It is a small world.
On Veterans Day, the Palm Springs (Calif.) Air Museum conducted a memorial service for U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Frederick “Fritz” Payne, 104, of Rancho Mirage, Calif., who died Aug. 6. Payne — the country’s oldest living American Fighter Ace — attended Culver Military Academy before leaving to enter the U.S. Naval Academy in July 1930.
The service included a fly-over by four Marine helicopters, which completed the Missing Man formation. One of the pilots was another Culver graduate, Capt. John RF Douglas ’04.
“I was shocked when my squadron was tasked with the fly-over,” Douglas said via email. “I immediately volunteered for it. I had recently learned about General Payne through the Naval aviation magazine Wings of Gold. I was reading it at work one day and they had an article about him that mentioned Culver.”
Two Cobras (AH-1Z) and two Hueys (UH-1Y) were used for the fly-over. The Cobras were in the front. Douglas was in the front seat of the second Cobra.
Now stationed at Camp Pendleton in the San Diego area, Douglas has been flying the AH-1Z for 2.5 years with the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 (HMLA-169).
“With flight school and other training I’ve been in the Marines for almost six years,” he said. After Culver, Douglas attended Purdue University, graduating in 2009 with a degree in chemical engineering.