was really interested in seeing the planes
on Saturday, but decided that a full day of sun would be too much for
him.On Sunday, without any hardship
was able to see General Chuck Yeager fly.