Reno Air Races – Tuesday

What a thrill to be able to check off one more item on my bucket list: the Reno Air Races! I’ve never been, but certainly wanted to. So when I applied for, and was awarded, media credentials for the event, I was elated! And here I am.

I arrived at Reno on Tuesday afternoon and headed up to the Reno/Stead Airport (RTS) to get checked in and receive my marching orders. After hitting the Media Check-in Center, I hung out with Abe Gaskins for a few minutes before making my way out to the media stand by the runway. It was fairly late in the day but I did manage a few photos before the end of practice.

Race 3 (N63SF) is a Hawker Sea Fury TMK20 flown by Dennis Sanders


Jeff Turney’s L-39C, Race 54, (N139RM) was among the most colorful of the jets out on the course


Here is Brent Hisey’s P-51D, “Miss America”, N991R, Race 11


My buddy Larry Labriola took his L-39C Race 7 (N995X) for a spin around the block.


Race 62 (NL151BP) is a red-tail P-51D belonging to Mark Moodie


Wee Willy is P-51D NL7715C


Appropriately numbered Race 63 is NX163BP, P-63C Kingcobra, flown by Jim Dale


Race 32 (NX39MX) is Zach McNeill’s L-39C Invictus.


VH-XET is Race 61, Kevin Roll’s L-29 Miss Independence


I’m looking forward to much more photography, and meeting and greeting, on Wednesday

AirVenture 2018 – Day 6

Saturday, July 28, 2018, was Day 6 of AirVenture, and, in some ways, the most important photo shoot of the event for me. The seeds of this mission were sown when I was at the Great Lakes/Howell Formation clinic two weeks prior. I got to talking with Dan Schiffer, the only check pilot at the event and one of the very few in his region. Dan brought his T-34 to Howell, but somehow I managed to not take a single photo of it. When he ever so delicately pointed that out to me, I offered to photograph it if he brought it to Oshkosh. He responded, “I’m not bringing the T-34 to Oshkosh. I’m bringing the Corsair.” Of course, I HAD to respond, “Okay, I’ll be very happy to photograph the Corsair!”

That was the genesis of an idea that evolved into our photo shoot of Saturday morning. Just one week before AirVenture 2017, Vlado Lenoch, a talented and widely-admired warbird pilot, was killed in the crash of a P-51D. Schiffer and Lenoch had been good friends, and Vlado often flew the Corsair that is owned, in part, by the Schiffer family. Additionally, earlier this year, the Warbird Heritage Foundation acquired Lenoch’s old P-51D, “Moonbeam McSwine”, with the intention of flying it in memory of Lenoch under the new registration N51VL. So, Dan Schiffer suggested putting together a flight consisting of the Corsair and Mustang in Lenoch’s honor.

Needless to say, I certainly didn’t have the horsepower to organize such a high-profile flight, but Dan did. He spoke with his cousin Michael Schiffer about flying the Corsair, and then recruited Fred Bower to fly the Mustang. Ron Staley was scheduled to fly his L-39 as the photo ship. But with a grandchild due any minute, he suggested Mike Terfehr as a replacement. I’d flown with “Spanky” earlier in the week and was delighted that I was going to be flying with him again. As we began our briefing on Friday evening, Bill Culberson asked if he could join in with his MiG 17. I certainly wasn’t going to say “No” to the chance to take photos of his freshly painted MiG! One last question remained…what our call sign would be. I suggested “Vlado Flight”, and that settled that question.

I’m going to be honest. I had a mixture of nervousness and excitement that night, and didn’t get a lot of sleep. Vlado was one of the first warbird pilots I’d friended on Facebook and, God bless him, he always had time to say hello when I’d hit him up with a chat request. I finally had the pleasure of meeting him in Peru IL last year, less than two months before his untimely death. He was universally liked, admired, and respected, and his death sent shock waves through the warbird community. This flight was going to be a big deal…so big, in fact, that I understand Dan was trying to arrange for Vlado’s son Michael, a US Air Force pilot, to come to Oshkosh to fly in the back seat of Moonbeam. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen.

