BLAINE, Minn. (WCCO) — Like the pre-flight for a wartime run, pilots listened as the mission was explained. Inside Lynx Air FBO at the Anoka County Airport, the airmen and women prepared for a unique display of past military might.
On the tarmac sat 16 vintage aircraft: warbirds flown in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
“Make another turn and come right down the parade route,” Chuck Datko explained at the briefing.
The mission would be flying Tuesday in close formation over the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in support of Military Appreciation Day. It was a mission meant to turn heads in patriotic tribute.
“We’ll have a Corsair, P-51 Mustang, a torpedo bomber,” said pilot Jerry Kyser.
Also in the flyover: a B-25 bomber, T-6 and T-34 trainers, and a solitary Huey helicopter that actually flew missions in Vietnam.
Each aircraft in the impressive formation would be a symbol of tribute to veterans and the 100th anniversary of Minnesota’s 34th Red Bull division.
“We are pleased to be able to honor the 34th infantry guys,” Kyser said. “I met a guy at the fair today that was at Anzio beach.”
Thirty minutes before Tuesday’s flyover, radial engines roared to life, puffing out blue clouds of exhaust.
Organizer Datko says the rare sight honors the sacrifices of so many soldiers and airmen, sailors and marines.
“It’s a thrill to lead a flight and organize it and also to be able to honor the veterans that allow us to do that today,” Datko said.
Just before takeoff, planes taxied to the runway. Within minutes, they all were airborne and forming up in blue August skies.
At exactly 2:20 p.m. came the impressive and surprise formations approaching from the east. Trailing contrails of blue smoke, the impressive aerial display would make a second pass from the north, directly over the daily parade route below.
It was a carefully orchestrated display to treat fairgoers to an unforgettable sight and sound.
“To me,” Kyser said, “it’s the sound of freedom.”