Reminiscent skies

Published 5:08 pm Friday, May 14, 2010

World War II veteran Mickey Beveridge has taken to the skies in nearly every airplane the United States Army had at its disposal in the 1940s.

From the B-17 “Flying Fortress” to the B-24 “Liberator,” Beveridge, 93, flew or served on a plethora of aircraft while serving his country in one of the world’s greatest conflicts.

And on May 14, several Shelby County residents helped to repay Beveridge and two other veterans by taking them to the skies once again at the Shelby County Airport.

Local pilot Jim Cawthon donated his time, his Cessna 172 and his fuel to take Beveridge, Bill Gaines and Charles Hosier, all residents at the Ashton Gables Retirement Community in Hoover, on an airborne tour of Shelby County.

During the flight, Cawthon allowed the veterans to help pilot the small plane as they circled the area and looked down at the retirement community as other residents gathered in the Ashton Gables courtyard and waved American flags.

“Everything (the Army) had, I flew it,” Beveridge said with a laugh. “These new planes aren’t much different. All the parts are the same.

“That’s a good little bird right there,” Beveridge said with a smile as he pointed to the Cessna after his more than 30-minute flight.

Throughout the day, the veterans laughed and shared their military memories with each other as they complimented Cawthon’s flying.

“It was a really nice time. He was a good pilot, because he knew where he was and he knew where he was going,” Gaines, a former submarine officer who first learned to fly at the Shelby County Airport, laughed after his flight. “Flying is something I’ve enjoyed since we were kids.”

For some of the veterans, the event marked the first time they had returned to the skies in many years.

“I am always excited to get into the air. I’m always anxious to get into the cockpit,” said Hosier, who was an executive officer on the USS Iwo Jima and a weapons officer on the USS Forrestal during the Vietnam War. “The A-1 (“Skyraider”) was my favorite plane to fly in.

“I got to go up on my 70th birthday, but this is the first time I’ve been up since then,” said Hosier, who is now 77.

Cawthon, who made five trips throughout the day, said he was “honored” to return the veterans to the air, and said he volunteered for the event as soon as he heard about it.

“This was a great day to be flying. I think they all had a great time with it,” Cawthon said. “Ashton Gables called Rick Kilgore (president of the Shelby County Aviation Association) and he referred them to me.”

“We just had to have a plane that was easy for everyone to get into and out of. Once all the systems were go, we went ahead and got them out here,” Cawthon added. “I am honored to have them riding with me today.”