2012-03-01 / Outdoors

War story flashback

The other plane was equal in performance and had us in its sights.

Mike, the pilot, used loops, rolls and spins to create distance from the guy at our 6 o’clock. We were most vulnerable in the turns. Our heavily armed Trojan 28 never exceeded the 340-knot limit on the air speed indicator because we might disintegrate.

The radial Wright Cyclone R-1826-86 engine produced 1,425 horsepower, sipping fuel at 50 gallons an hour. I sat in the back seat of the 8,500-pound machine as navigator. I knew the landmarks and called out directions to Mike. We rolled tightly and momentarily lost sight of the guy behind us. As we gave full power and climbed at 4,000 feet per minute, the other pilot still had us in his sights. As our airspeed bled off with altitude, it could have been an easy shot for him — and I was first in the line of fire.

Still, I wasn’t nervous at all. My conversation with Mike turned to what was happening on the ground below. There were friendly areas, folks in uniform and bunkers. We descended quickly to less than 500 feet above ground level, traveling at more than 300 knots.


ALEXIA KIRK / COURTESY PHOTO ALEXIA KIRK / COURTESY PHOTO In situations like this, everything seems to move in slow motion. Civilians by the bunkers waved and gave us a thumbs up. In other areas on the flat, the gestures of people who missed their mark were unmistakable.

After we landed, we gathered to debrief. We’d caused havoc on the ground. The pilot of the other plane landed nearby and commented on our tight maneuvers. Those maneuvers distracted golfers from their games at a few local courses.

Funds raised at this event — the Feb. 25-26 Warbird Weekend — benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and Veterans Airlift Command. The event features World War II aircraft, such as the T-28 Trojan I was in, and the Bearcat, which can climb from runway to 10,000 feet in six seconds.

If you missed the Warbird Weekend, the 32nd annual Florida International Air Show is coming up March 24-25. Visit www.FloridaAirShow.com.

This is yet another great way to enjoy the local great outdoors.

Fair winds and calm seas. ¦

— Capt. Dennis Kirk has been traveling the Peace River since 1979 and is part owner of the Nav- A- Gator, a riverfront restaurant and marina in Lake Suzy, just off Kings Highway. For more information, call 627- 3474.

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