AIR SHOW IN BEAUMONT, TX BRINGS WARPLANES AND MEMORIES:

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.”



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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.

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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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