Air Force pilot takes local veterans flying in vintage P-13 Stearman aircraft
By Airman 1st Class Jessica B. Nelson, 9th Reconnaissance WIng Public Affairs
/ Published October 01, 2015
Beale Air Force Base, Calif. --
For the past three and a half years the Aerospace Museum of California and its volunteers have displayed and maintained a very unique P-13 Stearman. The plane is owned by Lt. Col. Andrew McVicker, 9th Operations Group deputy commander.
"The P-13 Stearman is open cockpit so typically flying it in the winter isn't much fun," said McVicker. "Initially I envisioned just putting it on loan through the winter but when I found out I was deploying in the spring they offered to continue to store the plane for me while I was gone."
As a gesture of appreciation for looking after his plane while he was deployed, McVicker took eight museum volunteers flying in his P-13. The first of which was a WWII veteran.
"I learned 72 years ago this month how to fly a Stearman when I was in the Army Air Corps," said Maynard Nelson, a WWII pilot.
Nelson served as a B-24 pilot in the Army Air Corps during WWII. The P-13 Stearman planes were used as trainers for all pilots, service wide. Nelson reflected on his time flying the Stearman in an interview on Wednesday.
"You had to push the airplane to its limits," Nelson said. "You needed to know everything the plane could do, and what enemy airplanes could do so you could play your own strength in a dogfight."
The volunteers at the museum watched over the P-13 for more than three years. Most of the volunteers at the museum are veterans and share a special interest in this plane.
"The volunteers keep an eye on the plane, making sure delicate parts are kept safe while people view the plane on display," McVicker said. "The museum made a nice placard that tells the history of the aircraft and how it was used when it was in military service, and the volunteers will help interpret that for the visitors".
Many volunteers had personal experiences with the P-13 Stearman while they served. The excitement the volunteers expressed when exiting the cockpit after their flight was clear.
"It was very generous of McVicker to give us rides in his plane," Nelson said. "I have hundreds of pictures of the people I've taken on flights when I owned a Stearman, and the pictures just don't do justice to the experience."