Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fighter pilots of yesteryear to bring flying stories to life

Beacon photo by Sara Bruestle

The Historic Flight Foundation is hosting a Navy Piston Fighter Pilots panel from 1-3 p.m. on Feb. 11. Above, the five pilots on the panel are in front of one of the Historic Flight Foundation’s F8F Bearcat: Cmdr. Walter Banks, Lt. James Whitman, Capt. Greg Lambert, Cmdr. Tom Lewis and Lt. Cmdr. Bill Anderson.

James Whitman will never forget how it felt to fly a Bearcat – known as “the hottest plane of World War II” – for the first time. How was it? In a word: Wonderful.  

“They were so wonderful that it just felt like a part of me,” he said. “The Bearcat is a marvelous, incredible airplane.”

The Historic Flight Foundation is hosting a Navy Piston Fighter Pilots panel from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 10719 Bernie Webber Dr. in Mukilteo.

Hear five Navy fighter pilots from the piston age tell their stories of flying the Hellcat, Bearcat, Corsair and more.

The guest panelists, many of them in their 80s, flew fighter and attack planes from WWII on up through the Korean War. As Navy pilots, they all had to be qualified to fly on and off aircraft carriers.

Lt. Whitman, 95, who is on the panel, served as a Navy pilot for 10 years. He flew several fighter planes throughout his years of service, primarily the Kingfisher and the Bearcat.

During WWII, Whitman trained on a U.S. naval cruiser, then was stationed in Alaska on an inshore anti-submarine squadron and then trained again at a naval air facility in Santa Rosa, Fla.

A worker for IBM before the war, Whitman was exempt from the draft, but because he had always wanted to fly, he decided to leave IBM and go into the naval flight program.

“When I was a kid, I can remember looking up on days like today and seeing these airplanes flying over and saying, ‘One of these days, I would like to learn to fly,” Whitman said. “This was a marvelous opportunity to do that, if I could qualify.”

In training on the cruiser, Whitman flew Kingfisher observation planes on and off a 900-foot cruiser. The Kingfishers were used to scout the enemy’s fleet.

Whitman can still recall what it was like for his plane to get shot into the air by catapult from the cruiser in 1943.

“You fire this thing up and it gets shot off of this little catapult with a five-inch artillery shell and a cable goes back and forth and – bang – and away you go and you’re in the air,” Whitman said.

“You’d better have your head back against something hard or it will knock you out, because that’s how fast it’s going.”

Then there’s the hard part – getting back on.

“You’re out there with these big waves, and you can’t land it [on the carrier],” Whitman said. “You have to make this carrier do a 90-degree turn and then slide sideways and, then, as it lowers, you can sit your airplane down and taxi up, and they haul you right back up on a crane.”

After training, Whitman was assigned to an anti-submarine squadron in Alaska that conducted coastal patrol from Sitka to the Aleutian Islands (Attu Island). The Japanese had taken Attu before, so there was concern that they would try to land submarines again on the Alaskan coast.

“I spent a whole year in Alaska assigned to look for submarines, but the only submarines that I ever saw out there spouted,” Whitman said. “Whales!”

In 1944, Whitman was back from Alaska and ready to be reassigned. At first, the Navy didn’t want him. They said he was getting old and should retire from service. But Whitman convinced them to keep him, and they sent him to Florida to fly more fighter planes.

There, in training, he flew several of the cat airplane series, including the Wildcat, Hellcat and the Bearcat. His was the first squadron to fly the Bearcat.

“He had changed from a 150 mph float plane (the Kingfisher) to this Bearcat which can get out to about 440 mph,” said Bob Wells, the panel moderator, “so it was really a big change.”

Whitman said that while at Santa Rosa, the Navy got into a friendly competition with the U.S. Air Corp. Their Bearcat versus the Air Corp’s Mustang, each their best fighter planes.

“Our skipper and their colonel got into a wager,” Whitman said. “The wager was that ‘You’re going to take that Mustang, and you’re going to fly to the end of the runway just as fast as you can get there.’

