Air Force Reservist takes flight in WWII-era plane

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Steve Lewis
  • 459th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
It's a warm fall afternoon when a crowd of vintage aircraft enthusiasts line up along the railing at a makeshift airfield in Bealeton, Va. for one of the annual Flying Circus air shows. Their attention is drawn skyward as a propeller-powered biplane performs aerobatic maneuvers high above.

The sound of the propeller intensifies as the shiny blue and yellow plane effortlessly finishes several barrel rolls. Then, after more maneuvers, the plane touches down on the grass before the eyes of excited children and adults alike.

Hopping out of the open cockpit to greet his fans is none other than Tech. Sgt. Dave Brown, flight instructor, aerobatic pilot and Air Force Reservist.

When Sergeant Brown isn't performing aerobatic maneuvers in his 1941 Boeing Stearman PT-17, he's performing duties as a medical material specialist for the 459th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Joint Base Andrews, Md. He looks after all the in-flight medical equipment and supplies other 459 AES Airmen use to treat servicemembers wounded in combat.

"Getting to wear the Air Force uniform is one the proudest things I do and it always keeps me coming back. I like being a part of the Reserve and serving with others who share the same mission," Sergeant Brown said.

Sergeant Brown's interest in flying began in high school when he took a ride in a Stearman biplane, very similar to the one he owns and flies today. He said he was instantly hooked after taking part in the experience of riding high above in the open cockpit.

He then joined the Flying Circus in 1975 as a ground crew member and began taking flying lessons. He went on to receive his private pilot's license in 1979 and later enlisted in the Air Force.

While serving on active-duty at Little Rock AFB, Ark., Sergeant Brown purchased his first plane, a 1946 Aeronca Champ. He later purchased an aerobatic biplane called a Jungster I. It was with this plane that he practiced aerobatic maneuvers that would eventually bring him back to Virginia and back in the ranks of the Flying Circus.

After several years of being an act in the Flying Circus, Sergeant Brown earned his flight instructor's certificate, which allowed him to open his own business, Brown Aviation. Through his business, Sergeant Brown provides open cockpit rides and flight instruction.

One his clients is a retired Air Force colonel who had flown a P-38 Lightning over Normandy during D-Day. Col. (ret) Albert S.J. Tucker Jr. originally learned to become a pilot by flying a Stearman in 1942. During WWII, Stearmans were used to train pilots who would later go on to fly military aircraft during the war.

Now 88 years-old, Colonel Tucker has reunited with the Stearman through Sergeant Brown's business. He's had the opportunity to fly the aircraft for the first time after so many years at one of the Flying Circus air shows. Colonel Tucker said Sergeant Brown helped him complete aerobatic maneuvers and a perfect three-point landing that day.

"Dave was really impressed with my flying the first time, so I've been doing it with him ever since," Colonel Tucker said.

Because of issues with his eyesight, Colonel Tucker can no longer fly aircraft by himself, although he still holds his pilot's license. Sergeant Brown has been providing him with flight instructions in the Stearman and allowing the colonel to take the controls as he did during WWII.

"I've been keeping a log book of the wonderful flights that Dave has been handwriting in. That logbook is a source of pride that I've been telling my friends about at home," said Colonel Tucker.

Judging from the personal satisfaction Colonel Tucker has received and the smiling faces of the many people who have ridden in Sergeant Brown's Stearman, he continues to provide enjoyment to enthusiast of many different ages.

"Flying is a passion that I enjoy. As long as my health permits and my wallet will allow, I'm going to keep flying. I have gotten no greater joy or satisfaction in anything I've ever done," Sergeant Brown said.