Dallas, Texas - A Friendship Flight '97 trial run of sorts was conducted during March when Friendship Flight pilot Bill Signs along with Paris coordinator Pierre Berg departed Dallas in Signs Cessna 210 for a flight to San Diego with additional flight legs to St. Louis, New York, and Washington D.C. before a return flight to Dallas. The flight was designed to allow the area coordinators in San Diego, St. Louis, and New York to meet with Signs and Berg and map out the plans for each of the Friendship Flight '97 stops.

While enroute to San Diego and west of El Paso, Texas, Signs and Berg encountered heavy icing and mountain wave turbulence that turned the flight into a very memorable event. "The turbulance was so severe that after landing, my arms ached from holding the airplane level," said Signs.

In San Diego, Signs and Berg met with San Diego Aerospace Museum Chairman James Dallby and Executive Director Edwin McKellar, at the San Diego Aerospace Museum where they received a personal tour of the facility by Dan Clemons and had the opportunity to inspect a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis. At a luncheon meeting, more than 30 supporters from all over San Diego County including the executive officers of the San Diego Aerospace Museum gathered together to discuss the coordination of Friendship Flight '97 with the activities in the San Diego area. That afternoon Signs and Berg met with the ATC controllers in San Diego to coordinate Signs "exact minute" liftoff from the North Island Naval Air Station. Later, they toured the Naval Air Station with Jim John and saw various Navy and Marine Corps aircraft and helicopters undergoing maintenance.

The next stop was a short flight to the San Diego's Brown Field where Signs and Berg met with many of the EAA Chapter members from the area. The San Diego area has the largest EAA chapter in the world and while meeting with the chapter they discussed the EAA Young Eagle rally that's scheduled for May 10th from 9 a.m. to Noon.

Another short flight brought Signs and Berg to the Carlsbad-Palomar Airport to meet with San Diego coordinator Lee Ayers and talk about the school events that are scheduled in conjunction with Friendship Flight '97 on May 8th.

Back in San Diego, Signs and Berg revisited the Aerospace Museum to observe on-going work in the restoration area and had an opportunity to conduct some local sightseeing around Balboa Park. At one point during the day, they found themselves on top of a parking garage at the approach end of runway 27 at Lindbergh International Airport and were able to take photographs of approaching airliners as they passed less then 75 feet above them. According to Signs, "The descending vortices are so strong that they'll blow the hat off your head."

The next day, Signs and Berg departed San Diego's Gillespie Field for a non-stop flight to Lambert International Airport in St. Louis. Climbing directly to 17,000 feet, they picked up tail-winds of up to 80 knots and completed the 1,500 nautical miles in seven hours VFR all the way.

At Lambert Airport, they were met by Al Donaldson, the local EAA Young Eagle chairman of EAA Chapter 32. They then had a meeting with the local ATC controllers to coordinate the Friendship Flight departure on May 12th so that Signs can lift off from Lambert Airport at exactly the same minute that Charles Lindbergh did 70 years earlier. This was followed by a very positive meeting with Marie Yancy and staff of the Lambert International Airport.

Additional meetings and gatherings were held in St. Louis including a meeting on the St. Charles County Smart Airport to discuss an EAA Young Eagle Rally on May 11th and a luncheon with 29 coordinators at the 96th Aero Squadron.

Later that afternoon the Cessna 210 lifted off from Lambert heading toward Republic Airport at Farmingdale, Long Island, New York. The 800 nautical miles were covered in four hours with at times a 93 knot tail-wind. The flight was IFR and ended with an ILS approach in rain and fog.

"I was really looking forward to meeting the Friendship Flight Ô97 coordinator in New York," remarked Signs, "Mickey Carpenter and I have been friends over the phone for more than six months and it was a pleasure to meet her in person." That meeting was followed by another meeting with the Republic airport managers, the ATC controllers, the regional TRACON controllers, and Million Air personnel to coordinate the ground and air activities including an exact minute departure from Republic to Paris on May 20th.

The next day, Signs and Berg met with over 30 organizations as well as TV, radio, and newspaper media over brunch at the State University of New York, the Farmingdale Aerospace Educational facility. Signs added, "I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout of the media and the great job Mickey Carpenter has done for the local community." Later that evening, they also met with the 50 New York area Friendship Flight '97 committee members in the terminal at the Republic Farmingdale Airport.

A local tour of New York City with Mickey Carpenter and Rodney Schabel filled most of the next day and ended with a meeting with National Park personnel about a Friendship Flight '97 display at Floyd Bennett Field, New York.

Departing Republic Airport for Washington D.C., Signs was assigned a northwest heading to the Hudson River, followed by a left turn to head south down the river. "We were passing abeam of the New York skyline," remarked Signs, "at an altitude of 800 feet which put us below the tops of many buildings on Manhattan Island. It was a beautiful site."

Signs and Berg made two circles around the Statue of Liberty before taking a heading south to National Airport. "With nice clear weather we had Washington in sight in not time at all," said Signs. After paying for fuel and parking at National Airport, Signs and Berg were off to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. ÒOut first stop was to pay homage to the Spirit of St. Louis," said Signs, "then on to Lindbergh's 'North to the Orient' Cirrus aircraft. We spent the rest of the day enjoying all of the neat airplane 'stuff' that has been collected at the Air and Space Museum."

Following a restful night, Signs and Berg met with aviation artist Mort Kuff at the Air and Space Museum as well as Don Lopez, Air and Space Museum Deputy Director, Bob van der Linden, Air and Space Museum Curator, and other fine members of the museum team. Departing National, Signs and Berg made a side trip to Boone, North Carolina, before returning to home base in Dallas.

Flight Report: 32 flight hours...no failures...all systems OK. "No thrills, chills, or spills," remarked Signs.

"The trip was a complete success." said Signs. "How can you loose with team members like an ex-Blue Angel pilot, Young Eagle coordinators, EAA chapter presidents, ex-newspaper owners, the best public affairs CPO in the Navy, full cooperation of all the ATC controllers, FAA people who are truly willing to help, and total assistance from local, county, state, and federal airport management and authorities. The additional support and cooperation from the Canadian DOT and ATC, National Parks, the State University of New York at Farmingdale, an ex-state representative, past mayors, present mayors, aviation museums in San Diego, Long Island, and Dallas, Marine Corps generals and captain...I could go on-and-on. Thank you all...for all your help."

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Bill Signs Author

Bill Signs

The main pilot for Friendship Flight.


What Is Friendship Flight?

Spearheaded by pilot Bill Signs, they are a collection of global flights to spread good will, understanding, and more to countries around the world.


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Friendship Flight 1997 Lindbergh

A commemoration of Charles Lindbergh's historic flight, 70 years to the minute. Signs retraced Lindbergh's route, departing San Diego, St. Louis, and New York, arriving in Paris, France, on May 21st, 1997 at 11 a.m. Ten thousand children are expected to participate at the airports, where Signs will share Lindbergh's accomplishments and the excitement of world-wide aviation.

  • Pilot: Bill Signs
  • Aircraft: Cessna 210L N90MB

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