Downstate men fly to Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame

George Schofield points on a world map to areas he flew while an aircraft navigator during World War II. Mr. Schofield, 99, of Camden, will be inducted into the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame at an Honors Banquet at the University of Delaware’s Clayton Hall on Nov. 2. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

During World War II, as a young U.S. Army Air Force officer, Lt. George Schofield was a member of the Air Transport Command’s 2nd Ferrying Group stationed at New Castle County Airport.

He served in World War II as an aircraft navigator, using celestial navigation and ferried aircraft, such as the B-17, B-25 and B-26 to combat crews all over the world in support of the war.

“It was the best thing to ever happen to me,” said the 99-year-old Camden resident.

Mr. Schofield, along with five other notable First State achievers, will be inducted into the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame at an Honors Banquet at the University of Delaware’s Clayton Hall on Nov. 2.

The ceremony will commemorate the state’s aviation greats by honoring their outstanding service in military and civilian aviation contributions.

For 2019 inductee Donald Sloan, of Dover, who flew over 13,000 hours in the C141A/B Lockheed Starlifter and C5A Lockheed Galaxy, including combat support missions in Desert Shield, Desert Strom, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, the experience has been humbling.

“I love flying,” Mr. Sloan said. “To be honored for just having fun is a surreal feeling.

“If you look through that list and look at some of the people on there like George and the other great men and seen what they’ve done, it’s an honor to be mentioned with them.”

The Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame was established to honor aviation greats and promote public recognition of aviation’s role in the progress of Delaware and defense of the United States.

Each year, the trustees of the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame selects six individuals based on contributions to the advancement of flight in Delaware, achievement in aviation bringing credit to the state and gallantry in aviation by a Delawarean in service to their country.

A passion for flying

Mr. Schofield navigated Atlantic routes, including Bermuda, the Azores, Marrakesh, India, Casablanca and Greenland. He flew South Pacific routes as well, guiding B-24 and C-47 aircraft. He was discharged in 1946 and reactivated for the Korean War and Cuban Missile Crisis. He later retired from the New York City Fire Department as a captain in 1978.

Mr. Schofield said he didn’t know he was nominated for the hall until his daughter told him.

“My daughter decided to put my name in,” Mr. Schofield said. “I had honestly forgotten about it.”

To Mr. Schofield’s recollection, the process took a few years.

“I just remember some time went by and then randomly getting a call from my daughter that I was selected,” Mr. Schofield said. “She said they looked over my files and felt that I would be a great person to induct in the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame.”

The story is similar to how he was selected to become a pilot.

After college, Mr. Schofield tried to become a pilot, but after several hours of flying, he wasn’t able to complete all the maneuvers required in the training curriculum.

Donald Sloan, left, of Dover, stands with retired Air Force Maj. Bob Bean, a World War II bomber pilot, in front of the 1941 PT-17 Stearman, which Mr. Sloan purchased from the late Maj. Bean. (Submitted photo)

“I remember five years later, I received a call from the Army Air Corps,” Mr. Schofield said. “They told me that the test that I thought I failed, I passed. Three months after the war started, I was on my way to school to become a pilot.”

As a navigator, he plotted courses by any point of reference available to him, often stars. One time, he diverted his aircraft, against orders, to circumvent a storm. The decision saved lives over the orders he broke.

“I had a great job,’ Mr. Schofield said. I loved it.”

Mr. Sloan shared the same sentiments, as his passion for flying came out of nowhere.

“Honestly, I don’t know where it even came from,” Mr. Sloan said. “I was an Army brat. My dad was in the Army. My dad was afraid of flying. I don’t know where it came from, but it was just something that I thought would be great to do. I knew I would enjoy it, and I did.”

Mr. Sloan graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1973. He earned his Army jump wings at Fort Benning in Georgia and soloed in the Cessna T-41 Mescalero at the academy. After pilot training at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, he was assigned to fly C-141 Starlifters at McGuire AFB in New Jersey.

