Mike Epp, at left, is the new Director of the War Eagles Air Museum (WEAM) at nearby Santa Teresa International Jet-Port. When long-time FASF member Robert “Bob” Dockendorfretired last year we all wondered who would fill his large shoes as Director of the museum. The mystery is now over: It is Mike Epp. Mikewas the guest presenter at last week’s monthly meeting of Daedalian Flight 24 in El Paso, Texas.
Still showing a less than average turnout as the result of the long shut-down from the pandemic, Mike still had a good sized Daedalian group assembled to witness his show, as the following photos reveal (click on any photo to see in full resolution):
L to R: Larry Spradlin and Mike Epppose for our photographer as the Daedalians and guests arrive.
L to R above: Charlieand Mayre Sue Overstreet, Col. Bob Pitt (back to camera), Larry Spradlin, Julie Pitt. guest Mary Barnes, and Colonel Melissa Fisher.
L to R: Mike Epp in discussion with an old friend, Flight Treasurer, Virg Hemphill
L to R: Colonels Mario Campos, previous Flight Captain, and Melissa Fisher.
L to R: Jerry Dixon, Col. Mario Campos, Larry Spradlin, Virg Hemphill (his back) Mike Epp, Ulla Rice and Pete Brandon. Flight Captain, Col. Alan Fisher is at podium getting ready to call the meeting to order.
L to R:Col. Fisher, Roger Springstead, Col. Fisher, Mary Barnes, Charlie Overstreet, Julie Pitt with Col. Pittgiving his Flight Adjutant’s report.
Colonel Alan Fisherasks Charlie Overstreet, a long-time Docent at the WEAM, to introduce Mike Epp.
Charlie Overstreetintroducing the meeting’s speaker, Mike Epp.
Charlie describing Mike’s background.
Presenter Mike Eppstarts his show.
Mikeproceeds to describe the WEAM and its plans for the future, with F-51 Fighter of WWII fame on screen.
L to R: Mike, Alan Fisher, Charlie Overstreet, Melissa Fisher, Mayre Sue Overstreet, Col. Bob and Julie Pitt, and Roger Springstead.
L to R: Mike explains the antique car collection, also a feature of his WEAM as Fishers listen.
L to R: Mike Epp, Julie Pitt (back to camera) Melissa and Alan Fisher, Col. Bob Pitt,Charlie and Mayre Sue Overstreet. On screen is one of the WEAM displays, a Cessna T-37 jet trainer.
Mike describes some of the museum’s most unique aircraft, such as the Russian MIG fighter depicted on the screen.
Mike tells the audience of his career in aviation, and how it began at an early age. After High School he joined the Army and served as an Avionics Technician in Germany. After four years service in the Army, he used the GI Bill to earn his degree to become licensed as an Aircraft and Powerplant (A&P) specialist, a skill he used in his much loved General Aviation and in its Corporate Aviation world. In 1989 he took a position with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as an A&P mechanic and as an Avionics Technician, where he was stationed in South America. After five years in that capacity, he left the Agency to join the Border Patrol as an Officer in San Diego, CA. After three years with the Border Patrol, he switched back to the DEA again, but his time as an Agent in his much beloved El Paso, Texas. In 2014 he retired from the Agency and became a volunteer Docent at the WEAM, and ultimately, after seven years, its Director.
L to R: Flight Captain, Col. Fisherlistens to questions asked of the Director by Charlie Overstreet as his wife, Mayre Sue listens.
The Daedalians and guests listen intently as Mike brings his presentation to a close.
A very pleased Mike Eppgratefully accepts Colonel Fisher’sDaedalian gift as token of appreciation for his time and effort.
After the successful and informative presentation,Mikeand Col. Fisher pose for our Photographer.
This past Wednesday, at El Paso’s Fort Bliss golf club, Daedalian Flight 24 entertained some of the upper class AFROTC Cadets from New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) Detachment 505.
This gave the Cadets a good chance to get to know an active duty Air Force pilot, the luncheon’s presenter, along with a number of Daedalian former USAF, Navy and Marine aviators, as well.
Many of the Daedalians, all of whom are long time FASF members, also entered the USAF from ROTC units. The guest visit was arranged by FASF member, Air Force Academy graduate, and Daedalian Flight Commander, Colonel Alan Fisher.
