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B-17s, P-51s fly over Air Force museum in salute to Memphis Belle

Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2018 @ 12:45 PM

World War II era aircraft including three B-17 bombers and 5 P-51 Mustangs flew over the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Wednesday as part of the festivities included in the opening of the Memphis Belle exhibit.

The rumble of World War II planes soared over the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Wednesday in a tribute to the restoration of the restored icon the B-17F Memphis Belle.

Three- B-17 Flying Fortresses and five P-51 Mustangs — flying in from staging airfields at Grimes Field in Urbana and Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miami Twp. — canceled plans to land after a more than two-hour rain delay, but flew in formation over the museum and cars and trucks parked along the roadside in advance of the Memphis Belle unveiling Wednesday night.

A museum spokesman said the planes could make another attempt to land Thursday or Friday.

Bruce and Marti Balsink, a married couple from Kettering, planned to return a second time if the planes land.

“It’s just fun to see, the nostalgia,” said Marti Balsink, whose father was a World War II bomber pilot. “We’ll just come back again.”

“I like the nostalgia of the airplanes,” said Bruce Balsink, 62. “I like working on them. I’ve gotten to fly in them. There’s no part of it that I don’t find interesting.”

The roll call of bombers included the movie version of the Memphis Belle from the National Warplane Museum in New York, the Experimental Aircraft Association’s B-17 Aluminum Overcast based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and the Yankee Lady from the Yankee Air Force near Detroit.

Jim Enwright, 62, and his daughter Julianne, 20, waited patiently for the clouds to break and the rain to end.

“I’m kind of a motor head,” said Jim Enwright, of Kettering, who’s father was part of a B-17 crew in World War II. “I find that kind of invigorating, kind of inspiring. Those big radial motors coming in. It’s cool. I wish they were landing.”

If the planes land this week, they will stay on static display at the air strip through Friday.

David Predis, 32, of Dayton, an aeronautical engineer at Wright-Patterson, looked into history as he scanned the sky Wednesday.

“I’ve loved airplanes all my life,” he said. “I just think it’s always neat to see aircraft that are still maintained from World War II, such historical significance. The B-17 in particular was an incredible aircraft when it was designed.”

RELATED: Need a way in? AF museum will open extra gate for Memphis Belle gala

Two of the bombers and the P-51 Mustangs flew in from Grimes Field inear Urbana and one bomber— Aluminum Overcast — flew in from Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport. Three World War II trainers scheduled to land didn’t fly because they were not fast enough to keep up with the fighter and bomber formation, museum spokesman Rob Bardua said.

Since 2005, restorers and volunteers at the museum have spent 55,000 hours working on the Memphis Belle, the first U.S. Army Air Forces bomber to complete 25 missions over Europe and return to the United States. On Wednesday evening, it was due to be unveiled in a private ceremony with 1,000 people, including dozens of family members of the late crew, as the centerpiece in a new strategic bombing exhibit. A public-ribbon cutting was scheduled around 9:15 a.m.Thursday in the World War II Gallery.

The celebration, highlighted by the unveiling of the Memphis Belle, the warplane fly-over and more than 160 World War II re-enactors, was expected to draw thousands to the museum at Wright-Patterson.

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Military base water safety questions remain as fight for study continues

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 5:29 PM
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 @ 3:30 PM


            Congressman Mike Turner
Congressman Mike Turner

A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers have called on the U.S. EPA leader to release a chemical pollution study that reportedly shows lower threshold levels for groundwater contamination that could impact more than a hundred military bases, including Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, but the head of the agency said he doesn’t have the authority to release the study.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, in his own letter this month, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers from California to Massachusetts in a separate letter, urged EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to release the study after Politico, citing newly released emails, reported the White House and the EPA had sought to block the public release of the U.S. Health and Human Services report because “it would cause a public relations nightmare.”

But in a response to Turner’s letter and the other congressional leaders, Pruitt wrote this week the Health and Human Services agency had the right to release the research findings, but “the EPA does not have the authority to release this study.”

Turner now has urged HHS Secretary Alex Azar to release the report.

RELATED: Turner urges EPA administrator to release chemical pollution study

Chemical substances known as perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have been found in the groundwater at Wright-Patterson and near a Dayton firefighting training site on McFadden Avenue. The material, commonly found in many household items, also was found in an old formula of firefighting foam sprayed at both sites.

Authorities say the water in the Dayton distribution system is safe to drink, and the substances have not been found in water delivered to consumers.

“Administrator Pruitt’s letter made it clear that the EPA is not currently blocking the release of the study on PFAS, although it did not indicate whether it had sought to block this release previously,” Turner said in a statement.

“The release of this study is a public health and safety issue for every community with a military installation, including mine,” Turner, whose district includes Wright-Patterson, wrote to Azar. The EPA has set a lifetime health advisory exposure level of 70 parts per trillion.

“If this study finds, as reported, that this is no longer an accurate level of safety for our water, Congress and our constituents need to know immediately so we can begin to address it,” Turner added.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said in a statement Wednesaday to this news outlet: “Keeping information from people about the health and safety of their water is disgraceful. The EPA and HHS must release this report immediately and work with the Air Force and the city of Dayton to ensure the water is safe.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement Wednesday: “(It’s) important to ensure EPA’s health advisories are up to date and reflect the best available science and information. The EPA and HHS should release this report immediately to ensure that the men and women serving our country, as well as our communities supporting them, are drinking clean, safe water.”