“And then our skipper says, ‘I’ll take that blue hot rod (the Bearcat) and I’ll climb up 100 feet and I will come down [at an angle], and I will shoot you before you get to the end of the runway.’”

The skipper won, like he said he would. His fast-climbing Bearcat made it to the end of the runway before the Mustang could get there.

“I was so fortunate I never got shot at, and I had a lot of experience flying some of the most wonderful planes that probably were made,” Whitman said. “All of this to me was almost just fun from beginning to end.”

Wells met Whitman at the HFF’s Vintage Aircraft Weekend in the summer. Whitman was staring admiringly at the foundation’s F8F Bearcat.

When Wells discovered that Whitman had flown the airplane in WWII, he invited him to be a guest on the panel.

Hear Whitman’s stories and the stories of the other four panelists on Feb. 11.

“John Sessions (founder of HFF) sets a tone where he really encourages education and archiving history,” Wells said. “The foundation has taken the era of military aircraft built between 1927-1957, and these gentlemen all fit within that timeframe.”

The event will be recorded as part of HFF's mission to preserve first-hand accounts of pilots who flew between 1927 and 1957.

The presentation is for all ages. General admission is required.

For more information, go to or call 425-348-3200. 

Civil Air Patrol hosts winter training: Pilots fly from Dupage Airport (KDPA) in exercises

By Jean Lotus

The Forest Park Flight of the Civil Air Patrol is the best kept secret of Forest Park's Army Reserve building at 7402 Roosevelt Road. And the Civil Air Patrol is "the best kept secret of the U.S. Air Force," said Maj. Andy Welch, 39, of Chicago. The CAP is the civilian branch of the Air Force, started during World War II to allow private citizens with pilot training to assist in surveillance of waterways and land during wartime. Over time, the CAP's mission has changed. Now they focus on emergency services: helping find missing aircraft or taking aerial photos of natural disasters such as flooding at the request of federal, state or local agencies.

"All of these members are volunteers who work other jobs. Many do not have a pilot's license but focus on ground operations," said Welch. He joined CAP in college but only learned to fly within the past couple of years. CAP members use Air Force military titles, but are civilians.

The CAP has been meeting in Forest Park since 1962. Eleven members of the Forest Park Flight meet monthly to plan training exercises that coordinate search missions with aircraft and ground teams all over Illinois. Saturday, Jan. 28 was the Flight's yearly "Ice Bowl" where 75 CAP members from all over the state coordinated to perform three mock search missions in cold weather.

Cold weather affects aircraft, equipment and the humans who use them. "Emergencies can happen anytime anywhere. They happen in cold weather and it causes changes to the equipment," said Maj. David Hoover, who participated in the exercises at DuPage airport Saturday.

The wind-chill was in the low 20s on the tarmac as pilots of the CAP flew two Cessna 182 single-engine propeller aircraft - one with fully digital equipment and the other with traditional "steam gauge" dials. Each "bird" has three crew members: a pilot, a scanner (who works the radio) and an observer who searches for the hidden target and consults aviation charts.

"It's certainly improved my flying," said 2nd Lt. Stewart Orlin, a Fox News photographer who lives in Oak Park. "I had my pilot's license for 10 years before joining CAP. It gave me a way to use my skills. After a while you get to know all the airports around here." Orlin referred to his leisure piloting as the "$100 breakfast." Orlin has trained as a scanner, a pilot and an observer. "I've learned first aid, CPR. I've learned search techniques Ð that helps you not to get lost."

During Saturday's exercises, a safety beacon on a plane at Olson Airfield near Hampshire, Ill. was activated for air and ground crews to find. Radio rescue beacons, standard on planes and boats, automatically signal when the vessel crashes. Except when they don't.

