Saturday, June 20, 2020

Rudy Frasca. Blue Skies & Tailwinds

Last month, I learned of the passing of an American aviation icon, Rudy Frasca.   No Rudy did not serve in the Aleutians, nor was he a WWII veteran, entering the Navy in 1949 just in time for the Korean war,  but Rudy will forever have connections to me and the Aleutians through his love of a certain warbird, Kittyhawk AK905.

Rudy Frasca

Rudy, born in Melrose Park, Illinois, always had a love of flight and early on, had a vision to create a flight simulator company. After the Korean war ended Rudy went back to the University of Illinois where he studied Aviation Psychology.  By 1958 he had created his first flight simulator in his garage.  Frasca Aviation..... was born!  

Through out his many years in aviation, Rudy was involved in many different endeavors, and was awarded numerous awards over his career. He was inducted in to National Association of Flight Instructors hall of fame in 2012 (Boy, I sure could use his expertise now as I begin my flying lessons).  He was one of the founding members of EAA's Sport Aviation as well as having held every board seat possible at Warbirds In America.  He loved warbirds and this is where the Aleutians come in.

In the late 70's Rudy purchased his second warbird,  a P-40E.  This was not just any P-40 though, it was Kittyhawk AK905 and it was one that served on strength with 111(F) Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force stationed in Alaska during the war.  It is a plane that my grandfather flew. 

My grandfather photo'd below form his collection and the current day Frasca P-40E.  The Frasca's gave me this photo when I went to see the airplane for the first time in Urbana, Illinois where it lives.

In the fall of 2018, I happened to be rummaging through my grandfathers artifacts, as I often do and stopped to notice a photocopy of a plane. I had always skimmed past this photocopy as it would not have been a period item and therefore seemed to be of less importance.  But for what ever reason that day, I decided to look at what exactly this was. Turns out, it was a shot of a P-40 from above with the number 47 on the fuselage.  I found that coincidental because the Frasca P-40 also has 47 on it.   In fact, I found it so interesting that I texted the image to David Frasca, his son who now flies the aircraft.  I was flabbergasted when his reply stated that the image my grandfather had was of his Dad, Rudy,  flying the P-40!   That he could tell because of the particular paint scheme on the wing and it also happen match an assortment of other images his dad had.   Yes, you read that right,  what I am saying is that my grandfather had a photo of Rudy Frasca flying a P-40 that he himself used to fly in the war.   What are the odds?  We were blown away.

The photocopy that was in my grandfather's collection.

Did my Papa know that was a plane he flew?  Had he ever met or contacted Rudy?   How and why did he have this? These questions will never be answered.  But here we are today, at least 40 years after this could have possibly been photocopied,  as decedents, divinely reunited to tell their story.  A story that clearly wanted to be told.   There are no accidents and this journey certainly solidifies this over and over.

I will forever be grateful to Rudy and his family for welcoming me with open arms, taking such good care of the airplane and for continuing to fly it ensuring that the legacies of the greatest generation are always remembered for years to come.  My heart goes out to the family and friends of such exemplary human being.  Who knows, maybe the two of them are up there now having a drink discussing this very photo.

Rudy's son David & I at Oshkosh 2018.  Click here to read more about our Warbirds In Review Session.

Here are a few more links to learn more about Rudy Frasca's amazing contribution to the development of aviation.   Thank you Rudy.   Blue skies and tailwinds.

Frasca Flight Simulators
Warbirds of America- Tribute to Rudy Frasca
Warbird Digest- Aviation Icon
APOA- Patriarch of family-run business with global reach remembered as a 'pioneer'

Thursday, June 11, 2020

This is the beginning of a series of posts I will create on the Facebook page outlining what life is like for us during our Aleutian Expeditions.