• The Vietnam Air War Experience--A Panel Discussion

The Vietnam Air War Experience--A Panel Discussion

Friday, March 5, 2010
Vietnam War veterans share stories in March 13 program
SEATTLE, March 5, 2010--The Museum of Flight has partnered with the Seattle Opera to offer audiences an historical perspective on the Vietnam War story in the opera, "Amelia," with two panel discussions featuring American veterans of the Vietnam War. In the March 13 presentation, veteran pilots Claire Gilstad, Ray Rignel and Joe Crecca will share their experiences. The discussion will be moderated by Seattle Opera board member and Vietnam War veteran Karl Ege. The program is at 2 p.m. in the William M. Allen Theater, and is free with admission to the Museum.
The second panel discussion in the series is April 10. Opening May 8, the Seattle Opera's original production of a new opera, "Amelia," weaves a woman's emotional journey, the American experience in Vietnam, and elements of myth and history to explore our fascination with flight.

March 13 panelists:
Claire J. Gilstad - U.S. Air Force. Gilstad flew on 283 missions as an AC-47 gunship navigator while stationed at Bien Hoa, South Vietnam during a 12-month tour in 1968.  After his Vietnam experience, Gilstad was assigned to a year's duty in C-133 Cargomaster aircraft. He then served as an F-4 Weapons Systems Officer for five years in the United States and other countries, including a 90-day tour in the fall of 1972 at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, where he flew 50 missions.  He served with the Minnesota Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units in the C-130 Hercules for six years before assuming staff officer duties at 14th Air Force Headquarters, Air Force Reserve Command Headquarters and with the Air Staff at the Pentagon-while maintaining currency in the C-141 Starlifter. He retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1994. Gilstad is a civilian pilot who owns a Rans S-6ES Coyote Light Sport Aircraft. He is also a Docent at The Museum of Flight.  Gilstad was born in Duluth, Minn. He now lives in Port Angeles.
Ray Rignel - U.S. Navy. Rignel flew carrier-based A-6 Intruders on over 100 missions in Vietnam during 1970 and 1971. He was an airline pilot for the Flying Tigers from 1973-1989, and for FedEx from 1989 - 2004 as a Captain on DC-10, DC-8 and MD-11 aircraft. Rignel is a Docent at The Museum of Flight.
Maj. Joe Crecca
- U.S. Air Force. In 1966, Crecca was assigned to the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing "Gunfighters," at Danang Air Base in the Republic of Vietnam. While flying his 87th combat mission over North Vietnam, Crecca's F-4 was hit by a Russian SA-2 Surface-to-Air-Missile. He and his front-seater, 1st. Lt. Scotty Wilson, were forced to eject 25 miles north of Hanoi.  Unfortunately, Scotty perished when he was hit by fragments of a second missile that detonated just as his parachute opened.  But Crecca was immediately taken as a Prisoner of War and spent the next 2,280 days in captivity. He was released during Operation Homecoming on February 18, 1973. After repatriation, Crecca returned to flying status and served at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, flying F-4 Phantoms as a combat-ready pilot with the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing, and then as a test pilot for the 3246th test Wing from February 1974 until September 1978
The non-profit Museum of Flight is one of the largest independent air and space museums in the world. The Museum's collection includes more than 150 historically significant air- and spacecraft, as well as the William E. Boeing Red Barn® -- the original manufacturing facility of the Boeing Co. The J. Elroy McCaw Personal Courage Wing displays 28 World War I and World War II aircraft from the United States and other countries including Germany, Russia, and Japan. Over 30 aircraft representing the first century of aviation are displayed in the all-glass T.A. Wilson Great Gallery. The evolution of space flight and a look into the future are presented in the exhibit, Space: Exploring the New Frontier. The Airpark includes outdoor displays including the first jet Air Force One, a supersonic Concorde airliner and the prototype Boeing 747 jumbo jet. Interactive displays in The Flight Zone provide educational and entertaining activities for young children. The Museum's aeronautical library and archival holdings are the largest on the West Coast. More than 140,000 students are served annually by the Museum's on-site and outreach educational programs--the most extensive museum-based youth aviation and space education program in the country. The Museum is the only air and space museum in Washington State that is both nationally accredited with the American Association of Museums and a Smithsonian affiliate.
The Museum of Flight is located at 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, Exit 158 off Interstate 5 on Boeing Field half-way between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport. The Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors 65 and older, $10 for active military, $8 for youth 5 to 17, and free for children under 5. Group rates are available. Admission on the first Thursday of the month is free from 5 to 9 p.m. courtesy of Wells Fargo. For general Museum information, please call 206-764-5720 or visit www.museumofflight.org
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