"They're not foolproof. They can be destroyed by fire. Their batteries can wear out," said Hoover. That's what happened to Steve Fossett, the commodities trader/adventurer who crashed his light plane in the Nevada mountains in 2007. Civil Air Patrol volunteers spent 17,000 hours over a month searching for Fossett whose plane was found by hikers 200 miles off-course.

But everything was working fine on Saturday. Using a Becker Radio Direction Finder - "that looks like a white coffee can hanging under the tail of the aircraft," said Hoover - three crews located the target from the air and radioed a crew waiting on the ground in a 12-passenger van at Ill. Route 47 and I 90. The passengers, who also had a beacon finding radio, took off for Olson Airport and found the beacon. Each sortie lasted around 30 minutes once the signal had been found, said Welch.

Among the ground crew were Cadets Adam Wallace, 20, and his brother Matthew, 13, of Oak Park. The brothers stayed after the exercises with a group that camped in a forest preserve overnight. Both Wallaces aspire to military careers Ð Adam in the Special Forces and Matthew as an Air Force Fighter Pilot. "That would be my dream job," he said.

CAP Cadets can start at age 12. Both Wallaces got involved while students at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School. The Chicago Consolidated Flight holds weekly meetings at the Air Force Academy High School in Chicago at 3630 S. Wells. "I've gone up on powered and glider flights," said Matthew. The flying time is one of the highlights of being a cadet, said Welch. Cadets also can attend CAP's discounted flight camp in the summer located near Mattoon, Ill. There cadets get instruction in flying light aircraft, gliders and hot-air balloons, said Hoover. The cadet program is an introduction to the Air Force, but CAP remains a civilian non-profit organization says Welch. There are 26,000 cadets in the U.S. today.

Adults join CAP "to help their community, to volunteer," he said. Welch and four other Forest Park-based members took personal vacation time after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and worked with emergency crews in rural Mississippi. CAP volunteers also assisted during a Kentucky ice storm in 2009, when snapped power-lines destroyed emergency and cell phone communication.

Sometimes a real emergency can interrupt training exercises. Last summer, the Forest Park Flight participated in a regional FEMA exercise. "Operation Ardent Sentry" simulated an earthquake along the New Madrid Fault. But during the middle of training, severe flooding began along the Wabash River.

"We had to sign out of the training and sign into the emergency response," said Orlin. "I ended up taking real-time aerial photos of flooding over Terre Haute of bridges, locks and dams for FEMA."

The 62,000 CAP volunteers perform 95 percent of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions tasked by the Air Force. We've been "performing missions for America for 70 years," said Maj. James Griggs.

Flying over Manhattan

Flying over Manhattan
By Hitsnorth

Hitsnorth shot this video of he and a friend flying over New York City on January 28 in his 1968 Beechcraft. 'The ride was great,' he said. 'We departed the West Chester airport and continued around to the Statue of Liberty, and then to the Newark airport.'

- jmsaba, CNN iReport producer

Flew downthe hudson across central park and down the east river circling the statue of liberty.

What do you think of this story?
Your feedback will help tell CNN producers what to do with this iReport. If you'd like, you can explain your choice in the comments:

Hospice patient’s dream is temporarily grounded

Spasoje Spike Miskovic gives thumbs up as he waits to take off on a flight in the airplane he used to own at Summit Air at the Akron Fulton International Airport (KAKR) on Tuesday.
(Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal)

By Marilyn Miller, Beacon Journal

The 73-year-old pilot waited anxiously Tuesday to fly again. The weather was almost perfect — sunny with temperatures in the 50s.

It had been years since Spasoje “Spike” Miskovic was in an airplane and even longer since he had flown one.

As a nurse wheeled Miskovic out to the plane he once owned, a six-seat Beechcraft Baron 58, he wondered about the delay. He had been sitting in the medical transport vehicle for nearly 30 minutes.

Just a few hours earlier, Crossroads Hospice staff in Green had told Miskovic they had a surprise for him.

“We call it the ‘Ultimate Gift,’ ” said Crossroads spokesman Bob Pontius, “We ask the patient if they had one day, describe how you would spend it. What would you want to do?”

