The B-25 is the only airplane that flew in every theater of war in World War II, said pilot John Sessions of Historic Flight Foundation, Everett, Wash.
Grumpy is the oldest B-25 flying today, Sessions said.
Col. Curtis Jasper, 86, Regular U.S. Air Force, retired, was looking forward to this day. The Powell man flew the B-25 and taught other guys to fly them during World War II.
It wasn’t as easy as it probably once was for Jasper to climb the hatch to the flight deck, but he got there.
In his U.S. Air Force leather flying jacket and cap, with his back to the fuselage, Jasper looked like a matinee idol from a 1940s movie.
“One of the loudest planes ever built,” said Michael Kopp, foundation pilot, just before the ear-splitting explosion of the plane’s engines.
There is a flight deck with two pilots, a seat for the radio operator where Jasper sat and the bomb bay; with the doors hanging open, it resembles an inverted coffin. Aft of that is another little compartment where four guys crammed in. Bob Davidson, a Korean War veteran and Ed Philips, a former Marine, sat strapped to the tiny bench like troopers.
An engine started, sputtering weakly. Then the engine smoothed. The other engine screamed to life. Soon the engines were roaring and the plane rocked like a jumpy runner fidgeting in starter blocks.
Then Grumpy rushed down the runway and was off the ground in seconds.
A bell that under extreme circumstances would tell the crew to bail-out signaled the boys in the aft compartment that it was safe to move about in their narrow confines.
The guys scrambled about, staring out the portal-like windows or snapping photos. The airplane swayed and bounced on air currents like a roller coaster.
Taking a peek from the gun turret, the clouds seemed to whiz by like streamers and craggy hills — almost touchable from the bubble-like vantage point.
“It brought back a lot of old memories,” Jasper said.
Vera Martinovich works for Boeing, but flies the B-25 for the foundation, too.
Jack and Diane Martin, who head up The Cody Patriots, organized the event.
A few rides were still available for today (Tuesday) and Wednesday. Call 307-899-2325. For every five paid rides, a World War II veteran will get a free ride.
“Being able to honor them (veterans) is a very special part of this,” Martinovich.