Salem pilot part of vintage flyover for Indy 500

SALEM – When the national anthem is playing before the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 at 11:54 a.m. Sunday, Salem pilot Don Stamp will be aimed right down the main straightaway of the famous 2.5-mile oval, home to the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, as it concludes.

He will be part of a six-plane wing that includes a North American B-25 Mitchell twin-engine medium bomber and five North American T-6 Texan trainer aircraft in the flyover that will appear above the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the conclusion of the national anthem.

Because of federal sequestration budget cuts, all active-duty military flyovers have been suspended.

That wasn’t about to happen before the start of the world’s most famous race so millions of viewers, including a couple hundred thousand at the Speedway, will see Stamp as part of a six-plane flyover tribute to veterans and Memorial Day.

The iconic planes, privately owned World War II era craft, will substitute for normal flyover fare that has included B-2 Stealth Bombers, Harriers and any number of various fighters.

Pre-race flyovers are a big tradition at Indianapolis and Stamp said, “This is kind of special, when you get involved with the No. 1 event …”

The formation will consist of a Mitchell B-25 bomber owned by the Tri-State Warbird Museum in Cincinnati and five T-6 Texan trainers with the North American Trainer Association.

Local residents watching the start on television (ABC, pre-race, 11 a.m.) can look for Stamp flying wing, which side, he didn’t know, but he’s up there in his totally restored 1938 T-6 Texan.

Stamp, a 1956 Salem High School graduate, has been flying since the early 1970s and has owned his T-6 since 1988.

He keeps it hangared at the Salem Airpark.

Stamp said there were about 17,000 of the 9-cylinder Pratt and Whitney powered T-6 trainers were made and there are about 500 in existence around the world.

He pointed out it’s the 75th anniversary of the plane which is as old as he is.

The two vintage flying groups were contacted by the Speedway which is paying all the expenses. Stamp will leave today for Cincinnati and the planes will assemble at the Indianapolis Regional Airport in Mount Comfort race day morning.

Stamp, the owner of GRID Industrial Heating in Salem and a University of Cincinnati graduate, said, “We’ll be in the air … staging at Mount Comfort south of the track.”

He’s performed flyovers for the NHRA and “some guys are doing some NASCAR,” he said.

“It means a lot to us to use these airplanes for things like this,” he said, explaining the T-6 was used to train U.S. Navy pilots for Pacific duty in World War II.

“That’s one of the reasons we maintain and fly these planes … is out of respect for those guys.”

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