Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dreams Do Come True!

I wrote the following article for the 500th bomb Squadron Association "The Rough Raiders'" news letter:

September 25, 1100 local time:

Weather checked as being better than five thousand and five, as we start our pre-flight inspection of our ship. The B-25 sits quietly as we pull the props through six blades a side, pausing briefly as some oil is pressed out of the lower cylinders of “Tondelayo’s” #1 engine. We are running late this morning, and tell our crew to load up as we rush through the walk around inspection, anxious to get into the air. “Tondelayo” has other plans this morning however, and my co-pilot discovers a loose exauhst manifold on #2 engine. We’ll be taking another delay while our maintenance crew locks it down.

We use the time to our advantage, and do a more thorough pre-flight examination of our ship. I am anxious to get in the air, but grateful for the extra time to go over the B-25s systems. The mission today is a “milk run” ferrying the B-25 up the coast. Flying single ship, we expect no resistance. This is the perfect mission to introduce a new pilot to the B-25. That new pilot is me!

For most of my crew this is just another repositioning flight, but for me this day is the realization of a life long dream! The dream of piloting the B-25!

By way of introduction, my name is Andrew Brian Pomeroy, and I’ve been an active pilot for more than 15 years. I’ve logged time in a dozen different aircraft types ranging from a Piper J-3 Cub to a 1944 G-21A Grumman Goose. But most of my time has been logged in my trusty little Cessna.

You see, today we are not in the South Pacific and it is not 1943. Today is September 25, 2006, and I have come to this place to honor my Grandfather!

My Grandfather was S/Sgt. Orie W. Burbank and he was an Airplane Mechanic and Aerial Gunner in the 500th bomb squadron 345th bomb group. Yes, he was a "Rough Raider!"

My grandfather died while I was very young but I have always shared his love of Aviation. Less than perfect eyesight kept me from a military flying career, but I graduated from Daniel Webster College in Nashua NH with two degrees in Aviation Management and Flight Operations. I obtained my pilot’s license and went to work in the field of Airport Management.

When I first became a pilot I concocted what some would say was an impossible dream. I would one day pilot the plane that took my grandfather safely home after so many combat missions in WWII, The B-25!

More importantly I would see to it that when I flew the B-25 my grandmother, Jean Burbank would fly along with me. I wanted her to see me close the loop that my grandfather had started, to see her grandson at the controls of the B-25.

Over the past couple years I had been collecting research on my grandfather’s service, in WWII. I found the 500th Bomber Squadron Association’s web page and immediately signed my grandmother and myself up as life members of the association. I also discovered that the Collings Foundation, had a B-25 painted up in the markings of the 500th! Furthermore, the foundation based this airplane in Beverly Massachusetts, just and hour down the road from where I work at the Portsmouth International Airport, In Portsmouth, NH! It was all coming together, this was meant to happen!

With the help of a few co-workers I contacted the Collings Foundation and told them my story. My hope was to get my grandmother and myself onboard for a flight, and maybe, just maybe they would let me fly right seat while my grandmother looked on! Kevin Miles of the Collings Foundation told me that they were coming to my airport in a couple weeks and if we could get ourselves down to Beverly, he could get the two of us on the plane, but he couldn’t promise any “stick time.”

We arrived at the appointed time, I introduced myself to pilot John Garlinger of Oxnard,CA and told him of our story and connection to the aircraft. I also told him of my wish to have my grandmother see me fly right seat.

Well, things didn’t go quite as planned. I didn’t get to fly right seat. I flew LEFT SEAT!

That’s Right! At Noon on Monday September 25th 2006, Andrew Brian Pomeroy, proud grandson of “Rough Raider” S/Sgt Orie Burbank piloted “Tondelayo”a Rough Raider B-25J from Beverly, Massachusetts, to Portsmouth, NH. With him on the flight, manning the left waist gun position was his grandmother, Jean Partridge Burbank. Clutched in her carry case was precious cargo, The Army Air Corps Wings and Air Medal awarded to her husband. Also present to see us off, was my mother Diane Burbank Pomeroy, daughter of Jean and Orie.

What a wonderful experience! What a wonderful airplane! I can see why it's crews loved her so. Rather than flying direct to Portsmouth, only about 10 minutes away at 160 mph, we climbed out of Beverly and turned out over the coast. There I got a feel for the B-25 as we made a few turns, and a couple shallow wingovers. Once I had a feel for the ship we dived down to 200 feet off the water and did a few “strafing runs” on “Targets of Opportunity.” Some local fishing and pleasure ships that were unfortunate enough to stray into our area of operations.

My grandmother had a great time, and it was a day that will stay with the both of us for as long as we both shall live. I know my grandfather was right there with us the whole time. I had no worries, as I knew he was covering our six!

One thing I discovered while talking with the crew of “Tondelayo” was that there is a shortage of qualified pilots to fly the restored B-25s around the country. The Foundation had to fly John out from California, to fly “Tondelayo” because there were no pilots in the local area with a type rating in the B-25!

So now with the new entry of “One hour duel instruction, B-25J” in my logbook, I have concocted a new dream. To get my B-25 type rating so I can help insure that these wonderful airplanes keep flying for future generations to experience for themselves. I don’t know how I’ll ever manage to do it, but wouldn’t that make a great story?

Thanks go out to Ken Miles, The Collings Foundation, John Garlinger, and Amber Goodspeed for your part in making this dream come true. Special thanks also go out to my grandmother Jean, mother Diane, and to my lovely wife Catherine, who has always been supportive of my flying and all my crazy dreams.

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