ENID, Okla. -- Enid's own "Lady Liberty" will be flying over the nation's capital on the Fourth of July, in a fly-over of historic and active-duty military aircraft coordinated by the Department of Defense.
"Lady Liberty" is a Douglas A-26 Invader, an attack aircraft type that saw service in World War II and Korea, owned by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) and permanently based at Enid Woodring Regional Airport. The historic aircraft and a crew of eight from Enid and across Oklahoma was selected by the Department of Defense for the Fourth of July flyover, part of a larger event that will include fly-overs of Mount Rushmore, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Entirely supported by volunteers, "Lady Liberty" is one of more than 150 heritage "warbirds" maintained and flown by the CAF to "educate the public, inspire the next generations, and honor past generations of men and women who built, flew, and served their country," according to a provided statement.
Built in 1944, "Lady Liberty" saw action with the Ninth Air Force in France during World War II, was decommissioned in 1957 and purchased by CAF in 1982. The plane was moved to Enid from Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City in 2012.
The original combat crew for the airplane was three, but a combination of eight crew and passengers boarded the plane Thursday morning at Woodring for the flight east. Onboard were Mark Novak, pilot; Brandon Lublin, co-pilot; Gary Trice, flight engineer; Gary Stein, crew chief; and four passengers: Ivan and David Koehn, and Elle Lublin and Richard Seabrook.
The plane took off at about 9 a.m. Thursday, with about five hours' flight time to Manassas, Va., with one stop for fuel in Terre Haute, Ind.
Gary Stein, crew chief for the flight, said having "Lady Liberty" selected for the event is an honor for the men and women who volunteer their time to keep her flying.
"It's quite an honor for us, because our volunteers have worked very hard to get the airplane ready," Stein said. "We're very proud we're able to do this and we're very appreciative to the Department of Defense for providing the funds for fuel to fly that far east and then back to Enid. Otherwise, we would not be able to afford it. We are a volunteer group."
Stein got involved with the all-volunteer Lady Liberty Squadron after he retired, and found the squadron is more than just a historic plane.
"In addition to the aircraft itself, its the camaraderie and the professionalism of the crew," Stein said.
Mark Novak, pilot for this weekend's flight, came into flying at Vance Air Force Base. He completed undergraduate pilot training at Vance in 1985, and went on to fly C-21, B-1 and KC-135 aircraft in the Air Force, and was a glider instructor at the Air Force Academy.
Being able to fly "Lady Liberty" over Washington, D.C., on Independence Day is "just an awesome honor," Novak said.
"The A-26 is a fast and sexy airplane," Novak said, "and it is just an honor to be a part of this."
Gary Trice, of Yukon, flight engineer for "Lady Liberty," said he travels from Yukon to volunteer with the squadron because it keeps alive skills and experiences he gleaned after he enlisted in the Air Force in 1969, to serve as a crew chief and flight engineer.
"It's a labor of love," Trice said. "I started out as a 19-year-old in the Air Force on round engines and propellers, and I'm one of the few old-timers that still has experience with them."
Flying in "Lady Liberty" is a step back in time, Trice said.
"It's more a time machine than an aircraft," Trice said. "Once you get inside it, the technology is all late 1930s and early 1940s, and it's very labor-intensive flying."
Brandon Lublin, co-pilot for the flight, also serves as a T-1 instructor at Vance Air Force Base.
"I love airplanes, and when I heard about this I wanted to be a part of it," Lublin said.
Lublin, who started out his career in the Air Force as a mechanic, initially started out helping work on the plane's engines, then worked his way up to co-pilot.
"It's cool to represent Vance and Enid and to be a part of this," Lublin said. "I'm really excited to fly over the capital in this aircraft, especially for the few World War II and Korean War veterans watching. I want them to see their airplane."
For Dick Seabrook, a veteran Air Force C-119 pilot who's had to step back from the cockpit due to his age, flying along as an observer this weekend is an opportunity to stay close to the warbirds he loves.
"It's going to be a wonderful experience," Seabrook said. "I'm glad they asked us to do this, and I hope the people will enjoy it -- to see these old warbirds coming in."
This article is written by James Neal from Enid News & Eagle, Okla. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.