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History lands at Las Cruces airport for ‘Wings and Wheels’ event

World War II history, in the form of a C-47 plane, has landed at the Las Cruces Airport.

According to a member of the C-47 crew, this specific C-47, called “Old Number 30,” has flown over 2,500 combat hours and served in the Mediterranean during World War II. After it was retired from combat, it served as a civilian cargo and passenger plane.

“Those are incredible stories to experience [and it] makes me emotional trying to describe them to you,” Ben York, who has been flying with the Commemorative Air Force since the 1980s, said.

In that time, York has traveled the country, hearing countless stories from veterans who fought in the very aircraft he’s now flying for fun.

“A gentleman came out [and I] got to meet him. He had one mission. He got shot down in his very first mission, and he spent the rest of the war in Germany. We took him for a ride. He was crying. It makes me emotional. He was just crying,” York said, holding back his own tears.

York and his crew are in town for the “Wing and Wheels Fest” at the Las Cruces Airport. It’s an opportunity for Borderland residents to experience some history.

“When you come and talk to the pilots who are flying Old Number 30 now, you get these amazing stories that are worth a movie or worth a book,” Brett Hahn, the coordinator for “Wings and Wheels Fest” said.

“All those emotions that he had experienced are coming to life. The buddies, the girls he met in the bars at O-Clubs or whatever else,” York said, sharing another story of a veteran. “All those stories were flooding back through his memories as well as maybe the fateful time that that one gentleman got shot down. Those are incredible stories to experience.”

Experience is the whole purpose of the event at the airport. To come out and touch, hear and experience history in person.

“You can kind of project yourself back in time when you were 19 or 18 and you were in the Army Air Corp, going to war,” York said. “You can kind of start to relate with what those young men and women did at a critical phase in our history.”

The “Wings and Wheels Fest” is Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Las Cruces International Airport.

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