They didn’t ask Miskovic. They knew what would make him happy.

“He had a unique life. This is not every guy,” Pontius said. “How many people do you know who owned their own plane?”

Aides said Miskovic always talks about how he learned how to fly in the former Yugoslavia, how he used to fly with his dog and how he once tried to teach a monkey how to fly.

Pontius said Miskovic served in the U.S. Air Force and Yugoslavian air force.

His nurse, Marian Presto, said Miskovic didn’t seem too happy going for an ambulance ride. He was told only that they had a surprise for him.

“But when the driver got off on state Route 224, he perked up and started giving the driver directions, even telling the driver where to park,” Presto said. “He looks better than I’ve seen him look in a long time.”

Miskovic knew his destination all too well.

For years, he was a private pilot for hire and a manager at Akron Fulton airport and also in Wayne County. He was an FAA inspector and graduated from Kent State University with a degree in aeronautical engineering.

When Miskovic saw a mechanic looking at the plane at Akron Fulton, he asked the aides if they wanted him to look at it.

Miskovic was also a mechanic.

He stopped to talk to his longtime friend and fellow pilot, Bob Hadley, asking him where they were going.

“We’re going for a little ride. Where do you want to go?” Hadley asked.

Aides helped Miskovic into one of the rear seats facing the front. He called out to his friend, “C’mon, Bob, let’s go.”

Hadley had gone to check with the mechanic, only to find that there was a loose cable. Another day would be needed to replace it.

The pilot had to break the bad news to Miskovic.

“What’s wrong with the cable?” Miskovic asked.

He looked satisfied with the explanation, maybe because he had been in the same situation many times, having to break bad news to pilots and passengers.

Hadley assured his friend of 35 years they would try again this week. Miskovic returned to the ambulance.

Hadley and Pontius say they are checking the weather forecast for a sunny day with temperatures of at least 35 degrees. Friday looks to be the best.

Joe Carnley, Destin's first dentist, a well-known airplane buff and a community leader, died Saturday at the age of 67

Joe Carnley
Rest in peace, loving, gentle man.  Oh, that the world had a million more like you.

DESTIN — Every day until the day he couldn’t, Joe Carnley called his daughter. Their conversations always started the same way.

“I’d answer the phone and he’d say, ‘Is this my masterpiece speaking?’ ” said Kimberly Huels of Destin. “And I’d say, ‘This is her.’

“And he’d say, ‘I just wanted to call and check on my masterpiece to see if she was doing all right.’ ”

Carnley, Destin’s first dentist, a well-known airplane buff and a community leader, died Saturday at the age of 67.

He had fought a long and almost successful battle against lung cancer.

“The community has lost a huge patriot, a compassionate leader, a brilliant educator and a gifted dentist,” said close friend Mick Guthals of Niceville. “More importantly, they have lost a friend.”

Neither Huels nor Carnley's son, also named Joe Carnley, knew how close Carnley was to death. He worked Thursday, went to the hospital Friday and died the next day.

“He did not retire,” said the younger Carnley, who lives in Tallahassee. “That was my dad. He was a fighter and a survivor, and he never thought of giving up.”

Carnley was born in Florala, Ala., the youngest of nine and the only boy. His father died when he was young and he was raised by his mom and sisters.

From an early age, he knew he wanted to be a dentist and he knew he wanted to fly airplanes.

He was Destin’s first dentist and had one of the early post office boxes there. His was No. 6.

Poor vision kept Carnley from flying planes in the military, but he became a civilian pilot later and a World War II airplane aficionado.

At the time of his death, he owned a hangar at Destin Airport and had recently sold his T-6 Texan, a World War II-era plane.

“The guys he flew with are planning a flyover over the funeral Wednesday (today) on his behalf,” his son said.

He was remembered in a visitation Tuesday night in Florala. Services will be at 1 p.m. today at Evans Funeral Home there.