The EPA was part of a national leadership summit Tuesday that sought to address PFAS concerns around the nation. The federal agency reportedly barred some members of the press while Pruitt was speaking.

RELATED: Dayton faces two potential groundwater threats

In a May 18 letter, 13 House representatives on both sides of the political aisle from California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington state, had asked Pruitt to release the report. The lawmakers noted studies have linked the substances to cancer, thyroid disease, increased cholesterol, and fertility issues, among health concerns.

The group also sent a letter to Azar, according to U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, who was among those who co-signed the document.

“It’s a little hard for me that (Pruitt) won’t act to have the report released when he seems to have the authority to block the report,” he said Wednesday, referring to published reports. State policy makers especially could use the data to set contamination threshold levels, Kildee said.

“It ought to be out there,” he said. “We’ve seen this happen too many times.”

His district includes Flint, which has faced an ongoing drinking water crisis related to lead contamination.

The Department of Defense has identified 126 military installations that showed the chemical substances in excess of the EPA’s lifetime exposure advisory threshold where the firefighting foam was sprayed, lawmakers said.

The Health and Human Services study, known as the Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “concluded that PFOS and PFOA can cause human harm at a much lower level of exposure than previously acknowledged by EPA,” the lawmakers said.

City of Dayton officials have urged Wright-Patterson to take more aggressive action to prevent tainted groundwater migrating off base and potentially threatening groundwater pumping wells along the Mad River. Base authorities say they have installed monitoring wells to track where a contamination plume is headed and have pointed to the city’s firefighting training site as a possible source of contamination.

As a precaution, the city of Dayton closed several production wells along the Mad River.

Wright-Patterson built a $2.7 million groundwater treatment plant to reopen two drinking water production wells that had been closed because they had exceeded health advisory levels.

Brown’s office said the senator will offer an amendment to an upcoming defense bill for the Air Force to reimburse the city of Dayton for costs incurred with dealing with tracking and dealing with the potential contamination.

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Remembering the fallen: Roll call event Wednesday at AF museum

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 1:00 PM


            Taps was played May 26, 2016, by bugler Tech. Sgt. Cheryl Przytula, Air Force Band of Flight, during the 2016 Roll Call Memorial Service in the outdoor Memorial Park at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This year’s ceremony is at 9 a.m. May 23 and is open to the public. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ted Pitts)
Taps was played May 26, 2016, by bugler Tech. Sgt. Cheryl Przytula, Air Force Band of Flight, during the 2016 Roll Call Memorial Service in the outdoor Memorial Park at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This year’s ceremony is at 9 a.m. May 23 and is open to the public. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ted Pitts)

An annual memorial roll call reciting the names of 2,800 fallen service members from the region is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 23, in Memorial Park on the grounds of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Gold Star family member Catherine Beers-Conrad, an Air Force veteran whose father, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jack Beers, was killed in action in Vietnam, will speak at the ceremony.

RELATED: Services set for 100-year-old who survived Pearl Harbor

Gold Star family member Alejandron Villalva, who had a relative who died as a prisoner of war in Germany, will be a keynote speaker, organizers said.

The ceremony honors fallen service members since World War II in a 10-county region.

The 711th Human Performance Wing and 88th Air Base Wing will co-sponsor the public ceremony.

If inclement weather occurs, the gathering will take place at the Prairies Chapel and Religious Education Facility, 682 Chapel Lane.

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Services set for local 100-year-old who survived Pearl Harbor

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 5:30 AM


            Frank M. Ruby, who died last month at age 100, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Ruby had awakened on a Navy fuel oil barge as the attack started. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Frank M. Ruby, who died last month at age 100, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Ruby had awakened on a Navy fuel oil barge as the attack started. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Frank Ruby, a 100-year-old survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor who died last month, will have a memorial service Friday, May 25, at the Memorial Hall in Dayton.

Ruby, a retired Navy chief petty officer, died April 29 at age 100.

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The Vandalia man spoke to this newspaper in 2016 about his surviving the massive Japanese aerial assault on the U.S. fleet that brought the United States into World War II.

RELATED: Dayton area Pearl Harbor survivor turns 100

“The bombers were close to the water and I could see (pilots’) faces,” said Ruby, who was aboard an oil barge laden with tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. “I thought this is going to be my last day.”

Services are set for 6 p.m. Friday at Memorial Hall 125 E. First St., Dayton.

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New leader to take over Air Force agency at Wright-Patt

Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2018 @ 5:00 AM

Brig. Gen Alice Trevino. CONTRIBUTED
Brig. Gen Alice Trevino. CONTRIBUTED

A new leader will take command of the Air Force Installation Contracting Agency.

Brig. Gen. Alice Trevino will assume leadership Wednesday of the agency’s Wright-Patterson headquarters with more than 700 employees and oversight of about $9.1 billion in annual spending obligations, according to Wright-Patterson.

RELATED: Memphis Belle unveiling a boon for museum 

Trevino will replace Brig. Gen. Cameron Holt, who will become the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition at the Pentagon.

Trevino, an Air Force Academy graduate, was the principal military assistant to the deputy secretary of defense.

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