Tours French Air Force Base celebrated its centenary this year on Sunday, the 7th of June as the air base was born in late 1915, fielded with the aviation school on Caudron G3. MF33 Flight (1/33 Belfort) was born in Tours in October 1914 but there is no evidence that it was stationed at Parçay-Meslay airfield.
The airshow gathered lots of aviation professionals as well as recreational aviation booths. About 56,000 people attended the event – a bit more than expected. The Belgian F-16 solo display, the Moroccan Marche Verte, the Red Arrows, the Patrouille de France, then the Rafale were the highlights of the beautiful day. The Swiss Army Super Puma helicopter performed an outstanding display, and a P-51 D Mustang and a Spitfire delighted WW2 fighter aircraft enthusiasts. Other flypasts performed by two Dassault Flamant MD.311, de Havilland Vampire and Mosquito made the attendees dream.
The visitors could also admire numerous aircraft in the static display area: RSAF and Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoons, a curious Piaggio 149 as its roundel comes from the UPDAF – Uganda Peoples Defense Air Force, a Caudron C.800 glider which looked like the C.25S that were used in the movie « Don’t look now… We’re being shot at! » (La grande vadrouille) flown by famous French actors Bourvil and Louis de Funès. A nice RSAF (Republic of Singapore Air Force) Aermacchi M-346, a Dewoitine 501 which used to be stationed at Tours air base, a few WW2 Piper Cub, Dassault Mirage 2000-D, Mirage 2000-5, Rafale, and last but not least 2 A-10 Warthogs, and many more aircraft.
With the nice weather, cool northbound winds, and the smooth organisation, the event turned out to be a great success.
« The Legend of Little Eagle » is a novel about destinies that intersect. It is based on a true story which involved an actual American pilot – Lieutenant LeRoy Lutz – whose warplane was hit by anti-aircraft fire while strafing a German train. He then made the decision of purposefully crashing into a clear area instead of dashing into a French village called Mardeuil in Champagne, in June 1944. He did not survive to his feat, but the villagers did.
LeRoy Lutz has been turned into « John Philippe Garreau », and LeRoy Lutz flew a P-38 Lightning whereas Garreau is on a P-51 Mustang for the novel.
Here is further information about this book from a post written by Florian Rochat – the book’s author – published in French on January 24th, 2012:
In 1999, while I was in Montana researching my novel « Cougar corridor », I discovered a letter mailed from France in 1947. It said how a pilot of the US Army Air Force, Lieutenant LeRoy Lutz, had avoided a tragedy by staying on his damaged plane in order not to fall on a small village of Champagne, Mardeuil. It was in June 1944. Having renounced the bail out option while still able to do so, Lutz (picture below) had paid with his life this heroic act. His Lightning P-38 crashed in a field.
I told in a previous article of this blog how this letter led me to write my latest novel, The Legend of Little Eagle.
But now I have found its author. His name is André Mathy and he lives in Epernay, France…
…Time passes by, History is forgotten, but for the old inhabitants of Mardeuil LeRoy Lutz is always a hero whose sacrifice helped avoid civilian casualties in their village. « This story keeps coming to my mind, » said André Mathy.
I have been able to find him, which moves me. For this endpoint in the long story that was the writing of The Legend of Little Eagle highlights a surprising phenomenon on which I return repeatedly – over the reconstruction of the life of my hero who experienced a similar fate to LeRoy Lutz – in this story in which the notion of fate is perhaps the theme: the meaning and weight of stories, as explained in several books by William Kittredge, one of the great writers of Montana. According to him, our lives are ceaselessly intertwined with narrative, with the stories that we tell or hear told, those that we dream or imagine or would like to tell, all of which are reworked in that story of our own lives that we narrate to ourselves in an episodic, somewhat semiconscious, but virtually uninterrupted monologue. We live immersed in narrative (have you noticed?) These stories allow us, according to him, to situate ourselves in the world, and find meaning in our existence in the chaos of life. « We live in stories. We are stories, » he asserts.
“We tell stories to talk out the trouble in our lives, trouble otherwise so often so unspeakable. It is one of our main ways of making our lives sensible. Trying to live without stories can make us crazy. They help us recognize what we believe to be most valuable in the world, and help us identify what we hold demonic,” Kittredge adds.
Seventeen years ago, when he finally learned about his father’s display of courage, Richard Lutz, LeRoy’s son, declared: « I was twelve years old when my mother told me that my father had died in France. I always thought he was the bravest pilot on earth. But now I know. »
This book has already had 4.7 stars out of 13 customer reviews on Amazon.fr. It is a breath-taking novel according to them. The readers did love Florian Rochat’s talent and style. The synopsis made them believe that it was a book on aviation. It is, with many scenes of air combat during John Philip Garreau’s missions over Germany and France. But there is more to it. As mentioned above, it mainly deals with puzzling questions on destiny and fates bound within a same tragic event. However, these readers loved reading this unbelievable story. Air combat is not swept out of sight as the act of gallantry when LeRoy Lutz veered away from the village to save lives is well highlighted. Moreover, the hero amazingly meets with a famous WWII aviator.
Many reviews, and articles have been posted about this book, especially in French since it was first written in French. Here are two of them:
74-year-old Jimmy Leeward, a movie stunt pilot was flying a P-51 Mustang called « Galloping Ghost » for the Reno Air Race yesterday September 16, 2011.
On the video you can see that shortly after lifting-up to reach the middle part of a loop, the aircraft dived towards the bleachers, and crashed very close to them. According to the news, 3 died, and 54 would have been injured, 12 of which in severe conditions. A Mayday emergency call would have been heard a few seconds before the accident.
The Reno Air Races have been cancelled even if the families insisted on letting the airshow go on. Some videos on the Internet show how violent the impact was. The area has been cordoned off as the NTSB is still investigating, as well as FAA officials were on the spot, and a mass-casualty situation has been reported.
Jimmy Leeward would have tried to dodge the bleachers as his P-51 was going down. The famous pilot would have saved hundreds of potential casualties before he died, according to this eyewitness account: