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Society for Aviation History

P.O. Box 5344, Petaluma, CA. 94955

SAH General Meetings and Educational Programs

Our December 3, 2022 Meeting

Lt. Col. Frank Gee: Flying the F-117A Stealth Fighter

The Society for Aviation History held its membership meeting at the Back Forty Texas Barbeque in Pleasant Hill, and as always we had excellennt food and service. Lt. Col. Frank Gee (USAF, ret.) is a highly decorated and promoted fighter pilot who held a myriad of engineering, sensitive, and classified positions in the U.S. Air Force. He earned a distinguished graduate academic record, and exercised the physical fitness, healthy well-being, and strong mental drive to be selected for the USAF flight test pilot program.

As a USAF fighter pilot, he was trained to engage in air-to-air combat, air-to-ground combat, and electronic warfare while flying the F-4, F-16, F-15, F-18, YF-117 and F-117A. Gee is also a graduate of the USAF Fighter Weapons School (TOP GUN). He was subsequently selected as a combat squadron and unit commander, and demonstrated strong leadership and teamwork abilities throughout his military flying career.

Gee retired from active military service in November 1992, and flew as a commercial pilot until retiring in October 2002. He continues to enjoy flying as a private pilot to this day. While some items on the F-117 program are still classified, Gee shared with us what he was allowed to, and answered many questions as possible as time allowed. To see this meeting on DVD, contact Membership and DVD Library board director Byron May

We are continuing our food fundraiser for Second Harvest of Silicon Valley to provide much needed food for local families. A donation of any amount is greatly appreciated, and your name and/or donation amount can be anonymous if you wish, just click the box(s). To make your donation, go to our fundraiser page at:
Society For Aviation History - Second Harvest Donations.

Your 2023 Board of Directors L to R: President Dave Osgood, VP Nick Veronico, Directors Betty Veronico,
Ron Strong, Roger Cain, Secretary Ron Close, Treasurer Dan Morgan, and director Byron May. Absent is director Alice Hendricks.

Our October 1, 2022 Meeting

The B-25 in the Backyard: Wally Soplata


If there ever was aviation royalty, it has to be Walter Soplata and his son Wally. Walter Soplata Sr. and his son are known for having recovered some of the rarest aircraft at a time when many thought they were simply junk.

Wally Soplata was on hand to discuss his book The B-25 in the Backyard. It is a humorous tale of living with a father obsessed with airplanes and all that goes with them - engines, canopies, and a million other parts, new and old, that needed saving. Wally was inducted into the family airplane collection obsession at an early age, and his strong teenage back, willing to do whatever his father needed, was vital to the elder Soplata's aircraft recovery endeavors.

What did they bring home? How about a couple of Corsairs - including Cook Cleland's Race 74, the blue and white F2G in which he won the 1947 National Air Races in Cleveland, the FG-1A Corsair Lucky Gallon, a pair of B-25 Mitchell bombers, an ex-NACA North American F-82E Twin Mustang, an XP-82 Twin Mustang, the Douglas XBT2D-1 Skyraider, a KC-97 Stratotanker, a TBM Avenger torpedo-bomber, a P2V Neptune patrol bomber, the nose section of B-52B 53-0394 Lucky Lady III that led Operation Power Flite - the circumnavigation of the globe with two other B-52s in January 1957, and lots of a Convair B-36H Peacemaker 10-engine bomber - just to mention a dozen or so of the aircraft in Soplata's collection.

The trials and tribulations of working with his exacting, yet nutty-professor father and his Rube Goldbergesque-style of engineering as applied to the physics of dismantling an aircraft are amazing, funny, and in some instances, simply insane. Imagine towing the B-25J-25 NC serial number 44-30129 Wild Cargo home using a makeshift trailer and a six-cylinder Chevy Suburban - all while dodging the police because the load is too wide at best and certainly unsafe. The true tale of moving the Vought F7U Cutlass more than 600 miles, from Boston to Cleveland, is stranger than fiction! Had there not been photos, the story simply could not be believed.

