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Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

July 17, 2009 at 10:50 AM

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Fly day features a classy "Tallahassee Lassie"

Posted by Gabriel Campanario

tallahaseelassie071509m.jpg

July 15, 10:39 a.m. Click on sketches to view larger.

thorenpilot071509m300.jpgIf a weekend of fishing salmon is not on your schedule, airplanes may be the way to go. A couple of World War II fighter planes from the Flying Heritage Collection will return to the sky for a 'Fly Day' at Paine Field in Everett on Saturday.

On Wednesday I visited the collection and sketched one of them while mechanics were doing checks. Retired Col. Ralph Jenkins, 90, of Seattle, will be at Paine Field to watch the flight of this plane, which is painted like the six "Tallahassee Lassie" Thunderbolts he flew during the war. Named for his wife, the Tallahassee Lassie planes featured her image painted on the nose. It was common for fighter airplanes to display pictures of the pilots wives or girlfriends, explained Jenkins, who flew 129 combat missions, including on D-Day. "There were a lot of girl pictures on P-47s," he said on a phone interview, adding that his wife was a good sport about the art. They met in Tallahassee 67 years ago and married in just four months. "She was a very pretty bride and is here with me today."

I didn't get to meet Col. Jenkins, but while at the collection I got to talk to another veteran pilot, James B. Thoren (above), 87, who flew B-25s. He is a docent at the collection and explained that the Thunderbolt was the largest single-engine fighter of WWII. He also said that every time they painted nose art on a Thunderbolt for Jenkins to fly the picture of his wife seemed to appear with less clothes on.

The free air show starts at noon and lasts about an hour. Watch from the west end of 109th Street Southwest at Paine Field, near the museum hangar.

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