This past weekend's Honor Flight which took 25 WWII and Korean War veterans to Washington DC, had a very unique individual among the special group. Colonel Gail "Candy Bomber" Halvorsen visited the war monuments with his fellow veterans on Saturday. The overnight trip was the 16th such tour out of Austin-Bergsrtrom International Airport to DC which began here a couple of years ago. It was also named the Lee Leffingwell flight, in honor of the Austin Mayor who is also a veteran and former pilot. Mr. Leffingwell flew in the flight. The next group will be going in September.
Colonel Halvorsen was one of the crew members involved in the Berlin Airlift that started in 1948. He became famous for dropping candy to the children below tied in small parachutes hence his nickname. All together, he and his crews dropped an estimated 20 tons of candy (mostly Hershey's bars) from their C-54s. During Christmas eve of 1948, another 3 tons of the goodies were delivered on ground to the children of West Berlin. As a pilot he also who flew a variety of other aircraft including the Fairchild PT-19 and the Douglas SBD Dauntless. During the time he had trained with Britain's Royal Air Force to fly the P-51 Mustang but never completed the process. The Colonel still rides in the airshow circuit on board a Douglas C-54 (DC-4) painted in Belin Airlift colors. Colonel Halvorsen has been presented with a number of humanitarian awards thru the years and has written books about his experiences.
On Sunday, a very unique present was given to him by Burnet's Freedom Flyers, a great group of aviation professionals with programs to introduce young children to the world of flight and offer unique flying experiences to veterans as well. Colonel Halvorsen got to fly in their P-51 Mustang, Pecos Bill, thru the hill country, piloted by Mr. Cowden Ward. It was his very first flight in the Mustang and at 93 years young, he enjoyed every minute of it.
For more information on the Freedom Flyer's program in Burnet, Texas and if you would like to visit them and see their aircraft up close, please visit their website at www.freedomflyers.org
For information regarding Honor Flights out of Austin, their website is www.honorflightaustin.org