Our friends at Heritage Flight Museum are moving. In a recent press release HFM's Executive Director, Greg Anders said that after evaluating their current situation and future potential, they felt a move to Skagit County was a way for the Museum to "survive and thrive". The Museum, founded by Apollo 8 Astronaut, Bill Anders, has been located in Bellingham for about twelve years and open/operational as the Heritage Flight Museum for ten of those years. So, on Saturday, November 16, 2013, HFM held its final once-monthly “Fly Day” at the Bellingham International Airport (KBLI) before they begin packing up and moving to their beautiful new facility and its 20,000 square foot hangar at Skagit Regional Airport (KBVS).
Despite less than perfect weather, Saturday saw a lot of flying and got its share of round engine noise with the occasional Merlin thrown in for good measure. The first flight, which occurred before noon, featured a 4-ship formation led by Greg Anders in his T-6 along with Alan Anders (T-6), Craig Nelson (SNJ) and Bill Findlay (Harvard). After lunch, a 2-ship sortie was launched, led by Alan Anders with Mark Kandianis. This was immediately followed by a 3-ship, led by Bill Findlay with Craig Nelson and Greg Anders.
The finale was a carefully coordinated effort involving four of the T-6s along with the Museum's P-51. It began with a solo Mustang sortie, flown by Greg Anders. This was timed so that the four T-6s were on their way to the run-up area as the Mustang took off. The T-6 formation, led by Alan Anders, was launched and left the area to form up for a Missing Man pass over the Museum. The group passed overhead, lights on in an Echelon Left formation as Bill Findlay pulled up and turned west. The rest of the group circled around to collect Bill's Harvard and then were joined by the P-51 which was loitering nicely in the area much to my pleasure in the backseat of the Harvard. I've never been in such a wonderful position as to 'check-six' and see a beautiful vintage fighter bearing down as though about to go guns on us! Greg pulled the Mustang into the lead position of a now 5-ship Echelon Right formation. The group would eventually change to a Vic formation before making the first of two passes over the Museum. The final pass of the day was an Echelon Right and was completed with each of the five aircraft breaking left one at a time before heading in for a solo low approach and left break to landing.
With the day’s flying in the books, the crews took to the hangar to raise a toast in commemoration of 10 years in Bellingham - to the friends, volunteers and staff who've been there along the way, and to the start of a new chapter about to be written in Skagit. Greg delivered the toast, very appropriately, with chromed shot glasses made from spent 30mm shell casings from Iraq. Excellent touch!
I've been going to Heritage Flight Museum for the better part of two years now with my good friend, Bill Findlay. I've been living a dream of sorts as I've been given an opportunity to fly with, learn from and photograph a very skilled group of pilots. I've flown alongside a P-51, an A-1 Skyraider and all the T-6s you can shake a stick at. I've sat in on detailed briefings and debriefings, learned a great deal about formation flying and been given a real taste of the flying I hope to do myself someday. I've come to know men who've flown jets that I had pictures of on my walls while growing up and I've even met an honest-to-goodness Astronaut! Most importantly, I've been welcomed into this community by an absolutely amazing group of people and even after everything I've seen and experienced so far...I still have to pinch myself to make sure the dream isn't, in fact, just that.
I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all my friends at Heritage Flight Museum the very best with their new adventures and I think I speak for Bill when I say that we can't wait to help celebrate their Grand Opening!
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