The Wings of Honor Museum and Walnut Ridge Regional Airport will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the beginning of training at the WWII Army Air Forces Basic Flying School at Walnut Ridge the weekend of October 14-16. The theme of the celebration is “A Gathering of Warbirds.” Airport Manager Stacy Hoggard and Harold Johnson, president of the Wings of Honor Museum Board are optimistic that several WWII aircraft, as well as dozens of other planes of all types will fly in for the celebration. Several WWII aircraft owners have been invited. There will be a free breakfast at the museum From 7 – 9 for all pilots and passengers who fly in on Saturday morning, and an FAA Safety Meeting for pilots is planned at 10:00. Lunch for pilots and passengers will be served from 11:30 – 1:30. B-24 and AT-6 Rides will be available Saturday and Sunday.
The Commemorative Air Force’s (CAF) WWII Consolidated Aircraft B-24 “Liberator” Bomber, Diamond Lil, will be offering rides on Saturday and Sunday morning, and walkthrough tours on Saturday afternoon. There are only eight B-24 aircraft in the United States; two are airworthy, and six airplanes are on static display at museums. Diamond Lil is the only B-24 currently authorized to carry passengers for hire. The B-24 is scheduled to arrive at noon Friday, October 14, and rides will be offered Saturday at 9:00 and 10:30, and Sunday at 9:00and 10:30. Rides in a CAF North American AT-6 will be offered all day Saturday and until noon on Sunday. The CAF B-24 and AT-6 participation is subject to cancellation due to weather, mechanical issues, or an insufficientnumber of pre-purchased rides. Other Warbirds will be on static display and/or participating in flying activities.The museum is open 9-5 daily, Monday-Saturday. Extended hours for October 15-16, will be 7:00 am to 5:00 pm Saturday, and Sunday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
On May 12, 1942, the War Department in Washington, directed the Army Corps of Engineers to construct an Army Air Forces Basic Flying School at Walnut Ridge. Construction started on June 20, and Flight Training began October 12, 1942 at 1:00 p.m. Eighteen classes— 5,310 students— entered the nine-week, 65 flight-hour program; 4,641 graduated. 42 students and instructors were killed in training accidents. The last class graduated June 27, 1944.
At the end of WWII, the Army Air Field at Walnut Ridge became America’s second largest storage and sales facility for thousands of fighters, bombers, transports and training planes. Just about all trainers and transports were sold. 4,865 airplanes, mostly fighters and bombers, including over 2,700 B-24 and B-17 and 67 heavy B-32 bombers, were chopped up and melted between late 1946 and early 1948.
Anyone interested in sponsoring a Warbird, or helping with fuel, lodging, or other costs, please contact Harold at Wings of Honor Museum, 800-584-5575 or 901-828-2257, or firstname.lastname@example.org. To book a ride on the B-24, Diamond Lil, or the AT-6, please do so online at:https://www.airpowersquadron.org/schedule.
Walnut Ridge Regional Airport, Stacy Hoggard, 870-886-5432
Wings of Honor Museum, Harold Johnson, 901-828-2257