BT-15 welcomed home at the Decatur County Airport

Published 5:48 pm Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday was homecoming at the Decatur County Airport, when a 75-year-old BT-15 plane, formerly used to train pilots in World War II, came back home for a short visit. Current owner Tom Smith, who now lives in South Florida, flew the plane in at noon Friday. He wanted to mark the 75th anniversary of its original delivery date  – August 19, 1942.

The United States Army Air Force Training Command took delivery of Vultee BT-15 AAFSN 42-1779 as one of 14 BT-15’s stationed at Bainbridge in 1942-43.

This is Smith’s second trip to Bainbridge with the plane he and his wife Kim purchased in 2009. This time he brought a passenger who also has ties to Bainbridge. Smith said, “ Flying to Bainbridge on the 75th anniversary of the aircraft delivery is very special for us, historic indeed. Not only is it a privilege to bring the aircraft, this trip also has a family connection. Sharing the ride with me is Jack Hill, the son of Roland Hill.” Hill’s father, Roland Hill was an instructor at the airbase from August to December, 1942. Jack speculates that his father no doubt flew in the very same plane. Jack went on to explain that his father met his mother while she was working at the airbase. Jack has an extensive collection of data pertaining to his father’s time during Basic Flying Training at Bainbridge, including a log sheet and photos of the plane, plus the one of Roland standing on a wing.

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Another flight enthusiast was at the airfield to greet the plane and passengers. Lenny DeLamar, who now resides in Albany, lived much of his youth in Bainbridge while his father was an instructor at the airbase during the 1950’s.  DeLamar was interviewed a year ago when he donated a display that chronicles his father’s tenure. It is on display in the airport terminal.

Friday night, the vintage plane rested comfortably in the historically preserved hangar, where it spent many nights 75 years ago.

The men expressed thanks to Col. Gary Breedlove for his continued dedication to preserving the amazing history of Bainbridge Army Airfield, and to Jim Cerone and Terry Tate for all their welcoming support of travelers.