Upon his retirement in 2006 as the 512th Operations Group Commander at Dover AFB, he was awarded the Legion of Merit. Among his other awards are the Meritorious Service Medal with three devices, the Air Medal, the Aerial Achievement Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal with two devices, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with three devices.

Spreading the love

But Mr. Sloan and Mr. Schofield couldn’t stray too far away from their passion once they retired.

“I just love flying,” Mr. Sloan said. “I utilize my 1941 PT-17 Stearman and 1947 L-16 Aeronca Grasshopper and fly hundreds of enthusiastic aviators, pilots and non-pilots, or anyone that just wants to fly in general.”

“I enjoy taking people flying,” he added. “I like watching people smile. Flying is just too much fun for me.”

George Schofield serves as a guide at the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base. Mr. Schofield guides visitors of all ages through some of the same aircraft he had navigated almost 80 years earlier. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mr. Sloan also donates hundreds of flight certificates to dozens of worthy causes, including USO Delaware, Meals On Wheels, Delaware Farm Bureau, the AMC Museum, Special Olympics Delaware, Habitat for Humanity, Tuskegee Airmen, Kent County Tourism, the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce, Dover’s Fraternal Order of Police, the Milford Museum, various church groups and several other nonprofit organizations.

“To do something so simple and make that much money for a nonprofit is cool,” Mr. Sloan said. “That means a lot to me.”

Mr. Schofield continues to use his knowledge in different ways, serving as a guide at the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base.

Mr. Schofield guides visitors of all ages through some of the same aircraft he had navigated almost 80 years earlier.

“I love it,” Mr. Schofield. “Even though I can’t fly anymore, it’s great just being able to talk about it to all the visitors that come to the museum.”

For both men, their passion for flying has come full circle.

“I’m getting inducted into the hall of fame for having fun,” Mr. Sloan said. “The government paid me to fly airplanes my whole career. If you like what you’re doing, you’re not working. I just always liked going to work.”

Donald Sloan, of Dover, donates hundreds of flight certificates for rides in his 1941 PT-17 Stearman, shown above, to dozens of worthy causes, including USO Delaware, Meals On Wheels, Delaware Farm Bureau, the AMC Museum, Special Olympics Delaware, Habitat for Humanity, Tuskegee Airmen, Kent County Tourism and the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce. (Submitted photo)

Mr. Schofield agreed.

“To talk to kids or people that’s interested in some of the things that I used to do so many years ago is a surreal feeling,” Mr. Schofield said. “It’s an honor to be inducted. I would never have thought that I would have been honored for something like this. It’s a great feeling.”

Other honorees

Other honorees are:

•James J. Connell, who earned his wings in 1962 and flew A-4E “Skyhawks” in combat from the USS Ticonderoga and the USS Ranger. On July 15, 1965, he was shot down over North Vietnam and held captive in Hanoi for 1,645 days before being murdered by his captors in January of 1971. For his honorable conduct in captivity and his leadership with captive aviators, Lt. Cmdr. Connell was awarded the Navy Cross..

•Gaylan B. Crumley, who has amassed over 21,200 mishap-free flying hours in military fighter jets and commercial passenger airplanes.

•Homer Reihm, retired president and CEO of ILC Dover, was responsible for the development and marketing of the spacesuit chosen by NASA for the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 27, 1969.

•Harry VanDenHeuvel, who served in maintenance at bases in the U.S., to include Dover and New Castle, and at Rhein Main in Germany, Saudi Arabia, and Okinawa. After retirement, he was a member and leader of many aviation-related organizations. He also served as director for aviation for DelDOT.

For more information on the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame, visit www.dahf.org; by email Bruce Lambrecht at brucelam@udel.edu; or by regular mail to DAHF, P.O. Box 4303, Greenville, DE 19807-0303.

Arshon Howard is a freelance writer living in Dover.

Arshon Howard is a freelance writer living in Dover. E-mail comments to newsroom@newszap.com.

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