The crew of a planned eight day flight over the Himalayas leaving Bathurst in 2016 gathered at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society last week to celebrate the achievement. There were plenty of stories to tell about what ended up being a 96 day marathon. The HARS dinner was organised with the help of chairman Bob De La Hunty and Sherryl Sherson. Larry Jobe, of Flying Tigers Historical Organisation, was joined by other pilots and crew from the USA and Australia who took part in what he described as “an epic journey honouring World War II veterans while promoting friendship and preserving history”.
HARS helped locate the plane that left on August 15 and completed the mission on November 19. Mr Jobe said the first and likely last flight over The Hump since WWII, in a C47 named Buzz Buggy, was five years in the making. They did it to preserve the historic aircraft in a museum built at the Flying Tiger Heritage Park in Guilin, China. The idea followed a decision in 2002 to save a command cave used by General Claire Lee Chennault who led the Flying Tigers and the Republic of China Air Force in World War II. The 2016 Hump Flight was made possible by the generosity of Florence Fang and the Chinese Government. The flight also honoured the bravery of China Burma India pilot J.V. Vinyard who made 87 Hump round-trips. The recent mission remembered an important period of history relating to World War II and the second Sino-Japanese War when aircraft were used to replace the Burma Road when it was shut down by the Japanese. They crossed three countries between mountain peaks as high as 8848 metres.
After HARS located an aircraft in Orange it was restored and engines rebuilt. All ran smoothly on the first leg from Bathurst to Longreach on August 15, the second to Darwin and the over water leg to Bali. The entire 11,587km journey was planned to be done in six legs through four countries stopping in Singapore, India and China. “But life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan,” Mr Jobe said. 90 minutes into the flight from Bali to Singapore there was fire, smoke and a vibration in one engine when a hole was punched in the cowling by a cylinder. That resulted in an eventful three month long 10 leg journey through six countries including an unplanned visit to Surabaya Indonesia where they were forced to make an emergency landing after the left engine shut down. There were many challenges with officials as they searched for a new engine. On October 6 they finally made it to Seletar Singapore with the left engine running rough. That took five days to solve before leaving on October 14 and stopping in Thailand and Myanmar where preparations were made to cross The Hump flying between mountain peaks in thick cloud. They received a big welcome in Kunming on October 16 but the right engine failed 10 minutes out. The Chinese helped replace the engine and covered the costs and they finally completed their mission in Guilin on November 19.
Mr Jobe said “the Buzz Buggy was dedicated on March 25, 2017” at an event attended by General Channault’s granddaughter Nell Calloway and retired US Air Force Major General James Whitehead.