Minot pilot and 4 other pilots to fly WWII aircraft
Minot pilot Warren Pietsch, three other pilots from North Dakota and one from Iowa will make a trip next week in World War II aircraft which hasn’t been attempted in these planes for 70 years.
The planes and pilots with the Texas Flying Legends Museum are going to St. Maarten, an island in the northeast Caribbean about 186 miles east of Puerto Rico, where they’ll take part in the 25th anniversary of the St. Barths Bucket Regatta.
Pilots and the planes making the trip are:
“When the opportunity was presented to perform at the Bucket Regatta in 2011, we were very excited to make this mission a reality,” said Chris Griffith, of Scarborough, Maine, president of the flying museum. The museum is based out of Ellington Field in Houston.
“However, to accomplish the trip to St. Barths and back, we would have to cross more water than had ever been attempted since World War II in these planes. Combined with the necessary licenses required to make such a trip even possible, we had to pull all our resources together to make this happen,” Griffith said.
He said the 70-year-old aircraft will fly 1,100 nautical miles from Houston to St. Maarten for the three-day race, and then back to Houston.
Pietsch said this is a very significant trip and that he has never done something like this before.
“All four airplanes will travel together as a formation,” he said.
He said the P-40, which he will be flying, has the shortest range at about 400 miles.
“We will be making two stops between Houston and Fort Lauderdale (1,100 miles) and three stops between Fort Lauderdale and St. Maarten (1,200 miles). We will be stopping in Great Exuma, Bahamas-Providenciales, Turks and Caicos-Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and then St. Maarten,” he said.
He said the trip will take about 14 hours of flying each way.
During the regatta, the planes will take off from Arrindell Aviation Services, their base of operations in St. Maarten, to perform a formation fly-by every morning over St. Barths. Every afternoon they will also perform a 20-minute air show over Shell Beach, St. Barths, after each day’s race.
The pilots, along with their planes, also will be at Arrindell Aviation each afternoon to meet the public.
Planes with the Texas Flying Legends Museum are flown from Texas to North Dakota each spring, to Maine each summer and back to Texas in the fall.
The museum also has one of only two flying Japanese Zeros left in the world and “Little Horse,” a P-51D stable-mate of Dakota Kid II.
The four planes in the St. Maarten trip and possibly two other planes will be on display at the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot when it opens May 14. The planes will remain there for about two months.