A flight for freedom. Sailing to history. A quest for remembrance.
However it’s branded, Diamond Point neighbors and friends John Johnson and Dave Richardson are going on what they call a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to ride on a naval aircraft ship and fly with other historic World War II planes in Hawaii, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of the war with Japan.
“We’re both vets; this means something to us,” said Richardson, a retired California Department of Transportation employee and U.S. Air Force veteran.
“This is important. We could potentially be speaking a different language if we lost World War II … This is a big deal.
“I know I’m honored.”
The pair left for San Diego, Calif., on Tuesday and will depart with the USS Essex on July 17 with Johnson’s T6 Texan plane, which he said was used as a pilot trainer.
They’ll quarantine for 14 days on the ship on their way to Pearl Harbor and have more downtime as they await festivities to mark the end of war in the Pacific (Sept. 2).
Events are set for Aug. 29-Sept. 2, including a Legacy of Peace Aerial Parade.
The pair said they’ll make several flights around Oahu and over Pearl Harbor.
Johnson will fly and Richardson will serve as crew chief with dozens of other historic planes such as B-25s, P-40 Mustangs and others.
A 75th anniversary event for Victory in Europe (May 8) was scheduled for Washington, D.C. in May, but it was canceled because of COVID-19 pandemic concerns and regulations.
Johnson, a retired Fedex pilot and U.S. Army green beret veteran, said he applied to participate some time ago, and it’s been “touch and go” for Hawaii’s event, but that everything seems ready for late summer.
Possibilities remain that events could be postponed or cancelled, but Richardson said there’s a “lot of inertia” going with the event and precautions taking place, so it’d take something “really bad to make it not happen.”
“We’re really jazzed about the event itself,” Richardson said,” and to be part of something bigger than us.”
Johnson said the significance and scope of the event is there as they’ll be one of 24 warbirds allowed to come to the island and fly, including over the Pearl Harbor Memorial/Battleship Missouri Memorial.
The friends share a runway at Diamond Point Airport and have lots of airtime: Richardson has 46 years in, while Johnson clocked more than 32,000 hours as a pilot for FedEx.
Johnson is also a certified pilot in multiple heavy duty aircraft and is check (safety/oversight) pilot for the Cascadia Warbirds group that has flown over Seattle and the Space Needle for Victory in Europe Day.
During their downtime in Hawaii, Johnson said he hopes to sell rides.
No streaming options have been announced yet, but Johnson and Richardson anticipate local Hawaii media to stream the festivities.
Afterward, the friends will either ride back on the USS Essex or fly back commercially depending on what happens with the 2019 novel coronavirus.
For more information on the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, visit www.75thwwiicommemoration.org.
Editor’s note: the Gazette will run updates on Johnson and Richardson’s journey as they become available.