Clyde DeFrates Jr., a 90-year-old World War II veteran from Beaumont was hoping to see a B-17 Flying Fortress last month at Jack Brooks Regional Airport. DeFrates flew 33 missions as a ball turret gunner over Germany. The B-17 was delayed for the day due to mechanical trouble.

“I definitely wish it was here,” said DeFrates “We’ll have to come back tomorrow and see if they bring it.”


Pilot Arne Aamodt preps Shannon Martin of Beaumont for his flight in the North American AT-6 Texan trainer (Photo: Kim Brent)

The native of Port Arthur carried a light blue scrapbook filled with photos of a recent Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., and a photo of him as a 19-year-old in the U.S. Army Air Force in 1944.

“I could see everything from where I was in the plane,” DeFrates said. “I got to see things few people get to see.”

The B-17 was part of a two day event were locals could see and even fly in vintage warplanes.

One plane that did show up at Beaumont’s regional airport on Saturday was a North American AT-6 Advanced Trainer.

Beaumont resident Pamela Hickman, 68, was the first to take a $295 30-minute flight on the AT-6.

“I’ve been riding in planes for 60 years. Besides riding with my uncle as a girl, that was one of the best flights I’ve ever been on.” She said.


The AT-6 Texan takes off from Jack Brooks Regional Airport (Photo: Kim Brent)

Arne Aamodt, a 30 year licensed pilot, was the one to fly Hickman and others.”Riding a commercial plane is like being on a bus,” Aamodt said. “This is like riding on the back of a Harley-Davidson,”

Former B-17 crewman DeFrates said he didn’t intend to take the $475 ride on the B-17 even though people had offered to pay his way, saying he’s spent enough time inside the warplane for one lifetime.

“When I got back from my service, I didn’t get back in the air for 25 years,” DeFrates said. “But I would sure love to see (the B-17) again.”

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