Uniquely enough, well over twenty years earlier, Col. Fisherhad been the Air Force Commander of these Cadet’s own AFROTC Detachment 505 at NMSU.
The guest speaker, Major Max Weaver, USAF, is from Arizona. He was raised in a family that valued service; his father served in the US Army and both his parents were police officers. In high school Maj Weaver joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) which gave him his first actual flight experience flying in CAP unit Cessna 172s. After High School, he majored in Foreign Area Studies at the Air Force Academy and spent a semester abroad in Nanjing, China where he learned their Mandarin dialect. He graduated with honors and was commissioned in 2011.
Next he attended joint Undergraduate Pilot Training with the Navy at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field, flying the Texan T-6B II. See below photo.
U. S. Navy T-6 III Trainer
Maj. Weaver earned his wings in the T-1 “Jayhawk” at Vance AFB in 2013. Photo below:
USAF Multi-engine Trainer, Beechcraft T-1 Jayhawk
His first post flight training assignment was flying the C-17 Globemaster at McChord AFB, Washington. He accrued over 1,000 hours in the C-17 and saw duty in Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, Japan, and many other countries delivering mission critical cargo and supporting Presidential operations. Globemaster III photo below.
McDonnell Douglas C-17 Globemaster III
In 2016 he began training on the MQ-9 “Reaper” at Holloman AFB, NM. His next assignment was to Ellsworth AFB, SD where he flew the Reaper Drone a total of 1,100 hours. These Close Air Support missions were flown in Iraq and Afghanistan to support ground forces fighting ISIS in the liberation of Raqqa and other territories. Reaper photos below.
he USAF MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV – or Drone)
The Reaper has also been found useful in fighting forest fires.
As can only be experienced as a UAV or Drone pilot, Major Weaverflew all of these combat missions from a safe haven at an Air Force Base in the continental U.S. In 2020 he was transferred to Holloman AFB as an MQ-9 instructor pilot. He currently serves in that capacity and also as a Wing Flying Safety Officer while instructing students in the Air Force’s largest MQ-9 formal training program.
In his presentation to the Daedalians and guest AFROTC Cadets, he used the projector screen to show us some of the aircraft in which he accumulated his flight experience . . . including the Reaper.
Here, below, are some of the photos from Wednesday’s event. To see them in full high resolution simply click on the photos:
Colonel Fisher,Daedalian Flight Commander, greets arriving members and guests.
L to R: Cadets Preston Kaplan and Patrick Sambrano waiting be be introduced.
L to R: Colonel Mario Campos, Cadets Sukarno, Malone, Baca, Soliz, Kaplan and Sambrano.
L to R: Mayre Sue Overstreet, with Col. Bob Pitt, Larry Spradlin, and Colonel Mario Campos
L to R: Charlie Overstreet, his brother,Lane (a former AF fighter & bomber pilot, PAA pilot), and Roger Springstead
L to R: Pete Brandon pours water for Colonel Pitt, whose head of hair is at right.
L to R: Cadet Dzaki Sukarnoand USAF Pilot to be, Cadet Joshua Soliz
Roger Springstead, Lane Overstreet, Virg Hemphill, Jerry Dixon, Charlie Overstreet, Cadets Sukarno, Solizand Mayre Overstreet
Flight 24 Captain Colonel Alan Fisher opens the meeting
USAF Cadet Dzaki Sukarnoexplained his Cadet status and USAF intentions.
L to R: Mayre, Charlie and Lane Overstreet, Cadet Soliz, Roger Springstead Virg Hemphilland Cadet Sukarno
L to R: Cadet Kaplan and Larry Spradlin listen to Cadet Sambrano speaking – while Shelly Schlick servesLarry
Major Weaver puts his beloved C-17 Globemaster III on screen to describe his experiences piloting it
Next Major Weaver showed slides of what it looked like from a Tanker aircraft while refueling the C-17
Daedalians and guests listen intently as Major Weaver related his USAF career path to date
After his presentation, Colonel Fisher (R) presented Major Weaver (L) with a token of our appreciation for his talk
FASF Aviation News Scout and Daedalian, Virg Hemphill (R) engaged in USAF banter with Major Weaver (L)
Cadets posed with Major Weaver after the luncheon . . . L to R: Kameron Baca, Patrick Sambrano, Joshua Soliz, Maj. Max Weaver, Dzaki Sukarno, Preston Kaplanand Daniel Malone.
