ENTERPRISE — An air armada of vintage World War II aircraft will make a “Let Freedom Ring” flyover of Wallowa County for Independence Day, according to Dan Niezen, of Enterprise, one of the local promoters.
“What they’re trying to do is starting about 8 a.m. and fly over as many communities as they can in a 100-mile radius,” Niezen said.
He said the planes are expected to fly over 75 to 80 communities.
“The whole goal is to fly over as many communities as they can for Independence Day” to honor veterans and their service, he said.
The planes will be coming from Hangar 180 in Lewiston, Idaho, and are tentatively scheduled to fly over Asotin and Anatone, Wash., before reaching Wallowa about 1:50 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, Niezen said. The schedule may vary. From there, the four fighters and one bomber will fly up the valley to Enterprise and Joseph before cutting over to the Snake River, which they’ll follow home to Lewiston for refueling, Niezen said.
He said the aircraft include a North American B-25 Mitchell two-engine, medium bomber and four fighters. They include:
• A P-47D Thunderbolt “Dottie Mae.” Niezen said this restored plane was the last Allied fighter shot down during the war when it crashed in 1945 in an Austrian lake. He said it remained underwater until 2005 when it was pulled out and restored.
• A Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.
• A North American P-51 Mustang.
• A Grumman F7F Tigercat twin-engine fighter. Niezen said this was the most-powerful piston-engine fighter ever produced. Although it was delivered to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, it was too late to serve in World War II, but it did see service in Korea as the jet age dawned.
Niezen said that although the actual flight schedule is tentative, those interested can follow the planes’ progress on Hangar 180’s Facebook page.
“That morning, they’ll have a live tracker with which you’ll be able to follow them,” he said.
He said the event is particularly gratifying since, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the annual fly-in held at the Joseph Airport will not happen.
“That’ll be really cool because we couldn’t have our fly-in at Joseph,” he said. “We have a history of doing fly-ins in Joseph.”
Hangar 180 had put out word that they were planning the flyover and asked communities in the region to submit videos detailing why they should be included in the event.
Niezen said that although he hasn’t seen it, he’s been told Wallowa produced an excellent video. He got together with Kim Hutchison, of the Enterprise Veterans of Foreign Wars, and County Commissioner Susan Roberts to produce a video for Enterprise.
Niezen said a couple of the pilots are coming to Lewiston from the well-known Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, Calif., just for the event. Another of the pilots, based in Lewiston, has been a regular at Joseph fly-ins and is eager to come back.
“There’s people coming from all over to put this on,” he said. “It’s quite an undertaking.”