Before I knew it, Saturday morning had arrived, and we were off to the races. A lot of spectators at AirVenture listen to airband radios to hear what’s going on, myself included. As “Vlado Flight” echoed on radios around the airport, the very name caught the attention of a lot of people. The sight of a Corsair, Mustang, MiG 17, and L-39 certainly got the attention of others. By the time we’d taken position on the runway, I could feel a lot of eyes watching us.

As he did before, Spanky did a masterful job of organizing the flight through various formations and angles. He made my job fairly easy as he lined up the formation, then eased us into position. The only fly in the ointment was that Mike Schiffer in the Corsair lost all radio communication with us. Ever the professional, he stayed glued to the wing of Moonbean. That cut down some of our maneuvering options, but he did allow us to complete the mission.

We took plenty of photos of all three aircraft, then we got the MiG to back off so we could capture shots of just the Corsair and Mustang. Then we took some individual aircraft portraits. We wanted to get some shots of the MiG in afterburner, but it took two tries to realize that Culberson started accelerating well before the flame began to shoot out of the tailpipe. On the third try, he started off well behind us so I could catch the flame as he passed by. Man, he was really humming as he passed us, but I did get off a couple of pretty good shots.

We were probably up there close to an hour, and it was probably about the most exciting hour of photography I’ve had since I joined the warbird community. I felt pretty good about the photos, but it wasn’t until I looked at them on my laptop that I heaved a sigh of relief! Many thanks to everyone involved, especially Dan Schiffer, for having the vision as well as the wherewithal to get the right people on board. Also, kudos to Mike Terfehr, who is one of the best photo ship pilots I’ve ever flown with. Taking these photos as a tribute to the memory of Vlado Lenoch was truly a team effort, and I was blessed to be one part of a terrific team. Thanks again to Mike Schiffer, Fred Bower, and Bill Culberson.

This year, EAA Warbird President Connie Bowlin and Paul Wood dedicated the Warbird Youth Center building in Lenoch’s memory. This building houses the P-51 Mustang and Corsair Flight Simulators. I am proud to say that one of my photos will eventually be displayed in this building. It is an honor.

AirVenture 2018 – Day 5

Friday, July 27, 2018, was Day 5 of AirVenture, and was a “just for fun” sort of flight. When I posted a few of Sunday’s “pre-show” photos on Facebook, I got a note from Kevin Kearney that one of the planes I got shots of was a PT-26 belonging to Mark Howard. I’d met both Kevin and Mark through my photo shoot of the Berlin Airlift C-97. So…I was shortly on the phone with Mark to say hello and see if we could arrange for a little photo shoot of his PT-26.

In that same vein, I gave Hunter Reilly a shout to see if he was up for a flight. Hunter flies a BT-13, and I met him at Oshkosh last year, after previously friending both Hunter and his dad, Jeremy. We had a good photo shoot last year, but we were both happy for another opportunity. So, a plan was formed.

Early on Friday morning, we all met by the BT-13, a.k.a. the Vultee Vibrator, for our briefing. We decided to take off with me in the back of the Vibrator and fly to Appleton WI, (ATW) while I took pictures of Mark’s plane. In Appleton, I would switch over to the backseat of the PT-26 and photograph the BT-13. Howard’s friend Mark Phillips flew in the back of the opposite aircraft.

Hunter Reilly (L), Mark Howard (C), and Mark Phillips (R) go over the briefing items prior to our flight.


We departed Oshkosh and turned north toward Appleton. Hunter kept the Vibrator to the east of Mark, and we had a nice little photo shoot as we headed out over Lake Winnebago. Despite the weak sunlight, the traditional blue and yellow colors of the Basic Trainer stood out vividly against the dark background. There were some challenges with airspeeds as the PT-26 was cranking high RPMs in order to keep up with the BT-13, which as flying as slowly as Hunter was comfortable with. But we made it work.


Our arrival at ATW was routine, despite the higher-than usual traffic. This airport s typically a reliever airport for OSH and gets a lot of overflow from AirVenture. In fact, on the Saturday preceding AirVenture, when OSH was IFR only, a LOT of traffic diverted to ATW. So our arrival was not a stress on the tower and then professionally handled us in the air and on the ground.

