At approximately noon on June 11th, Dean arrived over Napa Airport. After circling the terminal area, he was cleared to land on 18L.
He then taxied to the ramp and was greeted by family members, numerous friends and the news media. Upon deplaning, he was given an orchid lei by Pat Crisman.
He was treated to a shower and a drink of sparkling wine from a magnum donated by Domaine Chandon.
Afterwards, he was interviewed by the local newspapers and area television media about the highlights of his trip.
After visiting with relatives and friends at the airport terminal, Dean was treated to a hangar BBQ of hot dogs and hamburgers hosted by the Napa Airports Pilots’ Association.
Asked by reporters if he was ever nervous, Dean said he was not and he wouldn’t hesitate to make such a trip again … “if somebody else paid for it.” What’s next? “A nice dinner tonight,” he said. “And to be able to brush my teeth with tap water.”
During the night before our early morning departure, a squall line passed through Watertown. Winds near the city limit were clocked at 100 miles an hour and hailstones were hitting our hotel windows like bullets. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Carol Ann so frightened. The storm passed rapidly and when morning broke it was clear and bright so we were able to depart.
We were now traveling as a flight of 2 planes. Dean’s plane has great range with the extra tanks but he stopped with CA and me at Casper, WY where we had breakfast and got fuel. Casper was very windy and our ground speed as we headed west was abysmal. We were in the air about an hour when we began diverting around rain and areas of low clouds. As we got further west, it became apparent that we might have to land so both Dean and I were independently checking for nearby airports. There are very few airports in Western Wyoming but when we finally decided that we could go no further, there was, conveniently, an airport within 10 miles. We landed and found the small ramp was nearly full of planes as 3 other planes had also stopped at Kemmerer due to weather. We had a bit of trouble finding motel rooms but found 2 for $32 each. Not the Ritz but not too bad either. The weather was good in the morning, so we refueled and again headed west toward California.
Dean made a decision to keep moving and to get as close to California as possible. We were both afraid that if he didn’t get close to Napa he might be grounded due to weather and miss the big arrival celebration on Saturday. So, the plan when we left Kemerer was for him to land at Lake Tahoe and for CA and I to continue to Napa. Dean would then spend 2 nights at Tahoe and depart there so as to arrive in Napa at noon on Saturday. As we approached Lake Tahoe, we learned that the entire area including Reno was weathered in. Dean then decided to cross the mountains and land in Sacramento. As we crossed the mountains, I picked up a ¼ inch of ice on the windshield, wings and struts. This gave CA quite a scare; I guess she’d never seen ice on a plane before.
Dean landed at Sacramento Mather where he then planned to spend 2 nights. Soon after CA and I arrived in Napa, I got a call from Dean. He was really, really home sick now. He said he would fly his plane to Vacaville (Nut Tree) and leave it there until Saturday. He asked me to drive to Vacaville to pick him up and take him home. This I did. On Saturday, Carol Ann drove him to the Nut Tree where his plane was waiting and he then flew it to Napa for the Grand Arrival!
Dean spent the night in Erie and then took off early for Watertown, South Dakota, my hometown. CarolAnn and I took off in our Cessna from Prescott, AZ at about the same time so we landed in Watertown just an hour or so before Dean did. Dean had ferocious head wind, which produced ground speeds as low as 105 knots. CA and I had a delightful tail wind and enjoyed a ground speed of over 200 knots so we were able to make it non-stop. The weather had been stormy in SD the day previous to our arrival but we enjoyed 2 very nice days there. There was a reception held for Dean at the airport with the mayor attending as well as about 75 curiosity seekers. The mayor gave him a lap blanket. This blanket is a product of South Dakota industry.
It was nice to talk to you the other day at the “store”. You asked me to put in writing the story I told you about my P-51B model so here goes:
The Tuskegee Airmen have been my heroes for as long as I can remember. My Uncle Fred, a B-17 pilot in England, always said that if the Tuskegee Airmen had been escorting his mission to Burnberg he would not have been shot down and had to be a quest of the Germans for 15 months in Stalag 1. I am enclosing a picture of me during a reunion of my class of 1963 at the Air Force Academy. I am standing by the statue dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen.
You can imagine I was excited when my Son, who lives in California, called me in January, 2005 and told me that some of the Tuskegee Airmen would be at the Palm Springs Air Museum in February. I immediately called Pacific Aircraft and had you send him the Tuskegee Airmen P-51B model. He took it to the event and got it autographed by Louis Thornhill and Rusty Burns. It has sitting on my TV ever since.
When I lived in Las Vegas for a number of years my neighbor was a wonderful guy named Rick. He was retired Air Force and shared my enthusiasm for the Tuskegee Airmen. I was talking to him last week and he was telling me that his Grandson, Rashad, who now lives with him is in need of some good role models. Rick is trying to get him away from rap singers, movie starts, and professional athletes. So, I sent Rick my Lee Archer P-51B Mustang. I also, wrote a letter to Rashad telling him that I hope he will emulate real heroes like the Airmen and not “fake” heroes.
I am writing this because I think some of your staff may fall into the trap of thinking they sell model airplanes and ships. In truth, you sell important historical artifacts. I want to thank you and your staff for the important work that you do. And you do it very well, by the way!