The last time Elmo Begliomini, 85, of Wyoming flew in an SNJ Navy trainer aircraft was 67 years ago, until last weekend. Begliomini served in the Navy from 1943 to 1944 as a machinist mate torpedo bomber. As part of his training, he had to take flight in the SNJ.
Begliomini served on the USS Bataan carrier as they trolled the Atlantic Ocean looking for submarines. A great deal of his tour was spent around Panama Canal.
As part of a Veteran's Day celebration, Ron Gitkos, from the 1st Lt. Jeffrey DePrimo/West Pittston American Legion Post 542 and owner of West Side Auto, thought it would have been a great idea to send Elmo up one more time. Elmo accepted. Post 542 and West Side Auto sponsored the flight.
This is exciting and I'm looking forward to the flight, said Begliomini. It's been a long time since I've been in the plane.
Elmo was a little surprised by the media attention. I didn't know there would be a reporter and a camera here, he added.
Gitkos said he wanted to surprise Begliomini for his flight.
Former Vietnam fighter pilot Louis DeFazio, who lives in Houston, Texas, but spends much of his summer in Northeastern Pennsylvania, took Elmo up for his flight.
After waiting at the Wyoming Valley Airport, Wyoming, for the SNJ to arrive from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport where the aircraft was being stored since Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, the time arrived for Elmo to take his flight.
It was a little chore getting Begliomini into the plane, but he handled it very well. You could see him smiling as he negotiated getting into the plane. All strapped in, with headset on, Elmo looked to his right and gave the thumbs-up sign.
Pilot DeFazio did a quick flyover of Greater Pittston, which included flying over Elmo's Wyoming home before heading towards Harvey's Lake. Before you knew it, the 25-minute flight was over.
Begliomini, who spent his whole professional career as an accountant after getting his degree from Wilkes College, never entertained the idea of flying again until he was offered the chance last week.
After the flight, Elmo's smile never left his face as he described the flight to Ron Gitkos.
Gitkos thanked pilot DeFazio and Dr. Charles Scrobola, who owns the SNJ, for the opportunity in making 2012 a special Veteran's Day.