After we played “Musical Airplanes”, we departed ATW and headed back over Lake Winnebago to take photos of Hunter’s BT-13. Then it was time to join the furball of arrivals at OSH. I constantly marvel as the professionalism of the controllers at OSH which is, for one week, the busiest airport in the world. They safely and efficiently handle nearly 20,000 operations during AirVenture. Due to the difference in airspeeds, we parted company, leaving Hunter to fly the Warbird Arrival, while we headed south to follow the railroadd tracks leading to a VFR arrival to Runway 27. Our landing was routine, and we taxied back to Warbird Parking. It was another successful photo mission.


After these flights, I took time to seek out Mike “Blade” Filucci, one of the big movers and shakers in the Warbird Community. Blade, currently the Vice President of Flight Operations and Pilot Information Center at Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, was the first President of what is now the Redstar Pilot’s Association.

He says, “In 1997, the Yak Pilots Club was a small and struggling association of pilots flying primarily Yak-52s. It was in critical enough shape that it was in danger of losing its accreditation under the Formation And Safety Training (F.A.S.T). I had recently bought a Nanchang CJ-6 so I was interested in growing the association beyond its boundaries. Along with two partners, we basically bought the assets of the Yak Flying Club and renamed it the Yak Flying Association, later renamed Redstar Pilots Association (RPA).” Blade was the Association’s first President.

When I caught up with Blade, he was showing John Shuttleworth his new airplane, a SOCATA TB30 Epsilon, a French built light military trainer. It sports a Lycoming O-540 flat-six piston engine. He says, “The performance of the Epsilon makes It a terrific formation aircraft. The controls are extremely responsive, and the engine produces plenty of power. Having said that, I will always be an RPA’er at heart.”

While we were chatting, current RPA President Hartley “Postal” Postlethwaite came by to visit. It was a terrific photo op.


After visiting with these gentlemen, I took some time to catch my breath and watch some of the air show from Warbird Parking.

I was particularly pleased to see my RPA Comrades fly a couple of extremely tight formations.


I also caught “Doc” making a tight turn overhead.

All in all, Friday was a good day to catch up with some people I’d wanted to see, and still take some pretty good photos. At the end of the day, I met with a special group of pilots to brief a very special flight for Saturday morning. More on that in the next blog installment.

AirVenture 2018 – Day 4


Thursday, July 26, 2018, was Day 4 of AirVenture, and was easily the most emotional day of the week. As they do every year, the RPA honored America’s military veterans by performing a flyover of the Kingman Veterans Hospital on Thursday morning. This year, the flyover included L-Birds, which brought Birddogs and Navions to Kingman. After making several passes over the hospital, the pilots landed at nearby Waupaca Municipal Airport, where two busloads of ambulatory veterans arrived to meet the pilots and share memories of their military service. This is a meaningful tradition that the RPA intends to continue.

We had an interesting armada of aircraft that headed to the Kingman Veterans Hospital.  The RPA was joined by L-Birds, including Navions flown by Tom Burlace and Greg Young, as well as the Warbird Heritage Foundation Skyraider flown by John Shuttleworth


Shuttleworth led three Nanchang CJ-6s over Waupaca Airport before heading back to Oshkosh.


It was difficult not to get emotional seeing these militay heros who came out to greet us. This was obviously a big deal to them, which made it a big deal to us. A group of us landed at Waupaca to meet two busloads of veterans. Dan Booker is seen here greeting several veterans.


Lee Haven and his son also spent time talking with the veterans who made a point of coming out to Waupaca.


Herb Coussons also brought his son along to thank the veterans for their service


The veterans took great interest in the CJ-6s at Waupaca


Joe Oram answers questions about his Yak 52


Our pilots looked every bit as happy as the veterans were


Rico Jaeger and his First Lady, Carrie Ann.


Jaeger’s good-looking Yak-52


Tom Burlace and Greg Young were the two Navion drivers.


Getting ready for a break right to land on Runway 27 at Oshkosh. Man, look at all those airplanes!


