Local Pilots Volunteer for Commemorative Flight
Punta Gorda, FL – The newly-reopened Runway 4-22 at Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) was recently commemorated with special takeoffs and landings by four vintage military aircraft, or “Warbirds.”
A team of three pilots flying T-34 aircraft flew in formation as the “Veterans Airlift Command Tribute Wing.” The Beechcraft T-34 Mentor is a single-engine, basic trainer aircraft designed and manufactured by Beechcraft for the US Air Force and US Navy. Walt Fricke, A former Army combat helicopter pilot and Vietnam Veteran, AirBoss and Founder of the Veterans Airlift Command non-profit, led fellow pilots Mike Grossmann and Dan Blackwell in a three-man formation.
Jim Lyons, pilot of a North American P-51 Mustang, also joined the commemorative flights with his iconic aircraft. The P-51 Mustang is an American long-range, single-seat fighter used during WWII that was based at Punta Gorda Army Airfield.
All four pilots are based locally and offered to coordinate this special flight as a tribute to the airport’s rich history, and the future of aviation.
The Veterans Airlift Command provides free private air transportation to combat wounded veterans and active service members for medical and other compassionate purposes thru a national network of volunteer aircraft owners and pilots.
The airport, home of the Veterans Airlift Command, first opened 80 years ago as the Punta Gorda Army Airfield, where it reached its peak with 1,097 enlisted men. Runway 4-22 was one of the airport’s original runways, and its year-long rehabilitation was just completed in mid-January.
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About Punta Gorda Airport
The Charlotte County Airport Authority (CCAA), governed by five elected commissioners, owns and operates the Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), located at 28000 Airport Road, five minutes off I-75, exits 161 and 164. PGD provides quick and easy access to Southwest Florida, and is home to commercial air service, air charters, medical transport services, aircraft maintenance and avionics repair, an A&P School, as well as flight schools, distributers and manufacturers. No ad valorem (property) taxes are used for airport operations or construction. CCAA is a nontaxing entity and operates as an enterprise fund, totally supported by revenue generated from its operations including rental car concession, parking, fuel sales and hangar, building and land leases on its 2,000-acre property. The CCAA is an independent special district pursuant to chapter 189, Florida Statutes, and operates in accordance with FAA requirements and guidelines. A 2022 economic impact study by the FDOT estimated that PGD is responsible for 11,319 jobs and $1.7 billion in total economic output. For more information, visit www.flypgd.com.