GA Flight Honors Pearl Harbor Day

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We don't normally associate general aviation aircraft with the events of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, 70 years ago this week, but a flight instructor and student out flying that day nearly collided with a Japanese Zero -- an event that was re-enacted Wednesday morning in Las Vegas. Cornelia Fort and her student were flying early on Dec. 7, 1941, above Honolulu in an Interstate Cadet, when the Zero sped straight at her, and she took over the controls to evade it. She immediately returned to the airport to land, and later wrote that "another plane machine-gunned the ground in front of me as I taxied back to the hangar." In commemoration of the day, the current owner of the Cadet, airshow pilot Kent Pietsch, flew a reenactment flight on Wednesday morning, with his brother Warren flying the Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighter.

Kent Pietsch flew the Cadet from the front seat with Cornelia's nephew, Dudley Fort, in the back seat where his aunt would have been, Warren Pietsch told AVweb on Wednesday. "We flew once at 7:48 a.m. and again at 9:48, which was the exact time of the attack 70 years ago," Pietsch said. "We did it all -- the same near-miss, then the landing back at the field. The Zero 'strafed' the field, and we shot lots of video and pictures." Cornelia Fort later became the first American woman to die in the line of duty in the U.S. military, when the bomber she was ferrying over Texas collided with another airplane, in 1943. The January issue of Air & Space magazine, now online, features an in-depth story about Pietsch, the Cadet, and Fort.