Back on the ground at Oshkosh, Bob Graves (R) is greeted by RPA member and aerobatic expert Jon Elam.

001 – The Adventure begins


Why We Are REALLY Here – A Random Act of Kindness

Jay Selman

Since I became involved with the warbird community as a photojournalist, I have had the opportunity to attend a good number of flying events, most of which have given me the chance to fly as a “PhotoGIB (Guy In Back) with many different pilots, in many different planes. To be honest, I’ve been having a blast! I’ve been taking photos that, a couple of years ago, I could not have dreamed of. I’ve been able to attend major aviation events, such as Sun ’n Fun and Oshkosh, not simply as a spectator, but as a participant. And, through my writing and photography, I’ve been able to give back, in some small way, to the community that has warmly welcomed me. Yep, it’s been a blast!


Me sitting in Barry Ford’s American Ranger gyroplane in Waycross GA

I have also been able to share the story of my adventures, primarily through the magic of Facebook. I receive a lot of positive feedback, both online and in person, confirming that there are a lot of people who really enjoy my photos and my stories. After some urging from a couple of special friends, I have decided to expand coverage of my adventures by inaugurating a blog.

I have plotted out an ambitious schedule of events for 2018 that will include the two biggest air shows in the United States, and, if all goes well, a trip that will not only take me around the world, but will take me to the Southern Hemisphere, then back north nearly to the Land of the Midnight Sun.

I’ve given a lot of thought to how to begin this blog. I wanted my first blog entry to be something compelling, challenging, and thought-provoking. And I wanted it to be something meaningful and something that would make you, the reader, feel good. I wanted my first blog entry to be something that not only came from my heart, but would make you want to visit it again on a regular basis.

In January, I got my wish. One random act of kindness led to a series of events that opened my eyes to a whole new world within the warbird community. Before I realized it, not only was I witnessing something special, I was blessed to be a part of it! Even better, maybe through this blog I will have a chance to make a difference to someone. Time will tell.

I always knew that the warbirds had a much more important mission than giving a bunch of lucky aviators a chance to play with some really neat toys. I saw a manifestation of that understanding in December when I flew to Manteo NC (MQI) with the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation’s C-54. At Manteo, I watched as BAHF President Tim Chopp demonstrated the fulfillment of his dream. He has successfully transformed his C-54 into a living, flying museum dedicated to the brave men and women who participated in the greatest airborne humanitarian event in history. Nearly 400 school children from North Carolina’s Outer Banks visited the “Spirit of Freedom” that weekend and had a chance to touch and feel a piece of history. It made a great impression on me.


N500EJ_17DEC17MQI (218)

BAHF C-54 (N500EJ) dropping candy over Manteo, NC on 17 December 2017 (C) Jaybird Aviation

Then, at the Meeting of Mentors at Palm Springs CA (PSP) in January, I had the privilege of flying with T-34 pilot and owner Ron Alldredge as his PhotoGIB. Ron certainly made me feel welcome as a valuable crewmember, and we ended up having two excellent formation flights as “Mentor Alpha Two” in a four-ship formation. While the flights were good, and I was able to take some terrific photos of the other planes in my flight, Ron’s actions on the ground left me with a lasting impression of what it should mean to be a warbird pilot and a mentor. In some ways, I am still an “FNG” (Fun New Guy) in the warbird community, but I’ve been around enough to form some impressions.


Photos taken at Meeting of Mentors – Palm Springs

During the morning preflight briefing with the PSP ATC tower personnel, we were introduced to Lauren, a trainee who, we were told, would probably be handling us during the day. And that she did, quite well. My first clue that Ron was made of something special was when we pulled off the runway after our second flight. he called, “Tower, Mentor Alpha Two, thank you for a great job today.” That was probably the first time I had heard a warbird pilot make a radio call thanking the tower personnel for their help or complimenting them on a good job. (To be fair, most of my flying thus far has been from uncontrolled airports, so this sort of call might happen more often than I realize. Still, I thought it was a nice gesture.)


