WWII Warbird Visits Southeast Colorado

Description: Pilot Gary Otto uses GPS Navigation in a historic 1941 North American AT-6 advanced trainer from WWII on his way to the La Junta airport. See the photo gallery at the bottom of this article...

Published: 11/11/2023
Byline: SECO News

By: Gary Otto, Special Thanks to The Caspers

WWII Warbird Visits Southeast Colorado

A historic 1941 North American AT-6 advanced trainer from WWII days recently visited the area on its way home to Sweetwater, TX. This 2-seat 600 hp radial engine powerhouse was designed to be the trainer for the infamous single seat P-51 fighter that changed the course of WWII.

Thousands of pilots trained in AT-6's, also called the "pilot maker" and the "Texan." The Navy also flew a modified version of this versatile aircraft and designated it the SNJ. The British Commonwealth built and flew them as Harvard's. Nearly all of the 10,000+ Texans were built in the huge North American factory in north Dallas. T-6's served all over the world in both training and active combat roles. More than 1000 are still flying today to keep our memories of the "greatest generation" alive.

The National WASP WWII Museum is located on Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Tx and honors the memory of the hundreds of women"s auxiliary service pilots who trained in these AT-6 aircraft, going on to fly nearly every aircraft in service during WWII in non-combat roles.

WASP's delivered aircraft from the factories to military bases, performed demonstration flights for newly released warplanes and sometimes unexpectedly found themselves in active combat situations when delivering warplanes to the front lines! More information on WASP's can be found at www.waspmuseum.org The story of how these unsung hero women pilots impacted our war efforts and successes is remarkable!

The visiting AT-6 is owned by the WASP museum and was making a very much delayed flight home from Oshkosh WI and the biggest air show in the world, EAA's annual AirVenture. The museum chief pilot Malcolm Laing asked Oshkosh resident and 50 year flying veteran Gary Otto to bring their warbird home following some needed repairs.

Gary has hundreds of hours flying these powerful "time machines" and agreed to fly the 8+ hour journey provided that the museum would allow him to veer off the direct flight path to TX and visit his longtime friends, Kenny and Chris Casper, of Rocky Ford.

The adventurous trip went off flawlessly on Oct. 9th with clear skies and even a little tailwind to boot! Gary's friendship with Chris goes back 54 years when she lived in Oshkosh WI. Kenny and Chris treated their guest to some fantastic down-home Colorado hospitality that even included a successful tarantula hunt!

When asked about his warbird flying Gary stated "I am a volunteer pilot for the Commemorative Air Force, whose mission is to keep these historic flying machines active to "Educate, Inspire and Honor. We use these planes to touch people's lives in so many ways. I have flown the Wisconsin based CAF SNJ over 60 times this year alone, carrying out this honorable mission." (See www.commemorativeairforce.org)

It's hard to believe that La Junta airport was once a WWII multi engine heavy bomber training base with hundreds of B-25 and B-17 bomber aircraft and housing for over 1000 personnel! A visit to the La Junta airport museum is a very worthwhile adventure indeed.

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Crossing the Mississippi

GPS Navigation

Wisconsin Sunset the Night Before

Flight Map for La Junta and Casper Ranch Flyover

Successful Tarantula Hunt

Home Sweet Home for the WASP AT-6

Casper Ranch Flyover Oct 11 at 8 am

Good Friends Reunited

Arriving at La Junta 2:35 pm

Pilot Gary Otto