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OPALS Group Gets Enhanced Tour Thanks to Retired Pilot's Docent Friend

By Kathy Forrester

The OPALS group (Older Persons with Active Lifestyles) visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on September 18, at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.

Bob Saul and Dale Lawrence arranged for the trip with help from Bert Nelson. Bob was a pilot with the U.S. Navy, and Bert was a Thunderbird team pilot with the U.S. Air Force. Dave Pinella, a pilot, docent at the Air Force Museum, and friend of Bert's, volunteered to be the OPALS' personal tour guide at Bert’s request.

The OPALS asked Dave to provide a tour of the Presidential Hangar, but he did so much more! He intrigued us with historical facts and anecdotes about the various aircraft on display throughout the museum. We learned that Air Force One is not just a plane or group of planes that transports the president, but it is any plane on which the president is traveling for official use. This is a fact of which many are unaware.

We were able to tour the plane that carried John F. Kennedy’s body from Dallas to Washington D.C. That same plane is where Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office with Jacqueline Kennedy witnessing. We all remembered that day.

After our tour, we could walk or drive freely (self-driving carts are now available to assist in long walking distances) to other parts of the museum. Various aircraft were available to tour. There were also numerous videos and exhibits in all galleries. There are four buildings linked together displaying aircraft spanning the early years of aircraft, WWII, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Cold War, a missile gallery, and a space gallery. There is also a global reach gallery that holds the Hanoi Taxi that airlifted the first American prisoners of war from Hanoi, Vietnam. They have an incredible picture showing the POWs cheering after the pilot announced they had just left Vietnam air space!

The purpose of the Air Force Museum is to preserve the history, heritage, and culture of aircraft from the beginning until now. Search the museum website for more detailed information at

This is just an example of the various field trips provided by OPALS. Remember, all are welcome to attend.


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