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Retired Air Force Gen. Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, talks to his German friends at the Traben-Trarbach German-American Soaring Club 50th anniversary air show Saturday at Mont Royal Airfield near Traben-Trarbach, Germany.
Retired Air Force Gen. Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, talks to his German friends at the Traben-Trarbach German-American Soaring Club 50th anniversary air show Saturday at Mont Royal Airfield near Traben-Trarbach, Germany. (Peter Jaeger / S&S)
Retired Air Force Gen. Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, talks to his German friends at the Traben-Trarbach German-American Soaring Club 50th anniversary air show Saturday at Mont Royal Airfield near Traben-Trarbach, Germany.
Retired Air Force Gen. Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, talks to his German friends at the Traben-Trarbach German-American Soaring Club 50th anniversary air show Saturday at Mont Royal Airfield near Traben-Trarbach, Germany. (Peter Jaeger / S&S)
A Piper J-3 Cub, a training plane for American pilots in World War II, takes off Saturday at the Mont Royal Airfield Saturday near Traben-Trarbach, Germany.
A Piper J-3 Cub, a training plane for American pilots in World War II, takes off Saturday at the Mont Royal Airfield Saturday near Traben-Trarbach, Germany. (Peter Jaeger / S&S)
Spectators watch air demonstrations as a Fokker D-3 tri-plane model sits in the foreground at the 50th anniversary air show at the Mont Royal Airfield Saturday near Traben-Trarbach, Germany.
Spectators watch air demonstrations as a Fokker D-3 tri-plane model sits in the foreground at the 50th anniversary air show at the Mont Royal Airfield Saturday near Traben-Trarbach, Germany. (Peter Jaeger / S&S)
Two young flying enthusiasts help to bring a Pitts 12 double-decker plane back to the field after heavy rains interrupted the German-American Soaring Club air show at Mont Royal Airfield near Traben-Trarbach, Germany, on Saturday.
Two young flying enthusiasts help to bring a Pitts 12 double-decker plane back to the field after heavy rains interrupted the German-American Soaring Club air show at Mont Royal Airfield near Traben-Trarbach, Germany, on Saturday. (Peter Jaeger / S&S)

TRABEN-TRARBACH, Germany — Hundreds of people and dozens of planes descended on the Mont Royal Airfield Saturday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Traben-Trarbach German-American Soaring Club.

Some came to see the daredevil aerobatic maneuvers by 2000 German aerobatics champion Uli Benning, while others hoped to meet the air show’s featured guest, retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Chuck Yeager. The two-day show concluded Sunday.

Seven years after he broke the sound barrier in 1947 and while serving as squadron commander at the former Hahn Air Base, Yeager christened the club’s first glider in 1954.

Yeager reunited with some of the flying and hunting friends he made 50 years ago this week.

“I don’t live in the past,” said the gristled veteran. “I made many friends here, but other than the pilots in my squadron, I didn’t know many others on base.”

He encourages airmen to get the full flavor of their host nation by getting off base whenever possible.

“I don’t think for one weekend that we were on base,” Yeager said. “Airmen who don’t get off base don’t know the customs of the people who welcome us here.”

Yeager’s visit was a special bonus for Air Force Staff Sgt. Mike Finefrock, who tries to attend all the air shows he can, especially when they involve aerobatic demonstrations.

“It’s wonderful to watch airplanes perform to their limits. It’s quite amazing,” the Ramstein-based airman said.

Other air show attendees, such as Fred Mirgle, returned to the airfield for the first time in decades. From 1964-1967, Mirgle was stationed at Hahn’s 38th Tactical Missile Wing and joined the club soon after he arrived in Germany.

“Three days after I arrived in Germany, I found out about [the club] and came up and spent most of my time up here when I had free time,” said Mirgle, who had developed an interest in flying from his father, a World War II instructor pilot and commercial pilot after the war.

As a member of the Traben-Trarbach soaring club, Mirgle learned how to fly gliders, performed aircraft maintenance and even mowed the 750-meter long grass runway.

“It was among the best three years of my life,” he said.

Those early experiences in aviation were not wasted on Mirgle — he is now the director of the aviation maintenance technology and a professor emeritus at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Chief Master Sgt. Brian Eubanks came to see a flying relic — the Tante Ju. Built in 1936, the Tante Ju — also known as Lufthansa’s Juenkers 52 — was one of the first airplanes Germany used for aeromedical evacuation, said Eubanks, who served as an aeromedical evacuation crewmember for seven years in the Air Force.

One of only six still flying, the Tante Ju took off from Hahn and flew over Mont Royal Airfield Saturday afternoon.

As the plane came into sight, with Yeager on board, a hush came over the crowd as they witnessed the aluminum piece of aviation history.

The soaring club hopes the weekend show — the biggest the club has had in 25 years — will rekindle a mutual love of flying between Germans and Americans, said Uwe Ramerth, air show announcer.

“I think today is a good chance to really open up to everyone and to inform the Americans, ‘Come in every weekend, have fun, let’s get together, let’s fly together.’ That is our main target,” he said.

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