Ron Alldredge

Once we all parked back at the museum, the ground crew opened the ramp to spectators. It didn’t take long for Ron to find himself with two gentlemen, Bruce and his buddy Dave. Bruce mentioned he had last flown a T-34 in 1957 as a cadet at Marana AFB in Arizona. That was all Ron needed to hear. In a show of compassion and understanding, he invited Bruce to have a look in the cockpit. These days, Bruce doesn’t get around very well, so Ron patiently helped the older gentleman up onto the wing so that he could gaze into the cockpit. Having done that, Ron suggested, “Go ahead. Climb in. Make yourself at home.” Now THAT brought the world’s biggest smile to the old aviator’s face!

Bruce recalls, “When I mentioned I had 40 flight hours in the T-34, Ron very thoughtfully invited me to sit in the cockpit’s front seat, and that is when my trip down memory lane really began.  He could see that I was enjoying sitting in the cockpit and asked if I would like to take a flight. I answered enthusiastically in the affirmative, but immediately indicated that I’d like to compensate him for the fuel we burned.  Ron replied that it was a joy for him to see someone so taken with the plane and that he wanted to donate the flight. I found that quite remarkable, as I was a complete stranger. Ron went on to say that doing something for a stranger with no strings attached was pure joy to him.”

As Ron went over the cockpit instrumentation with Bruce, I had the presence of mind to snap a couple of pictures. The two aviators probably spent a good 10 minutes in the “front office,” no doubt reliving memories from 60-plus years ago. Once Bruce climbed back down, he, Dave, and Ron posed for a couple more photos in front of the T-34. Clearly, this brief encounter had touched all of us.



L-R: Dave Cortelyou, Ron Alldredge, Bruce Walker

Afterward, Ron talked about what we’d experienced, and the compassion he’d shown to Bruce. He replied, “You know, Bruce and Dave are the real reasons we come to these air shows. Sure, it’s fun to bore holes in the sky with warbirds, but we’re really here for the folks who come out here and pay anywhere from $5 to $25 to see us. They’re not just interested in the planes…they’re interested in the pilots also. They WANT to talk to us. Sometimes, it might be someone who wants to relive a memory, as Bruce did. Sometimes, it might be an impressionable youngster who, because of our encounter, might decide to pursue a career in aviation. Sometimes, it is someone who just wants to be in an aviation environment for a few minutes. You never know how your actions may touch the next person waiting to talk to you.”

As Bruce and Dave walked away, I thought back to my own childhood, in the days long before fears of terrorism turned airports into sterile fortresses. Back in those days, airplanes and pilots were easily accessible to mere mortals like myself. That accessibility played a major role in feeding my passion for aviation. Today, only a fraction of those opportunities are available to someone bitten with the aviation bug. An air show such as the Meeting of Mentors is one of a dwindling number of such opportunities.

Ron and I knew we’d had an extraordinary and meaningful encounter with these two gentlemen. Ron noted, “Sometimes I watch a pilot get out of his or her plane, walk right past the crowd, and disappear somewhere. You never know what opportunities might be lost. Maybe they missed a chance to give an old aviator like Bruce one more chance to relive a moment in their lives from 60 or more years ago. Maybe they missed a chance to encourage a youngster to pursue a career in aviation. Maybe they missed a chance to make a difference in somebody’s life. I know that after a debrief, having a cold one sounds much more appealing than standing out in the hot sun, talking with someone who may or may not be interesting to you. But remember—WE are interesting to THEM. What a terrific chance to be a mentor!”

That evening, as promised, I sent an e-mail off to Dave, which included a couple of the photos I’d taken. His response warmed my heart. Dave and Ron both gave me permission to share the e-mail.

