Errol Flynn was the intrepid flyer in an anti-war flick circa 1938. He took over from David Niven when it was observed that David had had one too many. Errol then flew his Nieuport 28 (really a Travelair 4000, Wright Whirlwind powered at that) to drop 25 pound “Cooper” bombs on a (French) German target. Errol was shot down by von What’s His Name after getting a Fokker D-7 or 2 on the way. David took over Errol’s job as squadron C.O. of course. I watched this movie in 1938 in downtown Chicago when I was in the 8th grade. The movie became a major recruiting tool for the USAAF and Navy. In May 1943 I signed on as an Aviation Cadet (A/C) for the USAAF.
So what does this have to do with Root’s Wednesday Breakfast Club? Well, most of us know the movie well, ask Jim Hurst and he will explain it to you. We have a picture in our club house of Root’s Wednesday Breakfast Club as it was in 1997. Cathy Stewart was our hostess for a pancake breakfast. Old #513, a Boeing-built Stearman PT-17 is in the background. Most Aviation Cadets flew the PT-17 (N2-3 for the Navy) Primary Trainers. Some flew the Fairchild PT-19-23, others flew the Ryan PT-22 (it had a vicious stall in some flight attitudes). I flew all 3 eventually-the Ryan PT-22 just once and would not go near it again. The Fairchild was a dream to fly- a bit under powered with a 175 hp Ranger, the 200 hp version was better. But most A/C flew the PT-17 and have fond memories of those flights.
So, next time you notice that photo on the clubhouse wall with the bunch of guys you barely recognize in front of an antique aircraft you can’t identify, think about Root’s Wednesday Breakfast Club and what it was like to learn to fly in 1943.
L to R: John Antrim, Jim Hurst, Jim Price, Andy Anderson, Dick Eckels, Bob Root, George Stillwagon, Tom Bales, Kathy Stewart, Unknown, Pat DeNaples, Unknown, Wally Detert, Tom Holloran, John Biernacky, Stewart Trefzger. 9-30-1998