World War II Vet Flies Again
by Watch Staff
Oct 03, 2011 | 1031 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NOSTALGIC RIDE – In preparation for this week’s Salute to Veterans event at the Black Canyon Jet Center, local pilot Leonard Felix (right) gave 93-year-old World War II veteran Felix Belmont a flight around the North Fork Valley in a vintage SNJ-6. (Courtesy photo)
NOSTALGIC RIDE – In preparation for this week’s Salute to Veterans event at the Black Canyon Jet Center, local pilot Leonard Felix (right) gave 93-year-old World War II veteran Felix Belmont a flight around the North Fork Valley in a vintage SNJ-6. (Courtesy photo)
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MONTROSE – In preparation for this week’s Salute to Veterans event at the Black Canyon Jet Center, local pilot Leonard Felix gave 93-year-old World War II veteran Felix Belmont a flight around the North Fork Valley in a vintage SNJ-6.

Belmont, who served in the Army during World War II, spent much of his active duty time in the Aleutian Islands building airstrips for allied aircraft. He retired to Paonia more than 30 years ago, and became active in the community. He has been a key figure in establishing and supporting KVNF public radio, and now hosts a Sunday morning show on the station, playing 1940s favorites.

Leonard Felix, owner of Olathe Spray Service, is also a veteran. He served in the Army during the Vietnam conflict, spending most of his active duty time in Germany as a military intelligence technician. Most often seen in a bright yellow airplane in the skies over Western Colorado, Felix is an accomplished pilot and long-time supporter of the Commemorative Air Force.

The SNJ-6 is a single-engine advanced trainer aircraft that was used to train pilots of the U.S. Army Air Forces, U.S. Navy, Royal Air Force and others during World War II and into the 1950s. The aircraft is known by a variety of names depending on the model and the operating air force. The USAAC called their version the AT-6, while the Navy designated their version the SNJ-6.

Felix’s SNJ-6 will be joined by several WWII-era warbirds from the Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing at the Salute to Veterans, Friday, Sept. 30-Sunday, Oct. 2. The B-17 Flying Fortress “Sentimental Journey” will be on display at the event. It is the most authentically restored B-17, and is one of only eight B-17s in the world still flying. The B-25 “Maid in the Shade” will also be a part of the Salute to Veterans event. In late 1944 during World War II, this aircraft flew out of Serraggia Airbase on the east coast of Corsica. Attendees will also get to see a TBM Avenger, courtesy of the Commemorative Air Force Rocky Mountain Wing.

The aircraft will be on display at the Black Canyon Jet Center during the following hours:

• Thursday, Sept. 29, 12-6 p.m. (through-the-fence access only)

• Friday, Sept. 30, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

• Saturday, Oct. 1, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

• Sunday, Oct. 2, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

• Monday, Oct. 3, aircraft scheduled to depart at 10 a.m. (through-the-fence access only).

The public is invited to view these airplanes at no charge. For a tour through the inside of the B-17 or the B-25, there is a small fee ($5 for adults, $3 for ages 5-12, under 5 admitted free, all proceeds go to CAFAZ to maintain and operate the aircraft). Only a handful of these rare birds remain in the world today and even fewer are maintained in flying condition.

Those interested in actually experiencing flight as the World War II crews did may reserve a seat for flights over the Uncompahgre Valley by calling Dick Manhart at 970/249-1508. A portion of the flight cost is tax-deductible and supports the Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing Aviation Museum. For more information on the aircraft and the event, visit www.montrosesalutes.com.

The Salute to Veterans capstone element will be a benefit for the Montrose Community Foundation at the Black Canyon Jet Center Saturday, Oct. 1, from 4-8 p.m. All veterans and active members of the military are invited as special guests and are encouraged to wear their uniforms, if available. There will be a special presentation recognizing veterans at 5:30 p.m., followed by food, drinks and dancing. For information, call 970/249-3900.
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