By LIBBY CLUETT
Mornings last week provided J. D. Dunson (pictured above) with “beautiful, thrilling” opportunities to exercise his vintage, piston-engine 1956 North American T-28 warbird.
Dunson is a pilot and member of the Eagle Flying Museum, where he keeps his aircraft.
He had been flying over Mineral Wells Thursday morning in his classic, updated plane that he said cruises at “about 200 knots, somewhere around 250 mph to, maximum, 300 mph.”
“It was made to train jet pilots [and was] their last transition from a heavy, fast airplane ... to a jet,” he told the Index, adding that the 8,000-pound, 1,445 horsepower flying machine was made until about 1960 and served “as the primary trainer for the Navy and the Air Force and Marines for years and years and years.”
“I’ve been a pilot all my life and I lived through this transition,” he said of planes to jets. “When I was a young man, there weren’t hardly any jets, they were all pistons. And that era is completely gone in America, forever.”
Dunson said most of the old airplanes, like the warbirds, are now in museums. The Eagle Flying Museum, located at the Mineral Wells Municipal Airport, is an active flying museum. Dunson said he takes his T-28 out once or twice monthly.
The museum moved to Mineral Wells just over one year ago, according to Executive Director Scott Perdue. Its goal, he said, is to preserve heritage.
Many of the museum’s planes were used as trainers, Perdue noted as he pointed to a bright blue-and-yellow PT-17 Stearman bi plane with fabric wings and then to an AT-6 Texan, made by North American.
For more information on the museum, visit the website at www.eagleflyingmuseum.org.