In 2021, that tradition has included recognizing the 100th birthdays of a pilot who participated in a monumental moment in the history of the twentieth century and an aviation “shining star,” and the birthday of a 106-year-old who began flying in the 1930s and remains a much-admired “UFO”—that is, a member of the United Flying Octogenarians.
History records that when the Allies accepted the surrender of Germany from the Nazi general Alfred Jodl in Reims, France, on May 6, 1945, putting an end to World War II in Europe, the German delegation was flown to the site from Luneburg, Germany, by John “Jack” Race, then a 23-year-old American pilot. On May 30, 2021, Race, now a resident of Carbondale, Pennsylvania, celebrated his 100th birthday (and shortly thereafter, his seventy-ninth wedding anniversary).
According to a biography distributed by aviation media specialist Holly Peppe, Race had been serving in England with the 326th Ferrying and Transport Squadron, Ninth Air Force, delivering fighters and medium bombers until he was assigned to fly Douglas C–47 Skytrains to transport U.S. generals to their destinations. When Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery a C–47 to use, “he promised him a pilot too, so Jack joined the British Twenty-first Army Group, ‘a Pennsylvania Yankee in King George’s service.’”
“It makes me feel good that I served my country,” Race said. “But war never solves anything. It has been necessary through the ages to set things right, I know, but wouldn’t it be great if differences between people could be settled peacefully, so there’s no more need for war? That may sound unrealistic, but it’s my fondest wish.”
After the war, civilian aviation awaited Race, who became a flight instructor, crop duster, and bush pilot. Airline work beckoned, and he took on roles as an instructor for Afghanistan’s Ariana Airline, a consultant to Jordan’s Alia Airline, an earthrounding charter pilot, and a captain with Pan American Airways, flying Douglas DC–4 and DC–6 aircraft and instructing in the jet-powered DC–8.
The war was over but aviation history was not finished with Race—who at age 6 had been inspired to fly by Charles Lindbergh’s solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in May 1927: “Years later he captained a Pan Am cargo flight with his hero in the jump seat, and Lindbergh complimented him on making ‘a very nice landing’ in New York. For Jack Race, hearing that ‘was like getting the Victoria Cross,’” the biography notes.
Race retired in 1981 as a Boeing 747 captain with 26,000 airline hours, according to the biography. He then volunteered as chief pilot for Project Orbis, flying a DC–8 jet converted to a state-of-the-art ophthalmic teaching hospital, flying doctors “to more than 30 developing countries to teach sight-saving skills to host-country medical personnel,” it said.
In 1989, Race flew a cross-country, “using only a map and compass for navigation,” to re-create Lindbergh’s 1927 goodwill tour, covering 22,350 miles, with 78 stops in 48 states, in his Waco biplane dubbed Spirit of Orbis in the manner of Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis aircraft. He remains active, continuing to share his memories—including a recent two-hour Zoom interview to recount his Lindbergh-inspired cross-country, Peppe said.
To those who know her, 100-year-old Bernice Barris of Highland Heights, Ohio, is a “shining star” to her local chapter of The Ninety-Nines and to aviation in general, who remains vibrant and inspirational and a strong supporter of her aviation community.
The March 29 birthday celebration was held for Barris, a 45-year AOPA member, at Cuyahoga County Airport featuring the presentation of an AOPA Presidential Citation by AOPA Great Lakes Regional Manager Kyle Lewis and AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Bob Rose, followed by an honorary taxi down the runway for a water gun salute.
“I was lucky enough to chat with Bernice during the event and was able to ask what her favorite airplane was to fly, and without hesitation she said the Piper Apache,” Lewis said. “She owned an Apache for several years. Bernice told us that her favorite thing about flying, aside from the hard work to gain ratings, was flying above the clouds solo. An experience that is hard to describe other than blue sky, yourself, and God.”
“To say that Bernice has dedicated her life to the Ninety-Nines and to aviation is an understatement,” said the Lake Erie Chapter when recognizing her service as a charter member in 2012.
According to the chapter, Barris is a former member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who began flying in 1941. In 1976 she helped organize the first proficiency race at the Cleveland National Air Show, served as director of the Lake Erie Air Derby for several years, and participated in several races.
“In chairing the Lake Erie Air Derby events for the Cleveland National Air show, Bernice helped raise tens of thousands of dollars which benefitted several charities,” notes a biography of Barris written by The Ninety-Nines.
It noted her activity as a lieutenant colonel and ground school teacher for the Civil Air Patrol; her membership in Zonta International, the Flying Nurses Association, and Silver Wings; participation in the Powder Puff Derby; her public speaking on aviation; and her work with local FAA representatives to organize safety programs.
Barris “provides an impressive, professional representation of the Ninety-Nines to the aviation and general community and is very highly regarded by all who are privileged to know her,” the biography said.
By way of explanation it should be noted that Peter Goutiere, at 106, remains eligible for membership in that elite group of about 1,600 pilots in the United Flying Octogenarians because qualification comes from their having been “blessed with the opportunity to function as a pilot in command” of aircraft on or after their eightieth birthdays, according to the organization’s website.
Goutiere, of Katonah, New York, was born in Aligarh, India, on September 28, 1914. On the death of his father he emigrated to Bangor, Maine, to live with his older sister in 1928, learning to fly at Godfrey Field (now Bangor International Airport) between 1938 and 1940.
According to Bob Barker, executive vice president of the UFO, in 1942, Goutiere began flying for Pan American Airways, delivering military aircraft mainly from Africa to India. In 1943 Goutiere became a copilot for the Chinese National Aviation Corp. (CNAC), soon upgrading to captain. From 1942 to 1945 he flew hundreds of missions across The Hump—as wartime pilots called the Himalayas—for the airline.
Flying a C–47 from Florida to Calcutta, India, to CNAC in 1944 marked the 100th delivery of the aircraft type. Goutiere later flew for several other national airlines and worked as a check airman for the FAA.
In 2019, 75 years after ferrying the 100th C–47 to Calcutta, 104-year-old Goutiere “took the controls of the very same plane enroute from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco,” Barker wrote.
On May 17, 2019, the Tunison Foundation hosted an “On to Normandy” dinner for the D-Day Squadron before it crossed the Atlantic Ocean to participate in D-Day commemoration activities. Honorary speakers at the dinner included Goutiere and retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David Hamilton, 96, a Normandy Pathfinder pilot on the day of the invasion on June 6, 1944. (Hamilton recently celebrated his own ninety-ninth birthday flying a C–47 with the World War II Airborne Demonstration Team in Oklahoma.