MISSOULA, Mont. – Tucked away in the Museum of Mountain Flying sits Miss Montana, a C-47 that was originally intended to be used in World War II but was instead flown to fight fires all over the U.S. — including right here in Montana.
This aircraft may appear old but its journey is just beginning. During the reenactment of D-Day in Normandy, France this June, the aircraft will be flying to honor the more than 57,000 Montanans who served in World War II.
Eric Komberec, whose grandfather was a pilot who flew the original “Miss Montana”, helped organize this trip to honor his grandfather and all those who served during the war.
“In 1946, Bob Johnson bought this airplane as military surplus and flew it home to Missoula. And so the airplane was in Missoula since 1946 — all the way to 1975. And then in 2000, the museum raised the funds to buy it back so this airplane has been in Montana the majority of its life,” he said. “This really is Montana’s airplane.”
Komberec will be making the trip as one of the pilots. Accompanying him is Treat Williams, an actor and author most well known for his breakout role in the 1979 film “Hair”. He later went on to star or feature in more than 100 other films and TV series. What you may not know is that Williams has been a pilot for 45 years.
“We are trying to honor those who have made our lives possible, you know. And its gonna be exciting and its gonna be great,” Williams said.
“I keep saying to friends that the four greatest things in my life have been my marriage, the birth of my two children, and now flying this aircraft over to England and then over to France and Normandy. It’s pretty exciting,” he added.
Thanks to help from volunteers and local sponsors, Miss Montana should be ready to fly in mid-February. The crew plans to set out in the first week of May.
Story by Lauren Heiser, MTN News