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Cascade Warbirds Pilots Salute Misplaced Naval Aviators – Hangar Flying

By Kerry Edwards

On March 11, 1949, two naval aviators took off at 10:05 a.m. from the Sand Level Naval Air Station in Seattle, a location now known as now Magnuson Park, for what ought to have been a two-hour flight in an SNJ coach. Lt. (j.g.) Benjamin Vreeland and Ensign Gaston Mayes by no means returned. Within the Nineteen Fifties and early Sixties, after objects have been present in and round Black Lake, a number of air miles from the City of Snoqualmie, Washington, it was believed the airplane disintegrated on impression, with the majority of the plane resting from 2-10 toes within the muddy backside. For over 70 years, the U.S. Navy by no means struck the airplane from their lacking record and by no means formally notified households of the airplane doubtlessly being within the lake. Lastly, on December 4, 2020, the Navy Underwater Historical past and Heritage Command despatched letters out to members of the family stating they imagine the SNJ-5 Texan stays relaxation within the silty backside of the lake. In Might 2021, American Legion Put up 79 of Snoqualmie put in a everlasting three-ton Rock Memorial on the lake, however low clouds and fog precluded a memorial flyover.

The Rock Memorial on the shore of Black Lake. Picture by Fliks Banel.

In October 2021, after a protracted, sizzling, dry summer season within the Nice Northwest, Cascade Warbirds Operations Officer Stan “Sundance” Kasprzyk, EAA 882629, obtained an e-mail from a member of the staff who had been concerned within the analysis on the SNJ crash, stating that members of the family of the misplaced pilots would once more be visiting the realm within the November timeframe, close to the Veterans Day weekend,  and have been asking if any warbird pilots could be out there for an additional try at a memorial veteran flyby. As November approached and atmospheric rivers of rain and low clouds started returning, Sundance was in a position to get two thumbs up from potential fliers, Cascade Warbirds Squadron Commander John ‘Smokey’ Johnson, EAA 398657, and Eric ‘Beaker’ Olson. Smokey’s SNJ-5 can be an ideal candidate because it was the identical make and mannequin because the misplaced plane in 1949.

Strategy and reposition planning map at Black Lake.

The week earlier than the deliberate flight introduced a stable stretch of rain, wind, and low clouds, however held out hope for a break within the climate on Saturday. The morning initially dawned with typically VFR to marginally VFR circumstances, however rapidly degraded to low clouds and fog because of all of the current moisture. Sundance met Beaker at Paine Discipline because of the fog, the place they scoped out the climate as native observers to permit Smokey to sneak in from his house airport, Diamond Level, in his SNJ. Simply as timing was getting important to permit an overflight with members of the family and observers nonetheless on the bottom at Black Lake, the climate cleared sufficiently for Smokey to land at Paine Discipline in his SNJ for gas and a briefing. Since Sundance had flown over the hard-to-find small Black Lake prior to now, he served because the flight navigator in Smokey’s SNJ again seat, whereas CWB photographer Dan Shoemaker joined Beaker within the Navion for photograph alternatives.

Outbound within the SNJ from Paine Discipline to Black Lake. Picture by Dan Shoemaker.

They rapidly blasted off as a two-ship from Paine Discipline and headed on to Fall Metropolis and Snoqualmie Falls to ascertain the run-in heading. The terrain rises rapidly to the east into the Cascade foothills, and so they threaded their approach round hills and shark-finned ridges, adopted the North Fork of the Snoqualmie River, then turned northwest for passes over the lake. The primary go was too far to the west, however they rapidly circled and located the lake utilizing GPS coordinates. The climate held off for a lot of low passes, then an in depth formation fan break/lacking man to the west, and a last solo salute by the SNJ to the household on the bottom and the reminiscence of the misplaced aviators.

As soon as they returned for an overhead break at Paine Discipline, they obtained a name from the staff on the bottom at Black Lake, who expressed their appreciation and famous that the household ‘felt chills’ as they flew by. Mission achieved!

Sundance and Smokey after a profitable memorial flight over Black Lake. Picture by Dan Shoemaker.

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