Pilot revisits WWII airfield
On the fourth day of their cross-country “Wings Around America” trip, pilots John Billings and Nevin Showman touched down in Victorville, California – a landmark destination among their 25 other stops for its significance in Billing’s past as a World War II bomber pilot.
The Southern California Logistics Airport was once the site of the Victorville Army Airfield during World War II, a site Billings recognizes from his time there more than 70 years ago.
“From the Google Earth picture I can still see the patterns of the old runway,” he said.
On Nov. 15, 1945, Billings marked the last of his service with a flight in his B-24 bomber. Those planes then went from Class A storage with a 24-hour combat ready turnaround time into permanent retirement.
“One morning I came to work and there were no B-24s there,” he said. “And there must have been thousands of crewmembers that came in took them all to the desert in Arizona for long term storage.”
Around 30 years ago, Billings and his family had driven up to what was then called George Air Force Base, staying in a nine-room motel with one bathroom. Because of security reasons, he could only see what he could from behind a fence at that time.
Now that the airport is open to civilian traffic, he and Showman were able to land there on Thursday morning for a stop on the landmark “Wings Around America” trip. Although Billings had merely wanted to visit the airfield, Showman encouraged him to make Victorville a significant stop on the bucket list trip.
“That was my intention in the beginning, just to land there and maybe have a cup of coffee and then go on,” Billings said.
Most of the bombers from bygone days are in museums or static displays, but there is one that still flies around the country every year to offer rides, nicknamed FIFI.
The two pilots have about a week and a half left of their journey to complete if the weather cooperates, hitting several scenic sites along the West Coast before flying back through the Midwest.
Follow the rest of their journey and learn more at http://wingsaroundamerica.com/.
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