What can America’s Greatest Generation, which rescued us from the ominous grip of global fascism in WWII, teach us about handling this global COVID-19 pandemic crisis now? Gen. Douglas Owens, CEO of the Lone Star Flight Museum and a decorated Air Force combat pilot, looks to a hero from that era who recently visited the museum to answer that question.
The 97-year-old visitor, a WWII veteran who piloted a B17 bomber and who Owens describes as “an absolutely extraordinary gentleman — a living breathing national treasure,” simply said, “you have to be prepared.” Owens elaborates: “The nation may have been forced into WWII, but everybody was on board. They wanted to go and defeat the threat to America. They rose to the occasion.”
Now, the Lone Star Flight Museum is rising to the occasion in a tribute to WWII service members and to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe Day), the day Allied forces declared victory in Europe and forever righted the world.
Its Fight to the Finish Flyover boasts a special voyage of some 24 vintage war aircraft that will journey over Greater Houston and its surrounding areas on Sunday, May 10, from 2 pm to 3:15 pm. The planes will take off from Ellington Airport and fly a 120-mile flight plan over Greater Houston skies.
The unprecedented flyover will begin at 2 pm and soar over Pasadena, the San Jacinto Monument, University of Houston-Main Campus, downtown, Memorial Park, Acres Homes, Houston National Cemetery, Cypress, Cinco Ranch, Mission Bend, the Energy Corridor, West University Place, Bellaire, Missouri City, Brookside Village, Pearland, Friendswood, Dickinson, Kemah, and other communities before returning to Ellington.
As for the vintage warplanes, fans can expect the unmistakable roar of the massive air fortress, the B-25 ‘Devil Dog’, the hum of the P-51 Mustang (Owens calls it the “sports car of the WWII airfleet”), and a fleet including the C-45 Twin Beech, T-6 Texan, the Grumman HU-16 Albatross, P-63 King Cobra, SB2C Helldiver, and more.
The flight was planned for Friday, May 8 — the actual anniversary of VE Day — but inclement weather forced the museum to push the flight to Sunday and its promised clear skies. Owens hopes that means families and moms will venture out and look upwards. “This allows us to honor mothers, too,” he notes.
For Owens, this tribute is personal. He remembers being a young boy, praying for his father’s safe return from Viet Nam each night. Before he knew it, he was an Air Force major deployed to the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations, and, “I was standing over the beds of my 10-year-old and 8-year-old, thinking, ‘I’ve come full circle.’” Now today, his sons are a lieutenant colonel and major in the Air Force carrying on a family tradition.
Owens says that tradition is all about a sense of service “that was given to me by my Dad, mine to give to my sons, and theirs to give to their sons and daughters. I stood on the shoulders of great men. My sons and my serving officers stand on my shoulders, and that is how this nation will be a success. This nation is not perfect by any means, but our ideals are perfect.”
And ultimately, says Owens, this flyover is to honor those giants “who kept this war away from our shores. The greatest generation is rapidly leaving us. We need to honor them when we can.”