I’m sitting 3rd seat in the cockpit of a North American B-25 Mitchell bomber flying at 2,000 feet over Virginia. It’s not really a 3rd seat. I’m standing in the area where one of the gunners would be stationed. I just can’t help myself and have to aid with the checklists and the difficult effort that it takes to fly one of these vintage aircraft. I have to say - it’s like being in a lumbering time machine that takes you back to a time when airpower was in its infancy and the world was at war.
I had this unique experience as part of participating in a commemoration on the National Mall in Washington DC of the World War II Victory in Europe. A flyover and the associated ceremonies was made possible through the efforts of GAMA, multiple government agencies, the White House and several industry partners. Honeywell was a key sponsor and I was especially proud to celebrate the 70th anniversary of this victory and remember all the sacrifices that were made during this conflict.
As a Honeywell employee, it was a great day to reflect on our contributions, which span more than 100 years in aviation. Honeywell and its legacy companies, including Sperry and Garrett AiResearch, were major contributors to the war effort, providing technologies that improved the capability and effectiveness of U.S. aircraft of every type.
For example, we developed the first all-electric autopilot for the B-17 Flying Fortress and went on to become the standard-equipment supplier of autopilots for all U.S. aircraft by the end of the war. We developed bombsight technology for the B-24 Liberator and other aircraft, improving the precision of American and Allied bombers. Our innovative cabin pressurization system, first used on the B-29, made high-altitude flight possible for the first time. We helped usher in the jet age with cooling turbines for the P-80 Shooting Star. And our pioneering work on exhaust-based turbochargers yielded products that became stock equipment on various World War II bombers, and may boost the performance of your car today.
As an aviation enthusiast, it was a tremendous treat. These were the planes my father, a Korean War-era pilot, loved and taught me to love. They were some of the very reasons I got into the aerospace business. I got to fly in these great warbirds, study their design and feel their handling characteristics. I was able to see the tight rivets, the rugged and practical structural layouts, the mechanical flight control systems and their ancient “steam gauge” avionics (that were, to my pleasant surprise, augmented by modern Bendix-King KX-155 and KT76 systems to fly in a modern airspace). I also was able to talk to some of the World War II veterans, hear their stories and thank them for their service. We spent time reflecting on the first time that airpower became the critical lever in a worldwide conflict and the moment when the supremacy of American airpower enabled overall control of the tactical and strategic military execution of the war.
Finally, as an American, it was a time for reflection. Seventy years ago, the entire world was at war. There is no hyperbole in stating that this was truly a war against tyranny and evil. It was a war that would determine the shape of the modern age and, with the advent of atomic weapons, it would also determine the potential future of humankind. Yet, common men and women from around the world rose with a single purpose. With unwavering focus, a humble spirit and tremendous sacrifice, they were able to defeat the Axis powers and expose its great atrocities.
This victory produced a peace and prosperity in Europe that has extended over two generations. It laid the groundwork for the United Nations, NATO and the European Union. It created a world where people can be free and a world that will never forget the horrors of that time or allow them to be repeated.
During this Memorial Day, I’m going to keep this memory close and think about those that rose to the challenges of a world at war and all that they sacrificed.