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Gone — Ken Terry and his “Midnight Special”

14 January 2012

Gone — Ken Terry and his “Midnight Special”

My original intention was to write a post comparing the two of Beechcraft’s Mentor models — the T-34B and the T-34C, a piston and a turboprop. In reality the post was a ploy to publish images of an impressive yellow Mentor and a striking navy blue with shark’s teeth Mentor.

While drafting the post I received the latest newsletter of the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum, UnScramble. Ironically, it brought word of the sudden passing of Ken Terry. He, as well as Mike Fuller of Port Orange FL, died as a result of the crash of his T-34B Mentor called “Midnight Special” upon departure from Wings Field, near Williston FL on 5 November 2011. Mike Fuller was in the front seat and Ken Terry was in the back seat. Terry was quite accomplished as an aviator (60,000 hours experience), service man and family man. I also know he was well liked by those in the museum.

Ken Terry piloting his Beechcraft T-34B Mentor "Midnight Special" with photographer Phyllis Lilienthal (I believe) in the rear seat — photo by Joseph May

I did not have the luck to know him but I saw him fly one fine clear day. Returning home from a road trip in 2009 I dropped in on the museum and, by fabulous coincidence, their C-47 restoration to flight project was moments away from taking wing on her first test flight. Her name is “Tico Belle” and the aircraft is a Douglas C-47 Skytrain which served in the Normandy Invasion of WW II.

Ralph Kenneth “Ken” Terry was there with his aircraft to fly wing as well as serve as photoship. As I was watching the Tico Belle gaining altitude with her main gear being retracted I witnessed Ken Terry flying his Mentor as if it were on a rail. He flew in from above and behind the Tico Belle, zooming to a lower altitude then pulling up — gaining altitude and slowing simultaneously — to merge into perfect formation with the accelerating C-47. There were no hesitations or tentative moments with his flying. A complicated balance of forces and timing were mentally calculated with the execution made to look easy. It was simply a pleasure to watch flying done at its best.

Ken Terry forming on the "Tico Belle" while on her first flight after restoration, he flew the difficult maneuver like one slips a hand into a glove — photo by Joseph May

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 27 January 2012 12:05

    A good man, and a great aviator, ‘gone West’…………

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