Historic Ford Airliner visits Avenger Field in advance of WASP Homecoming
Sweetwater citizens were recently treated to a sight not likely seen above the city in decades as a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor airliner flew over the center of town. The plane pictured during refueling at Avenger Field was en route from Phoenix, Arizona to Mount Pleasant, Texas and landed shortly after 9 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6. The plane is owned and piloted by Scott Glover of Mount Pleasant. The Ford Tri-Motor is powered by three Wright Whirlwind R-975 radial engines of 330 horsepower each. The Ford design was the first aircraft constructed of all metal materials and the first to be produced using Ford’s mass production methods. Of the 199 Tri-Motor planes built by Ford in the years 1926 through 1933, there are believed to be only eight in the world still flying. People in attendance at the WASP Homecoming last year will remember the beautiful Douglas C-47 Skytrain, also owned and piloted by Glover, which gave free rides to hundreds of museum visitors during the day. Mr. Glover has advised the WASP Museum staff of his plans — though not yet definite — to once again return to Avenger Field during the WASP Homecoming on May 23 and 24. However, his plans for the Homecoming visit include arriving in a 1943 Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar. The National WASP WWII Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation located at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, the training field of the Women Airforce Service Pilots. The WASP Museum seeks to educate and inspire all generations with the story of the Women Airforce Service Pilots — the first women to fly American military aircraft — women who forever changed the role of women in aviation.The National WASP WWII Museum will be holding their Ninth Annual WASP Homecoming on Saturday, May 24. Several events are scheduled for the day, including a luncheon, free flights by the EAA Young Eagles for children 8-17, Hanger Burgers and Fifi Fries, and a reception, memorial service, dinner and dance.The luncheon at Texas State Technical College will cost $35 per ticket. Lt. Col. Leslie Hadley, USAF pilot, will be the guest speaker during the luncheon. The reception, memorial service, dinner and dance will cost $45 per ticket. Lt. Col. Leslie Hadley will speak again, along with Col. Sandy Opeka, USAF Ret. Sponsor tables are also available: Silver Medal tables for six for $300 and Gold Medal tables for eight for $550.During the memorial service the ashes of two WASP, Betty Jo Reed and Eleanor “Gunny” Gunderson, will be spread. Both designated their ashes to come back to Avenger Field upon their deaths. “This is the second time we’ve spread the ashes of the WASP,” said Carol Cain, Museum Administrator. “Last year the ashes of Betty Shea were spread. Her son told us she wanted to come back to Avenger Field because the time she spent here was the best of her life.”New exhibits have been added to the museum in the past year. WASP that haven’t visited in recent years will the get chance to add their handprints to the current display.The itinerary for the day is as follows:9 a.m. — The WASP Museum opens for visitors.9 to 10 a.m. — WASP and planes will arrive at Avenger Field.9 a.m. to 1 p.m. — EAA Young Eagles will fly kids 8-17 for free at the museum.10 to 10:30 a.m. — The WASP will visit the Wishing Well for a photo.11 a.m. — Luncheon at TSTC with guest speaker Lt. Col. Leslie Hadley, USAF pilot.11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Hangar Burgers and Fifi Fries will be sold at the museum.1:30-4 p.m. — WASP will be at the museum for autographs.The museum will close at 4 p.m. and then reopen at 7 p.m. for the reception, memorial service, WASP forum, dinner and dance.Be sure to visit the WASP website at www.waspmuseum.org for more information.