L to R: Col. Norman Rice, Col. Alan Fisher and Mrs. Ulla Rice chat before lunch.
The most photographed and publicly acclaimed bomber used during WWII is without question, the B-17 Flying Fortress, but there was another less known, yet equally vital heavy bomber used during that global conflict, one which is too often disregarded, but which also played a critical part in the Allied Victory: the mighty LIBERATOR, the B-24, in its many variants.
At yesterday’s luncheon of the Daedalians at the El Paso Club in downtown El Paso, thanks to arrangements by Col. Alan Fisher, the flight’s members (all are FASF members!) learned of that LIberator’s exploits, and of Steve Watson’s (below right) father, Frank S. Watson, who was one of those select Army Air Force pilots chosen to fly that Liberator in the European Theater.
Steve Watson starts his presentation about the 467th Bomb Group and his father’s role.
Steve’s dad was one of the lucky aviators who came home safe and sound at the war’s end. Frank flew the B-24 for the 467th Bombardment Group. A short 7:00 video of film made about the 467th was shown to the Daedalians along with many personal photos of Steve’s father’s career from his earliest years through the war and then, back at home, when the hostilities ceased. Below you can watch a short 9:00 minute long film made of the 467th’s own “Witchcraft” Liberator
Remember, to see any photograph full size, simply click on it.
And for better viewing, don’t hesitate to open the videos to full-size, too.
L to R above: Larry Spradlin, Virg HemphillandJerry Dixon.
Prior to WWII, the main Ford corporation manufacturing factory at Willow Run, was a Ford owned farming operation, where young men learned to use Ford tractors to produce various crops on the 80 some acre area outside Detroit, Michigan.
Just prior to entering the war, the Army contracted with Ford to mass produce the B-24 heavy bombers on an unbelievable scale, finishing one every hour. This unbelievable production lasted throughout the conflict’s duration. The mass production genius of the Ford Motor Car Company was surely one of the country’s major assets, one that clearly helped the Allies achieve their final victory.
When it was built, it became the largest such airplane manufacturing facility in the world. Two basic operations took place inside its walls: 1) Manufacturing the airplane’s parts, and; 2) assembling the final product. In addition to making the airplane, which was designed by the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation of San Diego, CA., Ford also manufactured the large radial air-cooled engines that powered the ship.
Unlike its famous automobiles and trucks, which contained some 15,000 to 16,000 parts, each Liberator contained more than 1,225,000 parts! As each craft was completed, it was then ground and flight tested right at Willow Run’s huge airfield, an airport facility with enough concrete in its runways and taxiways to make a highway over 125 miles long. Each of the 4 Ford produced air-cooled and super-charged engines produced 1200 HP. The normal crew consisted of ten men. The ship carried 4 tons of bombs, and over five thousand rounds of machine gun ammunition to arm its defenses. At high altitude, the Liberator could cruise over 300 MPH and had a range of over 3,000 miles.
Below is a 7 min. wartime film made of the extraordinary mass-production the made the Liberators.
Unlike its sister heavy bomber, the Flying Fortress, the Liberator had a modern tricycle landing gear, which made it substantially easier to land and handle on the ground. Another interesting fact about the Willow Run plant was that there were always over 100 bombers being assembled under the huge roof. Under that vast roof, there were also some 42,000 assembly workers busily putting these then modern aircraft together.
Adjacent to the Willow Run plant, a large school was set up, and before the war’s end, over 50,000 students had been graduated with all the highly technical skills needed in the Willow Run Plant. There was a teaching staff of more than 100 instructors to get that task successfully completed.
Additionally, a large warehouse was also built nearby, to store the vast array of components that went into each bomber, from sheet metal, bolts, rivets and stringers, to complex aircraft instruments and radio gear. Each airplane had more than 4,000 rivets holding on its lightweight aluminum outer skin. By the war’s end, Willow Run had produced over 8,685 Liberators!
Additionally, another 9,815 more B-24s were built elsewhere, for a grand total of 18,500Liberators produced across the country for use during the war.
L to R above: Larry Spradlin, Cols. Bob Pitt and Flight Captain, Mario Campos,and Virg Hemphill.
