CAF Great Plains Wing serves up aviation history, pancakes | Local News

While the rain kept changing its mind from a downpour to being nonexistent, the annual Fly-In & Drive-In breakfast at the CAF Hanger in Council Bluffs Airport took off without a hitch Saturday morning.

Children didn’t seem to mind the wet weather as they danced in puddles around the World War II-era airplanes. Ephraim West, 2, took special interest in playing beneath the wing of the P-51D Gunfighter, one of 150 airworthy planes still around.

Inside the Commemorative Airforce Hanger, about 100 enjoyed pancakes and coffee while surrounded by aviation and World War II memorabilia and history. Ephraim’s father, David West, is part of the Great Plains Wing. He said he grew up inside the hangar, and the group’s efforts to keep history alive are important.

“It’s a living history. There are not many options to work on planes from an era that’s disappearing,” the Bellevue, Nebraska man said.

George DeWitt, CAF Wing Leader, said the hangar is one of Council Bluffs’ best-kept secrets, carrying a different atmosphere because of its preservation of history.

The group has been hosting the event since the hangar was built — since about 1989, by his estimation at 16803 McCandless Road.

“Our goal is to keep the Greatest Generation alive, to remind everyone of the sacrifice they made,” DeWitt said. “That era is mostly past.”

Nearby, Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh spoke with CAF Safety Officer Jeff Hutcheson. Walsh said the CAF hangar is the backbone of the airport, a unique opportunity for the city to be part of the aviation community.

“The enthusiasts here, their love of airplanes shows off what the CAF means and does. We’re lucky to be a part of that,” Walsh said.

Members of the Omaha Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol were also on hand, as were the University of Nebraska Omaha Flying Mavericks flight team, who were selling raffle tickets to raise funds for their next competition flight.

Cadet Elizabeth Nelson of Omaha, Cadet Captain Meredith Wichman of Omaha and Cadet 2nd Lt. Greg Matya of Gretna, Nebraska said they were happy to be at the event to help out.

“As cadets, we learn about the history of aviation, especially since the CAP was founded during World War II,” Wichman said.

Phillip Wier, of Wasta, South Dakota, is a member of the Flying Mavs currently studying for his masters degree in public administration at UNO. He joked that being on the flight team is like “a sport for nerds,” but being part of the aviation community is the real honor.

“You learn from those who came before you, who were actually there,” Wier said. “You can see and recognize in the community that we’re all friends, trying to pass on our appreciation for what we do.”

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