10 March 2010


I learned from AOPA's online newsletter about a remarkable half-hour film called Gray Eagles, which captures the emotional reunion between a World War II P-51 Mustang pilot, Jim Brooks (now 88) with a reconstructed Mustang that is the twin of the one he flew -- six decades after his last flight. The Mustang was built from scratch by one of Brooks' neighbors, to conform in every way from construction to paint job to match Brooks' warbird, February.

The event was the catalyst for a breakthrough in Brooks' relationships with his grandchildren, who had always been in awe of their reticent grandfather. Brooks was an ace during the war, but rarely talked about his experiences as a fighter pilot. In the film he reveals his part in that historic era for the first time.

As an aspiring pilot, as a father and grandfather, and as a military veteran who similarly rarely talks about my personal war, Vietnam, I was spellbound by this story, and moved to tears more than once. Through the month of March, you can view the video for free online here. If you choose to buy it, please do so at the Gray Eagles Foundation website -- your purchase will help finance their education efforts and restoration of World War II aircraft. Note: the Mustang was the finest fighter of WWII, so advanced that future generations of fighters would be measured against it. Of some 16,000 Mustangs built, only 200 remain worldwide. Any pilot would sacrifice greatly for the chance to fly a Mustang today -- it is an aviation icon, the same aircraft flown by the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

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