Three World War II veterans of the legendary American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers” will share their fascinating experiences and stories at the Atlanta Warbird Weekend (AWW) “Dinner with the Tigers,” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24 at the 57th Fighter Group restaurant, Dekalb-Peachtree Airport. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear first-hand about from some of the dwindling number of heroes who operated the aircraft and experienced the battles during the desperate early days of World War II.
Speakers at “Dinner with the Tigers” include Frank Losonsky (3rd Squadron crew chief), who is president of the American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers Association; and vice presidents Chuck Baisden (3rd Squadron armorer) and Dr. Carl Brown (1st Squadron flight leader). Tickets are $125 for this limited-seating event, which has sold out the past two years. The program will be introduced by Tripp Alyn, AVG Flying Tigers Association historian, and moderated by Commemorative Air Force (CAF) member Kevin Korterud. This year AWW is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the AVG Flying Tigers. Over the weekend AWW will host the largest gathering of P-40 Warhawks in 50 years, with at least nine of the historic planes anticipated at Dekalb-Peachtree Airport in Chamblee, Ga. Painted with a distinctive shark mouth motif, the Curtiss P-40 is highly associated with the Flying Tigers and was the third- most- produced fighter plane of WWII. Very few are still flying and the AWW event will be a rare opportunity to see these aircraft together.
Several vintage aircraft are joining the spectacular fleet of P-40 Warhawks that will be on display for the Third Annual Atlanta Warbird Weekend, which is a community effort led by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Dixie Wing, the Georgia chapter of the world’s largest flying collection of World War II aircraft. Visitors will see P-51 Mustangs, FG-1D Corsair, several trainers and liaison aircraft, a DC-3 and other significant WWII aircraft, including a Curtiss C-46 Commando, nicknamed “Tinker Belle”. The C-46 Commando was a workhorse in flying over “The Hump” (as the Himalaya Mountains were nicknamed by Allied airmen), transporting desperately needed supplies to troops in China from bases in India.
“This weekend is dedicated to the remembrance and celebration of the men, women and machines of the Greatest Generation,” said Moreno Aguiari, program coordinator. “AWW is a catalyst that brings together organizations, aircraft and people to keep this history alive, and to engage the public and businesses to preserve the spirit of America’s shared past. “Our goal is to create “hands-on” history that brings the era alive and inspires in a way that goes beyond textbook learning,” Aguiari said. “This event helps us fulfill that mission and raises much-needed funds for restoration and preservation of our historic aircraft.”
Veterans groups, re-enactors and educational displays will engage the public with the aircraft and their stories. AWW also will include businesses on the field, such as the 57th Fighter Group restaurant, a WWII fighter-themed business owned by Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame recipient Pat Epps.
Atlanta Warbird Weekend is open free to the public from 9 a.m.to 4 p.m. Plenty of parking will be available for $10 per car. Rides will be available in the Dixie Wing’s P-51, Douglas SBD-5 dive bomber and an LT-6 Mosquito. Rides on the CAF aircraft can be purchased in advance. Rides are popular with veterans who remember these vintage aircraft, and are equally appreciated by younger aviation fans who have never had an opportunity to experience flight in an historic 70-year-old warplane. Rides may be purchased during the show if space is available. To purchase tickets to “Dinner with the Tigers” or a ride in a warbird, visit Atlantawarbirdweekend.com
About Commemorative Air Force Dixie Wing
The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to flying and restoring World War II aircraft. Based in Dallas, Texas, the organization has more than 12,000 members and operates a fleet of more than 165 World War II aircraft. The CAF was founded to acquire, restore and preserve in flying condition a complete collection of combat aircraft that were flown by all military services of the United States, and selected aircraft of other nations, for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations of Americans. More than just a collection of airworthy warplanes from the past, the CAF’s fleet of historic aircraft, known as the CAF Ghost Squadron, recreates, reminds and reinforces the lessons learned from the defining moments in American military aviation history. The Dixie Wing, based in Peachtree City, Ga., was approved as the 83rd CAF unit on Feb.28, 1987, and has since displayed its collection of vintage World War II aircraft in numerous air shows throughout the United States. The wing is a non-profit, tax-exempt “flying museum” that relies on contributions of time and funds to carry out its mission.