To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, a group of Aviation enthusiasts are re-creating a key plane route.
Before the U.S. officially entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, Congress passed the Lend Lease Act of 1941. The law allowed the U.S. to supply allies with military Aircraft, ships and other equipment needed to fight Nazi Germany.
Great Falls became a hub for the route to Siberia, which supplied the Soviet Union with nearly 8,000 planes. The Alaska-Siberia Air Route operated from 1942-45 and planes were delivered to Great Falls, largely by Women's Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs.
WWII vets gather for rare flyover of vintage planes celebrating V-E day Male Pilots of the 7th Ferrying Group and Male Military Pilots ferried the planes to Ladd Field in Air banks, where Soviet pilots met them and delivered the planes to the battlefront. The journey was 6,000 miles over rough terrain.
The route to Fairbanks is a challenging one, Mike Hunt told the Tribune last summer.
Hunt arrived in Great Falls in 1942 for his first assignment as a Military Pilot with the 7th.
C-47 Skytrains were among the Aircraft processed at Great Falls Army Air Base during the Lend-Lease program from 1942 to
Hunt will be featured in a documentary about the route. The team making the documentary are retracing the flight route this summer in vintage WWII planes.
During the 1940s, Pilots used what's known as the four-course range navigation. If they were too far on one side of the flight path, they'd hear Morse code for A, if they were on the other side of the line, they'd hear Morse code for N, and if they were on course, they'd hear an even tone, Hunt said.
Model for Norman Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter painting dies
Mostly, the pilots used visual navigation and dealt with treacherous terrain and rapidly changing weather conditions.
During the winter, Pilots had limited daylight hours to make their trip, and, if they had to stop, the Airplanes would sit
overnight in sub-zero temperatures.
A processed P-63 Kingcobra undergoes a tire and brake inspection in the final processing hanger at Great Falls Army Air
Base June 1945 during the Lend-Lease program.
"It takes a long time to get a cold Airplane warmed up so it will fly again," Hunt said. "But it was enjoyable in the
Bravo 369 Flight Foundation was in Great Falls last summer on a test run of the route with a vintage T-6 Texan, one of the
types of planes ferried to the Soviets.
Bravo 369 is partnering with RUSAVIA, a Russian Aviation Company, to re-create the route and arrive in Russia for
celebrations related to the end of WWII.
During the weekend of - , Bravo 369 is bringing three T-6s and has, in part, sponsored a Bell P-63 Kingcobra to
appear. More than 2,000 P-63s were sent to Russia and formed the backbone of Soviet air defense.
The event will also include two Douglas C-47 Skytrains, a P-51 Mustang and a C-130 from the Montana Air National Guard.
Some of the planes will fly in formation over Great Falls and will be photographed in front of the two WWII hangars still
intact at the Great Falls International Airport.
Attendees to the events will be able to see the historic planes, visit with the flight crews, view the historic hangars,
and attend discussions by experts on the history of lend-lease. There will also be dignitaries from the U.S., Canada and
Eesha Rohida [ MBA Mktg ]
Aviation News Editor