Jay and Ron,

I can’t thank you both enough for the special day you provided Bruce and me at the Air Museum yesterday… Because Bruce doesn’t drive anymore due to hearing and eyesight problems, I pick him up every Saturday morning and we come to the museum for the 1:00 PM program. Yesterday was special because Bruce learned to fly in the Air Force (1957) in a T-34 trainer and he was really looking forward to seeing them fly… Ron, when you were so open and responsive to our questions and then asked Bruce if he would like to sit in the cockpit, it just made our day. Then Jay was kind enough to pick up on this special experience for Bruce and captured the photos to preserve the moment… .I just can’t thank you both enough… Hopefully you had a great experience at the fly-in, but I also want you to know that you made a couple of older veterans very happy yesterday… We will be talking about it for months… Dave

When I first wrote this story, it ended here. It was already a good story. But the best part was yet to come. On Wednesday, February 21, Ron sent me an e-mail, telling me that he was going to fly his T-34 from his home airport in Tehachapi CA (TSP) to Bermuda Dunes CA (UDD) to treat Bruce to a flight in the Mentor. This was planned for Saturday, February 24.

At this point, there was no way I was NOT going to be there! I called John Warwick in San Diego, thinking he might be free to fly me alongside Ron and Bruce to take some special pictures. John already had plans for the weekend, but he sent out an e-mail to the Southern California warbird community, explaining what we were doing and asking if anyone would be willing to help. Sure enough, another Mentor driver, Tyler Trickey, offered to fly down from March AFB to help. He said, “I planned to go flying anyway, so this gives me a chance to do something useful, different, and fun!”


Tyler Trickey arrives (L), followed shortly after by Ron Alldredge

On Friday, I flew out to Ontario CA (ONT), and drove to UDD the following morning. Before long, we were all there. I joined Bruce and his wife Judy, Ron and his wife Paula, and Tyler. When the FBO reps heard the story behind what we were doing, they took a great interest and gave a real priority to the needs of our flight. Kudos to the FBO staff at UBB!


Finally, the moment had arrived. Bruce says, “The day was perfect!  There was a gentle breeze and plenty of sunshine. Prior to takeoff, the two pilots engaged in a detailed briefing covering every detail of the flight, as experienced pilots should. As we walked out to the plane, I think I heard the opening theme from ‘Top Gun’ in the back of my mind. Ron put me in the backseat of his T-34 while he took the front seat. This was a new experience for me as, in flight school, the instructor always took the rear seat with the student up front! I did tell Ron that if he REALLY wanted to conjure up some accurate memories, he needed to scream at me for the entire flight! Once in the air, we headed to the Great Salton Sea.”

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Tyler started out in the lead, with me in the back seat. This gave me the better photo angles, and both pilots were aware of keeping the sun on Ron’s plane. We headed out over the Salton Sea, which gave me a variety of backgrounds throughout the flight. When we turned around to head back to Bermuda Dunes, Ron turned the controls over to Bruce, for his highlight of the flight. For about 20 minutes, Bruce was back in the Air Force, guiding his T-34 around the valley surrounding the Salton Sea…without the screaming!”


Ron Alldredge’s beautiful T-34, N134LM, with a very happy Bruce Walker in back.

All too soon (for Bruce!), we touched down back at Bermuda Dunes. Bruce and Judy invited us back to their home for lunch, and we all sat around the table trying to get a real understanding about how and why this all happened. The answer to “how” begins with Ron. He is easily approachable, and it was probably that “approachability” (and standing next to an eye-catching T-34!) that drew Bruce and Dave to that particular pilot and plane. Usually, you can just look at someone and know if they might be interested in talking, and Ron has that look. It was that same “je ne sais quoi” that made me realize that something special was happening between Ron and Bruce. When I’m around airplanes, I tend to get target fixation with my camera. I focus on the airplanes, and not the people involved with them. But something caught my attention as I focused on Bruce sitting in the front seat, and Ron hovering above him. Dave saw me taking those photos and asked me to send a few to him, which I’d already planned to do. We were all on the same page.

 Bruce Walker (L) and Ron Alldredge

Ron talked about what it was about his encounter with Bruce that brought about such a big random act of kindness. He explains, “There are those folks you meet at an airshow who want to talk about the airplane because it looks neat and you happen to be standing in front of it. Others want to impress you with their knowledge of your airplane, or airplanes in general. Then there are those folks with a story to tell, and you learn to listen to those, because you will enjoy the encounter more and remember it much longer. “Bruce wasn’t the first person to walk up and say he had flown the T-34 before, and I have learned to be ready when someone does. When he said that the last time he had sat in a T-34 was 1957 in Marana, I seized on the opportunity to fix what I perceived to be a ‘problem.’ He needed to sit in a T-34 again, and I could help him do that.”

