ONE month after taking a remarkable flight, Colorado World War II veteran, Colonel Frank Royal, died last weekend at the age of 101.
It's not often a veteran is reunited with the exact plane he flew in wartime. In fact, it's happened only once at the Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs, from where Col Royal took his final flight in White 33, the same P-38 warbird he flew in Papua New Guinea.
Col Royal sat as co-pilot just last month in a chase plane flying beside the P-38 he’d flown in combat all those years ago; a plane nicknamed ‘White 33.’
"I'm glad I was able to be here and with so many of my family,” he said at the time.
“We've been visiting out here from time to time since they first brought [the plane] from New Guinea and started working on it."
The P-38 was damaged in a dogfight over New Guinea and, after many years, was recovered and brought to the Colorado Springs museum.
One day while Royal's son was visiting the museum, he chanced upon White 33 and immediately knew it was his father’s chariot.
Col Royal followed the flight of the P-38 in a chase plane.
"It was a nice flight. I got a good look at White 33 up over the city and toward the mountains," he said.
The family, friends and other veterans who lined the runway that day are now in mourning.
But it had been a remarkable reunion for Colonel Royal, saluting the skies one final time
"Mentally I was flying it," Col. Royal said when he got out of the chase plane.
"I'm hoping that I'll still be able to enjoy seeing, and perhaps even, my spirit taking a little ride in one now and again," he added.