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World War II pilots wanted to ride in air show

A collection of World War II era Stearman airplanes take to the skies over Pensacola for Veterans Flight 2015. Volunteer pilots gave a group of WWII veterans a flight over Pensacola Beach before the air show.(Photo: News Journal file photo)

At age 97, former World War II Navy pilot Dick Pace still loves to fly. The Pensacola man is a passenger nowadays, but is confident he could take the controls if needed.

“It’s something you don’t forget how to do,” said Pace, who is among the dozens of World War II pilots who have taken rides over Pensacola Beach in vintage World War II Stearman planes during the annual Pensacola Beach Blue Angels Air Show.

Pensacola attorney and Stearman owner Roy Kinsey began flying World War II veterans over the beach during the 2011 air show. He recruited other Stearman owners to join him, and the program grew.  In 2016, 10 Stearman owners flew 24 World War II pilots during the two-day show.

Kinsey hopes to fly more veterans this year, but is finding it increasingly tough to find World War II pilots to join in the flights.

“We are primarily looking for World War II aviators or air crew. It has proven to be such a great experience for the veterans and the community, but we are losing our World War II generation,” said Kinsey, who is reaching out to veterans beyond the Pensacola region for the 2017 show.

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