Jet Pilot Heather Penney and 9/11…Ten Years Ago Today

Pilot Heather Penney is in the news today about her mission to stop the 9/11 hijackers of United Flight 93 ten years ago today.  Quoting Heather, “I was prepared to die for my country; it’s something everyone else would have done if they were in my shoes.” 

She and her commanding officer were ordered to stop Flight 93 from hitting the intended target – the Nation’s Capitol on September 11, 2001. The remarkable courage of Penny (and her commanding officer So Col. Marc Sasseville) is evidenced by their intention to stop flight 93 without the use of ammunition, missals or rockets – of any kind. They agreed to use their jet aircraft to stop the doomed airliner. Penny was quoted saying, “He planned to strike the plane’s cockpit, I opted for its tail.” What they didn’t know at the time was that sadly the airliner had already crashed in Pennsylvania.

 (Read more of AP writer Martin Griffith’s story in the HUFFPOST POLITICS http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/11/heather-lucky-penney-flight-93_n_957326.html)

 Penny is indeed an American hero. Her intense personal devotion in her service to the United States of America as a Lieutenant with the Air National Guard’s 121st Fighter Squadron is beyond remarkable – She served two tours in Iraq while being a single mother…. Her family is tight knit and exceptionally dedicated to one another.

 Heather will being flying her second year in the Jet Class in the beautiful L-29 Raju Grace, Race #21. She placed second in her jet class last year – not bad for a rookie!  We’ll be posting more photos and videos of this remarkable family beginning next week. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out our Reno 2010 interviews Heather Penney and her mom Stephanie Penney.

 Next week at the Reno National Championship Air Races we’ll follow up with Heather and her mom Stephanie and the other fantastic pilot in the family – John Penney, who is also a former Military Pilot and now Pilot of Rare Bear and four time Unlimited Class winner at the Reno Races.

 We look forward to your continued comments about Heather, her family and all the other amazing pilots racing at Reno National Championship Air Races.

 Good Luck and God’s Speed to all~

 Kimberley West, WarBirdBabe

Interview with Tiger Destefani – September 2010 – “If it Runs, it Will Win..!”

I was priviliged to have a moment with Bill “Tiger” Destefani, Pilot and Owner of the beautiful P-51D Mustang Strega ( Race #7) prior to the weeks start of official Unlimited racing at the Reno National Championship Air Races.

The  Strega crew wasn’t too busy with the aircraft – mostly polishing was all that was visibly required… The P-51D seemed to be running in tip -top shape.  She proved her superiority with a qualifying time of  over 484 mph.  That’s flying a lap (8.433 miles) in about 1:03 (one minute and three seconds…whew!).

Tiger said, “If it runs, it will win.”  And win she did – piloted by the amazing Steve Hinton Jr. 

Little did the pilots and fans know, the final race would really be held on Saturday.  The Reno weather didn’t cooperate for the Sunday afternoon race.  The desert winds were howling though the grandstands and pits, gusting at over 29 mph – with 30 mph being the limit for air traffic safety and race cancellation.

Personally I think all the pilots hold off until the last day to realize the true limit of the (current) engines.  If the machines are running well leading up to the final race, I think it’s a judgement call between the Owner, Pilot and Crew Chief that determine the final race speed. 

I surmise that if all are in agreement, the pilot will open it up and see what kind of performance he or she can finesse from the finely tuned equipment.  ….At least that’s what I read between the lines when I talked with Tiger.

Even though it was a huge disappointment for all the race fans who live and love the final race day Unlimited event, I’ll bet the disappointments for all the pilots and crews who wanted to give it their all for the last event, were immeasurable.

Tiger has a great aircraft that has been performing well for several years now.  It’s been a mesmerizing last two years watching Stevie Hinton gain confidence, race faster and intrigue a new generation of aviation enthusiasts. 

As it seems with all business ventures, a successful outcome starts from the top.  Leadership that provides respect, room to learn and grow always makes for happier, more productive, winning teams.

Speaking for race fans throughout the world, thanks for creating an awesome Strega Unlimited Race Team Mr. Destefani, we’re all rooting for another successful race year in 2011!

Good Luck and God’s Speed~

Warbirdbabe