L to R above: Cols Mario Camposand Alan Fisher, watch as Presenter, Steve Watson, spreads out his wide assortment of WWII souvenirs touting the 467th Emblem and other related logos.
L to R. Col. Norman Riceand his wife, Ulla, and guest, Dick Heath.
Colonel Mario Campos, Flight Captain, calls the meeting to order.
Colonel Camposintroduces the Speaker, Steve Watson, for the day.
Steve Watson starts his presentation about the 467th Bomb Group and his father’s story as a B-24 Pilot in WWII.
Watch as Tom Taylor, a surviving B-24 pilot from WWII, gets back into the only still flying Liberator, to once again take control of the famous bomber off the South Carolina coast.
Any of the following photographs may be seen in full high resolution by simply clicking on them.
Bob Dockendorf describes the history of the WEAM
Bob described the museum’s history and how it was started by fellow El Pasoans, John and Betty MacGuire, both of whom were avid aviators, 32 years ago.
L to R: Roger Springstead, Charlie Overstreet, and Col. Bob Pitt.
Earlier this year Bob was elected to the El Paso Aviation Hall of fame in recognition of his many years of outstanding service to the local aviation community since taking command of the WEAM.
L to R at right: Bob Dockendorf, Col. Mario Campos, Larry Spradlin, Virg Hemphill, Roger Nichols, and USAF ROTC Cadet and Daedalian Flight Training Scholarship Awardee, Ammber Valverde.
His historical operation had 17,000 visitors this past year, guests who came to enjoy and learn from the museum’s exhibit of some 36 WWII, Korean and Vietnam era “war birds,” many of which are still in flying condition.
L to R: Alan Fisher, Roger Springstead, Charlie Overstreet, Bob Pitt, Scott Drake, Bob Dockendorf, Mario Campos (Flight Captain), Larry Spradlin, Virg Hemphill, and Roger Nichols, past Flight Captain.
In addition to the display of these vintage aircraft, this native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, oversees a colorful collection of over 50 antique automobiles and motorcycles. Bob has been an enthusiastic car collector for many years, and has also been both a student of aviation and history since he was a young man growing up in the Midwest.
Dave Ginn, who just returned from a quick tour to Iraq, describes his experience.
The WEAM also boasts an intriguing climate-controlled library consisting of thousands of books, periodicals, photographs and other documents, mostly related to aviation, automobiles and history.
Flight Captain, Colonel Mario Campos conducting flight business. To his right, above (left to you) is his guest, former Army aviator and test pilot, Scott Drake.
The War Eagles keeps its admission prices low in order to expose the greatest number of people its educational exhibits and materials. Students are admitted free of charge and veterans, seniors and military personnel are welcomed with a discounted admission price.
Dave Ginn and Alan Fisherlisten to Mr. Dockendorf
While the museum was initially the singular philanthropic enterprise of its founders, the MacGuires,Bobhas recently begun to transition the institution from a privately funded non-profit educational enterprise, to one of a more self-supporting and public nature. Although John MacGuirepassed away in 2001, his wife Bettymaintains almost daily contact with the Executive Director of her beloved museum.
Colonel Norm Rice enjoys his desert while his wife, Ulla, looks on.
The assembled Daedalians, all members of the FASF, and who all also know Bob well, expressed their enthusiastic appreciaton for his presentation. his fourth to this Daedalian Flight since becoming the museum’s CEO.
L to R: Dave Ginnand Alan Fisher
Mr. Dockendorf additionally explained his initiative for a new organization, The Rio Grande Aviation Council. The new group will be devoted to area aviation interests and development, and which will be composed of leaders from area aviation interests such as the CAP, EAA, Daedalians, The Quiet Birdmen, Amigo Airsho – – – and, yes, even the FASF.
L to R: Mario Campos and Jerry Dixon, and (sitting) Virg Hemphill and Roger Nichols
L to R: Virg Hemphill, Roger Nichols, and Ammber Valverde
Roger NicholsandAmmber Valverde
L to R: Scott Drake,Larry Spradlin, and Bob Dockendorf
Ammber Valverde and Virg Hemphill
L to R: Ammber Valverde, Jerry Dixon, Virg Hemphill and Roger Nichols
Ammber Valverde and Alan Fisher
L to R: Scott Drake, Roger Nichols, Virg Hemphill, Larry Spradlin, and Colonel Mario Campos