NCO owns vintage aircraft, drops bombs

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Madelyn Alvarez
  • 459th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
For six months out of the year, Tech. Sgt. David Brown drops bombs on Bealeton, Va.

Using his newly-acquired 1941 PT-17 aircraft, he can narrow in on a moving target, usually a person running around below, and release his ammunition -- bags filled with baking flour nicknamed "flour bombs."

The comedy routine is one of several acts performed by members of the Flying Circus Airshow, an organization made up of local aviators and airplane enthusiasts.

"The show is dedicated to preserving and flying many types of vintage aircraft to give the public a view of aviation from the 1930s and '40s military and barnstorming years," said Brown, a medical logistics noncommissioned officer with the 459th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron here.

Brown, a licensed commercial pilot and certified flight instructor, has been a member of the show ever since he landed a job as part of the ground crew in 1975.

Today, he takes passengers up on his two-seater Stearman Biplane for eight to 10 minutes of aerobatics; performing loops, spins, rolls and "hammerheads," a maneuver in which the pilot pulls the aircraft upward and stalls midair for a moment before making a steep, spiraling descent.

"In the past 25 years since I've been doing this, I've only had one lady 'lose her lunch,'" Brown said.

A common question among passengers before takeoff is if Brown has ever experienced an accident while flying.

Although he has never had any problems while giving rides, Brown said he did have one bad experience in 1989 when he worked for a company towing gliders.

"The person I was towing failed to keep his plane under control and I ended up (crashing)," he said. "I managed to pull up just in time, but the next thing I remember was waking up in a field."

When he woke up, Brown noticed one of his hands was dangling from his arm, and it had a death grip on the throttle. His nose now "leans to the left" a bit, and his face still bears the imprint of the sunglasses he wore that day. The pilot of the glider managed to pull out and land safely.

Although he tells passengers of the accident, they still want their joy ride. Brown's passengers range in age as young as 12 to the older generation who actually flew the vintage aircraft during World War II.

Brown's own aircraft is one of only 10,000 planes used to train Army Air Corps and Navy pilots during the war. Today, only about 2,000 of these aircraft still exist.

"My aircraft is painted in the color scheme as when it was first produced and used by the Army Air Corps through 1945," Brown said.

Everything, down to the engine, which puts out 220 horsepower on seven cylinders, has been rebuilt to its original design and is maintained by Brown himself.

Maintaining and piloting a piece of aviation history is an honor not taken lightly by Brown.

"You are just the caretaker and should preserve its history until you pass it on to someone else," he said.

And to keep history alive, Brown said he will continue to provide the public with their own historical experience -- one flour bomb at a time. .