Ron reflects, “During the Capital Airshow in Sacramento in 2016, I had a young man stop by to talk, and in the course of the conversation he mentioned riding in the back seat of an Air Force Aero Club T-34 many years before while his dad flew from the front. I asked him if he had ever sat in the front cockpit and he said he never had. I invited him over the rope and into the cockpit. I won’t say he started crying but he had some trouble talking for a few minutes as he sat there. I’m pretty sure his dad, long since passed, was somewhere close by. I still keep in touch with him. He was motivated by that one visit to pursue his private license.”

Having been moved to help Bruce back into the cockpit of a T-34 for the first time in over 60 years, Ron was in for a little surprise. “Bruce hides his disabilities well. He was a whole lot less spry than I first thought and I was really concerned he would be unable to get all the way up to the cockpit and, if he did get in, I would have trouble getting him back out. Only after our flight did I find out he is completely blind in one eye and partially blind in the other. He is also mostly deaf. I did see the hearing aids and should have suggested he take them out before he put on the headsets. If he experienced any problems during the flight, he didn’t say anything to me. He was a real trouper. While I may think an 84-year-old man who is mostly blind and deaf might not get much from flying around with me for 40 minutes, I cannot argue that he really seemed to enjoy himself and, through him, Judy did, too. To me it was just a very simple gesture from one pilot to another, but It was honestly one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my flying life.”


Every pilot remembers how to fly, no matter how long he’s been out of the cockpit, so Ron wasn’t too concerned when he turned the controls over to Bruce. He grins. “Remember that I did not know how bad his eyesight was. He had some trouble keeping the nose down, but I know now he just couldn’t see that well forward. With someone like Bruce, you just keep encouraging him and let him enjoy the ride and I believe he did.”

Ron says, “I appreciate the opportunity to put some of these thoughts in writing. For many years, scenarios such as my encounter with Bruce have rolled around in my head, so, funny as this might sound, I was actually prepared for someone like him, making the ‘random act of kindness’ much less random than you might think. Will I always respond to someone like him with an offer to go fly? Probably not, but if I can I will. Like I said, it is such a small gesture, but it can have a big impact. When I stop flying, those are the moments I will remember most.”

He continues, modestly, “Please don’t make me out as a life changer for you or anybody. There are people in this world that deserve that title, but I’m not one of them. I’m just a lucky pilot who happens to have an airplane other people like, and I don’t mind sharing it with them—at least, a little.”

Ron Alldredge has a greater impact on others than he gives himself credit for. I don’t believe in coincidences. One of my favorite sayings is, “It’s a lucky man who hears opportunity knock. It’s a wise man who opens the door.” That would certainly apply to my life as a warbird photojournalist in the past year and a half.

Here’s an amusing fact about that day at Palm Springs. There were two sorties that day. I flew with Ron on the morning flight and was actively looking for another pilot to fly with on the second flight. This was not because I didn’t want to fly with Ron again, but because I was hoping to photograph some different planes. But, at the last minute, I could not find anyone else, and Ron graciously offered me his back seat again. I am so glad it happened that way because I most likely would have missed out on one of the most meaningful events of my year. Coincidence? I really don’t think so. I was supposed to be where I was.

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L-R; Ron Alldredge, Paula Alldredge, Judy Walker, Bruce Walker, Tyler Trickey, Jay Selman

Some time later, I was speaking about this encounter with the president of a major warbird association. He summed up his feelings on the subject in this way. He said, “I remind my pilots that we are all stewards of history. We bring the past to life, and the spectators who turn out to see us deserve to learn something from us. That is part of what we should all be doing.”

Clearly, Ron Alldredge understands this. And now, in some small way, so do I. If one warbird driver reads this and, as a result, makes a difference to someone else by virtue of a random act of kindness, no matter how small, then I will have achieved something useful here.

Thank you for visiting. I will endeavor to bring you photos—and articles of interest—updated on a regular, if not daily, basis. I welcome your feedback.