Shortly before World War II pilot Col. Frank Royal died in 2016, the 101-year-old was reunited with White 33, the twin-engine Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter he flew in the Pacific.
Royal, who was raised on a ranch outside Rocky Ford, flew alongside the P-38 after a visit to the National Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs, where workers spent more than a year rebuilding it from wreckage pulled from the jungles of New Guinea.
At this year’s Pikes Peak Regional Air Show, the plane from Royal’s squadron will be part of a “heritage flight” in his honor, a tradition that emphasizes aircraft or individuals who have contributed to aviation.
The P-38 will be flown by Steve Hinton, and Air Force Maj. Paul “Loco” Lopez II will fly a Lockheed-Martin F-22A Raptor, the Air Force’s “highly capable fifth-generation stealth tactical fighter, capable of cruising at 1,200 mph and attaining 9 g in turns,” a news release says.
Of more than 10,000 P-38s built, only about a dozen remain in flying condition, Hinton said. Of those, only White, 33, saw combat.
“The Raptor will go up and do its awesome demonstration, and then I’ll join up with him and we’ll do some flybys and honor our veterans,” said Hinton, 67, who has been flying vintage planes since he was 19. “That’s what it’s all about — honoring the history of the United States Air Force.”
More than 40 performing and display aircraft will be at the “Jets and Warbirds”-themed air show Saturday and Sunday at the Army’s air terminal on the south side of the Colorado Springs Airport.
Also performing will be three P-51 Mustangs, two rare F7F Tigercats and three Douglas Skyraiders.
“What we know from research is that people’s interest in air shows is focused on those two items: They love jets, and they really love the warbirds,” said event spokesman John Henry. “Some airshows are more one than the other, and what we’re really trying to do with this is strike more of a balance.”
And the event will be family-friendly, Hinton said, with “nothing hair-raising or scary.”
”Flying is about precision, and in our case, honoring the history, and we’re not showing the ultimate performance of the airplanes. We leave that to the Air Force. You see the F-22 flying around, and your jaw will drop, because airplanes just can’t do that. It’s an unbelievable piece of technology. But what you’re going to see from the museum airplanes and the performers is, you’re just going to see some exciting precision flying.”
Tickets cost $22 in advance and $25 at the gate for ages 13 and over, $17 in advance and $25 at the gate for military, and $15 for ages 4-12. Gates open at 8 a.m.; the shows start about noon. Parking is free. For tickets, a map of the air show or more information, visit pprairshow.org.
Proceeds from the nonprofit show will support the 4th Infantry Division Museum at Fort Carson, the Peterson Air Force Base Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of World War II Aviation.