At a volunteers' Hangar Day on Saturday, January 20th, 2024, the Tunison Foundation's crew– pilots, mechanics, crew chiefs, docents, restoration volunteers, and more –gathered at our home base at Hudson Valley Regional Airport (POU) in Wappingers Falls, New York to celebrate a successful and highly active year in 2023.
Benjamin A. Smith, who serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors, prepared a presentation outlining the substantial progress made during the Foundation's first full year with a permanent home. In 2023, the Tunison Foundation accomplished 63 sorties with our 1943 Douglas C-47 Skytrain Placid Lassie, during which time we carried 250 passengers (mostly volunteers, World War II veterans, and VIPs) and dropped 267 paratroopers. There was somebody with the airplane or in the hangar 132 days out of the year, or 37% of the time, a figure we expect to grow substantially in the coming months. Overall, 135 volunteers gave 854 days in total to the care, feeding, and display of our historic aircraft, up from 250 volunteer-days in 2022.
Gary Houghton was our top volunteer by far for 2023, with 70 volunteer-days, followed by Clara McGee with 52 volunteer-days and Bob Creter with 32 volunteer-days. We all extend a huge thanks to our dedicated volunteers keeping these historic aircraft in the skies. In September, Foundation pilots completed two DC-3 PIC (captain) checkrides, adding to our ability to share the aircraft with the world; Ben Smith and Mark Simmons are our new captains.
2024 will be a very big year for us as we make our way back across the Atlantic Ocean as a part of the D-Day Squadron's Legacy Tour, where we'll honor the memory of World War II veterans. We will be participating in events in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and the 75th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. 2024 does not begin or end with Europe, though; both prior to our departure for Europe in mid-May and after our return to the U.S. at the beginning of July, Placid Lassie has a large number of airshow bookings around the country. Back at home base, we are also continuing to pursue to restoration to airworthiness of our 1942 Consolidated PBY Catalina.
As always, donations keep them flying, and we are grateful for your support in 2023 and beyond.