The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

April 7, 2014

A historic flight

OTTUMWA — What would you do for your favorite ice cream?

This past weekend, it took a World War II training plane and a cold-weather flight, but it was well worth the time and effort.

Kevin Conaway, a former Ottumwan, and his friend, pilot Chris Goodrich, have a special affection for Graham's ice cream, as Conaway grew up with it, and his parents, Kerry and Kathleen, bring it to them in Omaha on every trip. So why not combine a love of flying and the opportunity to showcase a historic plane with a quick Graham's run?

"It grew out of a casual comment," Conaway said. "I just mentioned this winter that it would be kind of fun, when Graham's opens back up, that we'd just fly back and get some. Then we made it a trip and planned it all out."

The trip was originally scheduled for March 21, but a mechanical issue forced them to postpone two weeks. It was actually a blessing, they said, because it was significantly colder then than it was this past weekend.

The Fairchild PT-19A, which stands for Primary Trainer, was accepted into the Army Air Corps on Oct. 31, 1941. At that time, its total cost was just $9,718. Its assignments then included Randolf AAF, Texas; Stamford, Texas; and the 2534th AAF Base Unit. It served most of its life assigned to the 308th Elementary Flying Training Detachment, the 31st Flying Training Wing.

"If you have the serial number, they kept all the records. Personnel records are harder to find," he said, making it difficult to tell who exactly would have flown this plane. "They know what bases it was at and what units were there, so you can make some assumptions."

There were more than 3,000 PT-19s built for the war effort, but now fewer than 90 remain in flying condition worldwide. The plane was sold as surplus in October 1944 and was restored to flying condition in 1996. It is now owned by an association in Tarkio, Mo., where the two flew out from Saturday. The instrument panel is very basic — no updated navigation or instruments for this plane — and, perhaps thankfully, no thermometer.

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