Wally Soplata earned his pilot wings as a distinguished graduate of Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) in 1979. He then spent the majority of his Air Force flying career as an Instructor Pilot (IP) teaching in T-37s, T-38s and C-141s. Following his Air Force retirement as a lieutenant colonel, he enjoyed a second flying career with a major airline flying the Boeing 727, 757, 767, 777 as well as the Douglas DC-10 and Airbus A300/A310. After retiring from airline flying as a Boeing 767 Captain in 2016, he continues flying a variety of General Aviation aircraft as a flight instructor.

Wally had books available for sale at the meeting.

June 4, 2022

The Last flight of the Red Baron

The Society for Aviation History held its membership meeting on June 4, 2022, at the Back Forty Texas Barbeque in Pleasant Hill. Historian J.R. Williams discussed the last flight of the Red Baron, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen. Williams' presentation included many period photographs along with his personal photos of the battlefield and triplane crash site.

Richthofen's first confirmed aerial victory was in the skies over Cambrai, France, nearly a year after his initial pilot training. Richthofen was a cautious airman, not particularly adept at spectacular aerobatic feats, but he was a patient and excellent marksman. Using a set of eight proven tactics devised by German ace Oswald Boelcke, Richthofen himself became a fighter ace, which required logging a minimum of five confirmed aerial victories. In 1917, he received Germany's highest military honor, the Pour le Merite (also known as the "Blue Max") after his 16th kill. As a squadron commander, Richthofen took the flamboyant step of having his Albatros D.III painted red, hence his designation as "The Red Baron." He logged 80 kills before the end of his brief career.

At the age of 25, Richthofen was fatally wounded on April 21, 1918. Flying a Fokker Dr.1 triplane, he was in pursuit of Canadian pilot Wilfrid May over the Somme River when Richthofen became embroiled in a dogfight with May's flight commander, Arthur Brown, flying a Sopwith Camel. During a low pass, a single bullet fired from the ground struck Richthofen. He regained control of his aircraft and landed roughly in his last seconds of life. His intact aircraft was completely dismantled by souvenir hunting Allied soldiers who had observed the entire aerial combat and arrived on the scene almost instantly. Richthofen's body was given a full military funeral by the Number 3 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps, which was the nearest Allied air unit.

April 2, 2022

Author and Speaker: John J. Geoghegan

With Hangar One fittingly looming literally next door at our Society for Aviation History lunch meeting at the Moffett Field Museum, author John J. Geoghegan gave an excellent presentation based on his research for his forthcoming book on American rigid airships titled When Giants Ruled the Sky. The U.S. Navy's Zeppelins were the largest, most expensive, most technologically sophisticated aircraft in their day. They were also flying aircraft carriers able to deploy and retrieve the airplanes they carried in their belly in mid-flight. The Navy not only intended to show that Zeppelins patrolling the Pacific could prevent a surprise attack by Japan, but were poised to become the dominant form of long distance transportation...until tragedy intervened.

John J. Geoghegan specializes in reporting on unusual inventions that fail in the marketplace despite their innovative nature. His articles on the subject have appeared in New Yok Times Science section and Smithsonian Air & Space magazine among other publications. A former Special Correspondent for the New York times, he now heads up The SILOE Research Institute's archival division in Marin.

February 5, 2022

Ultimate Pilot: Vicky Benzing

SAH President Dave Osgood and Vicky Benzing

The Society for Aviation History's first meeting of 2022 was held Feb. 5, at Michael's at Shoreline in Mountain View, with guest speaker, pilot extraordinaire, Vicky Benzing. SAH President Dave Osgood introduced Vicky Benzing who is widely recognized for her dazzling air show performances, her participation as a Reno race pilot, and as a mentor and role model for aspiring young aviators through her close association with sponsor California Aeronautical University. Her talk titled "Mustangs in Civilian Clothing" focused on her aviation career and her P-51D Mustang, which she acquired from her friend and neighbor Clay Lacy in 2019. She discussed the military and civilian history of the plane and the two-year rebuild process currently nearing completion under the direction of Steve Hinton, Jr. at Fighter Rebuilders, LLC, in Chino.

With more than 9000 hours of flight time and over 1300 parachute jumps, she has a passion for everything airborne. Her flying career has spanned more than 30 years and she currently holds an airline transport pilot rating as well as a commercial rating in helicopters, seaplanes, and gliders. Look for Vicky at the Reno Air Races in September 2022.

