National WASP Museum Board Member Bill Johnson recently represented the museum at the 40th annual National Stearman Fly-in at the Galesburg, Ill., Municipal Airport. Bill joined new friends of the museum, Marie and Pete Spear, there to enjoy flying in their vintage Stearman and marvel at the other 138 WWII biplanes.
Along with the Spears, Bill and the other enthusiasts toured the flight line, took airplane rides and enjoyed performances by pilots of this classic that have served in roles from military trainer to aerial applicator to show aircraft since 1934.
The National Stearman Foundation organized the event, which stretched from Sept. 5-10, with a goal of “200 in 2011” for the number of Stearmans expected. However, the same weather that diminished turnouts at aviation events in the eastern states hindered some aircraft from making the trip to Galesburg. Attendance was unofficially estimated at 139 aircraft, but according to Bill the enthusiasm was not down.
The guests at the WASP HOMECOMING 2011 at the WASP Museum will remember the beautiful yellow Navy N2S-3 Stearman that the Spears flew from their home in Kenosha, Wisconsin to Avenger Field to attend the annual event for their first time. Marie, especially, is passionate about all things 'WASP'. After reading a book about the WASP several years ago, Marie was motivated to learn more and do more to help honor and support the legacy of the WASP. After WASP HOMECOMING this past May, over Memorial Day weekend, Marie wrote, “It was amazing in every way!”
In August, Marie Spear returned to spend several days volunteering at the museum and at that time invited Bill Johnson to join Pete, her and their flying buddies to the big Stearman event. Being a pilot himself and co-owner of the PT-19A that is on exhibit at the National WASP WWII Museum, Bill drove to Galesburg. Once there he also visited and flew with Andy and Mike Porter, the owner of WASP #12. The Porters had also flown WASP #12, their award-winning vintage Stearman, to Sweetwater for the WASP HOMECOMING event.