Ever since I was a young child, Aviation has been in my blood. I can remember going to airshows with my parents and being in absolute awe of what I was seeing in the air. Being named after a well known Warbird collector of the 1970’s and 80’s from the UK, Charles E. Church, my love for WWII Aviation was inevitable.
My grandfather was in the Army and stationed in Korea during the conflict in Vietnam as an aircraft mechanic, and my father got his A&P ticket right out of high school and shortly thereafter began working for Mesaba Airlink out of Detroit Metro Airport. I can remember a handful of occasions I went to work with him and was afforded the opportunity to ride along in different airplanes. On one such occasion, we were in an Avro RJ85 taxiing across the airport and he told me to “Go ahead and bring up the power on number 4” as we were going to make a turn onto the taxiway..so I did just that! I pushed the throttle lever for number 4 damn near to the front of the quadrant.
A few years later we would get roped into the Warbird scene and things just spiraled out of control from there. At this point, all hope for a normal life was lost! We began working with Dave “Mongo” Tinker and his General Motors/Eastern TBM-3E Avenger “Ida Red” out of the Monroe Custer Airport in Monroe, MI. Soon, I found myself learning how to operate the various hydraulic systems on the airplane like the landing gear, folding wings, cowl flaps, etc. and knew them like the back of my hand. Not bad for an 8 year old. We would go to various events and shows with Dave in the airplane; I met a lot of the awesome friends I still have in this manner and have been afforded some incredible opportunities in the process. We would continue to work with Mongo and “Ida Red” until we moved to Huntington, Indiana in the fall of 2004 when my father and Tim Savage started Warbird Digest Magazine..
After we moved to Indiana, my father began working not only for Warbird Digest but also for Tim’s restoration shop “Midwest Texans”, which used to be called “Stars & Bars” here at the Huntington Municipal Airport, specializing in North American T-6 Texan restorations. Over the next couple of years Tim would acquire a B-25J Mitchell (TB-25N N3155G formerly known as the “Green Dragon” under Tim’s ownership) which was used as the photo platform for the magazine and would go to many shows, until being somewhat replaced by a Beechcraft Baron. I was fortunate enough to get my start in flying during this time as Tim also had a Beech 18/C-45H Expeditor (N45SK) which I was able to do quite a bit of right-seat flying in.
Further down the road, and after being out of the aviation community for a while due to some unforeseen circumstances, Tim would acquire Douglas A-26B Invader N99420 which was being kept in Geneseo, NY. It would soon become what is probably the most well known Invader in the world, and maybe even one of the most well known Warbirds on the circuit...the famed, “Silver Dragon”. My father performed a large majority of the painting (nose-art, unit markings, etc) and I was responsible for a large percentage of the polishing that took place on the airframe. The airplane was involved in the “Arsenal of Democracy” flyover of Washington, D.C. the following year and also participated in the annual EAA AirVenture Fly-In later that same summer. It would leave later in the fall to go out to John Lane’s restoration shop “AirPower Unlimited” in Jerome, ID. It wasn’t until almost two years later, and after the very unfortunate incident at AirVenture 2016, that I would see that airplane again, and man, I was excited when she touched back down here at HHG!
Over the years I’ve had the privilege of being ground/aircrew in some capacity for the following aircraft:
Various North American T-6 Texans
Beechcraft Model 18/C-45H Expeditor
North American B-25J/TB-25N Mitchell
Douglas A-26B Invader “Silver Dragon”
2x General Motors/Eastern TBM-3E Avenger
Douglas AD-1 Skyraider “Bad News”
Currently, I am a student pilot and utilizing Tim’s Cessna 150 which he has been gracious enough to let me use for my flight training (Tim if you’re reading this, I cannot thank you enough!). I’ve been very fortunate in my 28 years of life (at the time of this writing, December 2017) to do what I have, know the people I’ve known and to be involved with the various events I have been a part of. I cannot thank all the wonderful people in my life enough for all the opportunities they have graciously provided me..I will never forget any of you..thank you!
I have also worked for the past 2 years with John & Erin Shuttleworth and their ride business “Nostalgic Flights, LLC” going around the Midwest selling rides in their North American AT-6G Texan. I cannot thank them enough for the many opportunities they’ve given me as well, and on top of all that, being great friends!
Lastly, I would like to take this chance to thank my father, James P. Church, without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today. I intimately owe it to him that the Aviation bug bit me and bit hard, and because of that I couldn’t imagine my life any other way than it is now. It’s because of him I have this fascination with flight, it’s because of him I enjoy wrenching on airplanes when I get the chance, it’s because of him I look to the skies whenever I hear an airplane flyover. I know I don’t say it nearly enough to you, especially in person, but I want you to know how grateful I am for giving me this life..I love you Dad!