JENNINGS - Ninety-four-year-old Jack Havens couldn’t fly in the vintage Stearman biplanes on display Friday in Jennings, but the sight of the colorful planes brought back memories of his days in the Navy.
“They bring back memories for me, but it’s hard for me to put it in to words what I am thinking,” the Navy veteran said.
Havens was among 14 veterans from the Southwest Louisiana War Veterans Home who spent the afternoon watching the Stearman take off and land in the grassy field near the Jennings Airport
Nearly two dozen of the classically restored World War II trainers and other taildraggers are taking to the skies over the city this weekend for the 39th annual End-of-the-Season Stearman Fly-in. The planes began arriving Tuesday and will take part in aviation games, flying formations and public viewing from 7 a.m.-dusk today, at the grass field behind the Days Inn.
“It is our honor to have these World War II, Korean and other veterans here today,” Stearman pilot Bill Ross of Irvington, Ala. said. “We hope they will enjoy visiting with us, trading stories and reliving the history they lived and have a chance to see the airplanes up close.”
Lawrence Phillips, 88, an Army veteran said the planes were a sight to see both in the air and on the ground.
“I’ve flown 100,000 miles, but never in a Stearman,” Phillips said. “I’m surprised there are that many.”
Veterans Home activities coordinator Kaly Gist said the veterans were anxious to see the planes.
“This brings back a lot of memories for them,” Gist said. “We have a few guys who talk about flying these planes and know of the planes because their grandfathers and dads flew them…. and who doesn’t love an airplane.”
The two-seat open-cockpit aircraft was the primary trainer for the Army, Navy and Coast Guard cadets in World War II before becoming crop dusters. Today, the biplanes are recreational hobbies for their owners.