His children say he was an amazing father who was involved in their lives.

“He made me feel loved all the time,” Huels said. “He was always there for me and always supported everything I did.

“My whole life, I felt like he was more powerful than the president.”

His son said that Carnley woke up every morning loving life and ready for another day.

“I want him to be remembered for his vibrant passion for life,” he said.

He gave a lot to the community, and when he was ill the community gave back to him, his family said.

“There’s nothing that could ever be said thanking all of those who said prayers and supported him,” his son said.

“That’s what got him through.”


Obituary: Dr. Joe H. Carnley (1944 - 2012)

Dr. Joe H. Carnley took his final and most important flight on Saturday morning, Jan. 28, 2012. God has called him home.

Joe was born Feb. 26, 1944, in Paxton, Fla., to Charlie and Mae Elizabeth Carnley. He was a graduate of Paxton High School, where he was a member of the state championship basketball team. From there he attended Western Carolina University on a basketball scholarship and later graduated from Louisville School of Dentistry in Kentucky.

Joe was the first to establish a dental practice in Destin, Fla. His love for dentistry and the people of Destin have kept him here for over 35 years.

Throughout his career, he travelled the country teaching at different universities and dental institutes. Along the way he discovered a love for connecting with people, which eventually led him to become a Dale Carnegie franchise owner and instructor.

Next to his family and dentistry, flying was one of the greatest joys and passions of his life. He flew amongst his closest friends in his World War II Navy warplane, a T-6, attending fly-ins and entertaining locals with their formation flying over the Destin Pass. Dr. Carnley's latest achievement was becoming the 53rd Wing Honorary Commander at Eglin Air Force Base, personally representing the community for the Emerald Coast.

A man from humble beginnings, he never gave up on his dreams and spent the rest of his life teaching others to do the same.

Dr. Joe is survived by his son, Joe (JoeJoe) C. Carnley and wife, Abby; daughter, Kimberley E. Huels and husband, Lee; grandkids, Peyton, Saylor, Joseph "Cameron," and William Henry (Hank); mother of his children, Bridget Carnley; sisters, Juanita, Charlie and Willagee; and fiancée, Tina Anderson.
Services are being held at Evans-Brown Funeral Home on Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 1 p.m. Hours of visitation will be held on Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. and on Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m.

Flowers are welcome, and donations in Dr. Joe's honor may be made to the American Cancer Society or Smyrna Cemetery Foundation.

Dad, you were the greatest dad and granddad in the world. We love you ... you will be missed.

Evans Funeral Home, Florala, is entrusted with arrangements.

Joe Carnley gives the thumbs up before taking off into the skies.
Kathy Harrison | The Destin Log

Remembering Destin's first dentist: Joe Carnley ‘squeezed every inch out of life'

With roots in Paxton, Fla., Joe Carnley always dreamed big and aimed for the sky. Just a few days after his passing, friends and colleagues reflect on the man who had a larger-than-life personality and “a heart of gold.”

“Anyone who has crossed Dr. Joe’s path knows what a kind and caring man he was, he had the ability to make everyone feel important, no matter who you were,” Mayor Sam Seevers said of the man she called her “long-time mentor.”

“Dr. Joe continually challenged me to be a better person — he instilled in me the importance of making a difference in this community.”

Read more:


The Destin Log wrote a profile of Carnley a couple months before his death.

November 19, 2011
By Matt Algarin

From the dentist's chair to the skies above Destin, Joe Carnley reflects on tragedies and triumphs

Whether it was sleeping in boats at Hudson’s Marina as a youngster or pulling barrel rolls behind the stick of a World War II era T-6 Texan, Joe Carnley has always played by his own rules and has no regrets.

“I’ve got a little bit of a wild streak,” the longtime Destin dentist said with a chuckle.

After spending five months at the Mayo Clinic battling throat cancer, Carnley has hung up his flight suit and sold his planes. But he is cancer free — and back to work, changing the lives of Destinites one smile at a time.