December 11, 2021

Shot Down: The true story of pilot Howard Snyder

The Society for Aviation History held its much delayed first meeting of 2021 on Dec. 11, at Back Forty Texas BBQ in Pleasant Hill. This was also the first meeting since the Covid-19 pandemic forced a halt to such in-person affairs. Hard to believe our last meeting was in February 2020, twenty-two long months ago. Our guest speaker for the meeting was author Steve Snyder who presented selections from his book Shot Down, the true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 "Susan Ruth"

Steve Snyder, son of Howard Snyder, described his father's World War II odyssey as a pilot. The elder Snyder flew the B-17 Susan Ruth, named for his daughter, with the 8th Air Force's 306th Bomb Group based at Thurleigh, England. Snyder's Susan Ruth was downed during a mission to bomb Frankfurt, Germany, on Feb. 8, 1944, and Shot Down tells Howard Snyder's story of service, combat, and life with the underground and resistance. Author Snyder related how his wife encouraged him to try and find the German pilots of the FW-190s that shot down his father's plane, which he did and was able to travel to Germany and meet with them and hear their reflections of the events of that day. The Belgian town near where the plane crashed also dedicated a memorial to the crew in 1959. Both father and son Snyders were able to attend and meet many of the locals who took part in the events of 1944. Shot Down is the recipient of more than 20 national book awards.

Your 2022 Board of Directors L to R: President Dave Osgood, VP Nick Veronico, Directors Betty Veronico,
Ron Strong, Roger Cain, Secretary Ron Close, Treasurer Dan Morgan, and director Byron May. Absent is director Alice Hendricks.

Our Saturday, February 1, 2020 Meeting

B-24 Liberators of the Indian Air Force

2020 SAH President Dave Osgood and Anandeep Pannu

The Society for Aviation History's first general meeting of 2020 was held February 1st at the Back Forty Texas BBQ restaurant in Pleasant Hill, Calif. Society President Dave Osgood explained the meeting agenda would run in reverse order because of unforeseen time constraints. Therefore, the crowd favorite buffet lunch was served immediately, followed by our guest speakers presentation. Member announcements, trivia quiz, and prizes closed out the meeting.

Following the hearty lunch, Osgood introduced Anandeep Pannu, a lifelong aviation enthusiast, historian, and pilot (warbirds, gliders, and competitive aerobatics just to name a few.) This was a fascinating story of how a newly independent nation and a nascent Indian aircraft industry, using its experiences gained during World War II, resurrected a force of 43 B-24Js - giving the Indian Air Force the largest force of heavy bombers in the region. The B-24 served for 20 years (till 1968) with the Indian Air Force in the conventional bombing and maritime patrol roles. The story of their service, the squadrons, and the men who flew them were revealed in this talk.

Anandeep Pannu is a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), and has been an aviation enthusiast all his life. Anandeep grew up an Air Force brat. His father, a career Indian Air Force pilot instilled a love for "stick and rudder" aviation and the quest for mastery by example. The sounds he grew up with ranged from the putt-putt of small trainers, to the growl of large radials to the scream of jet engines. There were other members of his family who inspired him as well - they included a decorated World War II fighter pilot who flew Hawker Hurricanes in Burma, a Navy carrier-based jet pilot, and an Army helicopter pilot. Anandeep has the good fortune to fly a wide variety of aircraft including sailplanes, aerobatic airplanes, bush planes, Light Sport Aircraft, experimental aircraft, sea planes, glass panel aircraft and warbirds. Anandeep is part owner of a North American T-6G that he flies regularly, and as pilot with the Collings Foundations flies the B-24, B-17, and B-25.

Our February Meeting was held at the Back Forty Texas BBQ in Pleasant Hill.

To see some more of our past meetings, click below

2019 meetings

2018 meetings

2017 meetings

2016 meetings

2015 meetings

2014 meetings

2013 meetings

2012 meetings

2011 meetings

2010 meetings

2009 meetings

2008 meetings

2007 meetings

2006 meetings

2005 meetings

2004 meetings

2003 and earlier

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