Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Helo to Fixed Wing; Platt Has Flown Them All.

The following profile appeared in the May/June Aloft, a publication of the Seattle Museum of Flight.

Having flown a range of aircraft, from helicopters to B-52’s, Docent Jim Platt brings a unique viewpoint the MOF. He can draw on his 28 years of USAF flying and ten years at Boeing to enhance the MOF visitor experience.

With an ROTC commission Jim completed pilot training in 1966 and, based in Florida, began flying CH3C helicopters in support of the Manned Space Program and the Eastern Test Range. It was an exciting time to be a part of the space program. Sadly he recalls being an on call pilot the day of the tragic Apollo One fire that took the lives of astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee.

He then went from putting men in space to plucking them out of jungles. Moving to a base Thailand in 1967 he flew 98 missions as a Rescue Crew Commander in a HH3E “Jolly Green” rescue helicopter. His flying took him into Laos on occasions where, for the record, they never went. Nine downed airmen owe their survival to Jim’s aircrew.

Responding to a shortage of qualified pilots the Air Force retrained Jim and placed him in the cockpit of a C-141 transport and, eventually, in a B-52 with SAC. His flying career earned him, among other recognitions, a Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross, each with an Oak Leaf Cluster.

After a career mixed with flying and staff positions in places like Hq 8th Air Force, Hq SAC Jim retired and moved to Boeing. After ten years working in flight certification he retired again and then, to get out from under his wife’s feet, joined the Docent crew in 2009 as a Thursday regular. He particularly enjoys working the Personal Courage Wing. He loves it when visitors challenge his knowledge with questions. “It shows they are interested,” he says.

He also enjoys working with other docents who have incredible life stories. One was a P-38 pilot in World War II while another fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

He was honored to join an MOF panel of Vietnam era veterans to discuss their experiences during the war. He feels it is important to recognize the sacrifice so many made at that time.

Three of his four kids caught the flying/service bug. One is a Lt. Commander in the Coast Guard Reserve, married to an F-16 pilot. A second is a USAF Major and Predator Operator, married to a British Tornado pilot. Jim’s son is with the FAA.

Jim’s own words say a lot about his passion for aviation. “I got to live my dream. I have nothing but fond memories.”

Diana Heaton, Docent on the Go, Museum of Flight Seattle

The following profile appeared in the Jan/Feb issue of Aloft, the magazine of the Seattle Museum of Flight.

Diana Heaton, a retired IBM’er, likes to be active. She’s been a ski patroller, autocross racer and is still a competition water skier. And she loves to be around vintage aircraft. That is what drew Diana and her husband Dick to the MOF docent program nearly six years and 1200 volunteer hours ago. Diana is at the MOF each Sunday working the stations and leading tours. Her favorite assignment is the Personal Courage wing. As she puts it, “there is just something about those planes!”

In addition to her Sunday hours she has worked on women’s exhibits and enjoyed researching and writing some of the biographies for the “Chasing Horizons: Women in Aerospace” exhibits.

While Diana enjoys sharing her aviation knowledge with others she values the MOF as a personal learning resource for herself. Thirsting to expand her own knowledge base she takes advantage of every opportunity to learn from other volunteers and to attend MOF educational programs.

She and Dick take their interest in aviation with them when they travel. They have made several trips to the Reno Air Races and have thrilled to see and hear the P-51 fighters flash by. To have seen the planes in the air makes standing by the MOF’s new P-51 in the Personal Courage Wing very special.

They have also traveled across England on an aviation history tour, visiting sites that were important to British aviation heritage. A highlight of the trip was a visit to the Duxford Air Show at the Duxford “Aerodrome,” a field that dates back to World War I and is a part of the Imperial War Museum family of sites. “Duxford” is to the British what the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is to Americans. For Diana one of the most inspiring moments at the show was a fly over of ten throaty Spitfire aircraft, loved by all “Brits” for their role in the air Battle of Britain.

The MOF is fortunate to have committed women, like Diana, in the docent corp helping to enrich the visitor experience, one visitor at a time.