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Vintage planes to carry veterans at Pensacola Beach Air Show


Pensacola, Fla. -- The Blue Angels beach homecoming will open with a pre-show fly-over of World War II airplanes that will honor and include veterans of World War II. 

Julian MacQueen, founder and CEO of Innisfree Hotels, together with Pensacola attorney Roy Kinsey and the Santa Rosa Island Authority, have organized a tribute to World War II veterans. MacQueen and Kinsey, both experienced pilots, will join other aviation enthusiasts and their vintage airplanes, which are set to arrive in Pensacola on Thursday, July 10, for the weekend Air Show. 
MacQueen will open the air show in his 1943 Grumman Widgeon amphibian (Navy designation J4F-2). Used by the Navy for coastal patrol, this airplane is credited with sinking a Nazi submarine off the coast of Louisiana. MacQueen will reward community leaders and charity contributors with flights over Pensacola Beach in the Widgeon, now restored to better-than-new condition.

Kinsey will lead a flight of Stearman biplanes, which were the primary trainers used by both the Navy and Army Air Corps during World War II. More than 8,000 Stearmans were built by the Stearman Division of Boeing Aircraft Corporation and used to teach pilots the skills needed to fly high performance fighters and bombers. The Stearmans will fly World War II pilots at approximately 10:30 a.m. on both Friday, July 11, and Saturday, July 12.  
 
Putting veterans back in the cockpits in which they learned to fly is a small way for us to honor and thank them. I hope they enjoy the experience as much as we enjoy giving it to them, said Kinsey.

The veterans flight will originate at Pensacola Aviation Center, located on the east side of Pensacola International Airport. The Stearmans will be flown by Kinsey; Navy LCDR Phil Webb, currently serving on active duty at NAS Pensacola; Jim Ratliff, a former Air Force C-130 pilot and retired Delta Airlines captain who lives in Atlanta; Charles Tucker, a retired dentist from Waterproof, Louisiana; and Carey Hardin, an environmental engineer from Starkville, Mississippi.

Kinsey recruited veterans to fill the seats and enjoy the ride. Expected to take the nostalgic flights are Navy pilot Dick Pace of Pensacola, Army Air Corps pilot Alton McLeod of Pensacola, Navy pilot Frank Heule of Pensacola, Army Airborne veteran and Bronze Star recipient Leonard Swartz, Army Air Corps pilot John Beard of Shalimar, Ginny Watkins of Pensacola, Navy veteran John Johnson of Pensacola, and Navy pilot B.T. Smith of Pensacola Beach.

These flights should be special for both the veterans and the crowd watching, says Kinsey. He hopes that when spectators see the planes and the veterans, they pause for a moment to appreciate the sacrifices made by veterans and the debt we owe them for protecting the freedoms we enjoy today.