(Media release from Wings Over North Georgia):
A 98-year-old World War II pilot and aviation pioneer will lead the veteran’s recognition parade during WONG 2022, the 10th Annual Wings Over North Georgia Air Show on Oct. 15-16 in Rome, GA at the Richard Russel Regional Airport.
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Andonian now lives with his family in Canton, GA, following an amazingly accomplished career that spanned the end of the Second World War through the Cold War and included flying nearly 300 different aircraft in combat and as a test pilot.
Andonian received his pilot’s wings in June 1944 at Williams Field, AZ. His first flying assignment was as a ferry pilot with the Air Transport Command (ATC), flying trainers, fighters, cargo planes, and bomber aircraft from manufacturing sites to various bases.
In 1945 he was assigned overseas, flying C-47s over “the Hump” in the China-Burma-India Theater of WWII. The Hump was the treacherous eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains, which had to be traversed to supply Chiang Kai-shek and his Chinese forces in opposing the Japanese Army.
After WWII, Andonian was reassigned to Germany where he flew C-54 transport aircraft in the Berlin Airlift from July to September 1948. The airlift was a successful effort to supply Berlin with necessities after it was cut off from the rest of Western Europe by the Soviet Union.
Andonian began his flight test career in 1950 with the Armament Test Center at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida; in 1955 he transferred to Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio where he flew B-26, B-29, B-47, B-50, B-52, B-57, and B-66 test aircraft. He graduated from the British Empire Test Pilot School in 1958 and was assigned to
the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB in California where he headed the Special Projects Operations Branch, U-2 Flight Test, from January 1959 to June 1966.
During the Vietnam War, Andonian added “fighter pilot” to his resume when he volunteered to serve as an F-4 squadron commander. He flew 204 combat missions out of Cam Ranh Bay in South Vietnam.
He was subsequently reassigned to Wright Patterson AFB to serve as chief of Flight Test Operations and vice wing commander for the 4950th Test Wing.
Andonian retired from the Air Force in 1971 and became chief test pilot for E-Systems, Inc. in Greenville, TX, where he completed the final flight testing of the single-engine turboprop L-450, which was the prototype for the USAF Compass Dwell Program. This work included first flight and subsequent flight test of the XQM-93A, including pressure suit flights to 50,000 feet in an unheated and unpressurized cockpit.
Following his retirement from E-Systems in 1988, Andonian continued to serve as an FAA-designated pilot examiner and flew his Beech Debonair about 200 hours per year. He continued to fly until may 2021, when he was 97 years old.
Andonian has been designated as the Grand Marshal of the Parade of Veterans at this year’s Wings Over North Georgia Air Show. The parade returns after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-related protocol. “We hosted our first Veteran’s Tribute Parade in 2014,” said John Cowman, president of JLC AirShow Management. “Prior to the hiatus, more than 500 former and active-duty members across all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces marched in front of air show spectators. We make a special effort to honor and show our appreciation for those who sacrifice so much for our country and for our freedom. Having Col. Andonian as the marshal for this year’s event adds a special element to this parade honoring those who served.”
WONG 2022 will feature military and civilian air show acts at the Russell Regional Airport in Rome in addition to the inaugural AirShow Racing Series (ARS) event. The ARS was conceived by Cowman, a retired U.S. Air Force chief master sgt., who has produced WONG and other air show events for more than 10 years with his team of retired veterans and aviation enthusiasts.
The headline performance at WONG 2022 will be the A-10 Thunderbolt II Demonstration Team from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The team is led by Rising Fawn, GA native Maj. Haden “Gator” Fulham and his team of 10 crew members. The performance is one of the most unique and powerful demonstrations in the air show industry. For a full list of performers, activities, and ticket options, airshow fans, exhibitors, vendors, and sponsors can visit the official Wings Over North Georgia air show website.
A variety of ticket options will be offered for the 10th anniversary of WONG. Aviation enthusiasts can purchase advance-only premium patio club, box seating, and general admission tickets for traditional seating options. There also will be vehicle access to a drive-in, tailgate-style parking section with prime air show viewing opportunities. A four-pack of tickets for $79 is a new option for the 2022 show offering great value for the family or group of friends.
Tickets for the Air Show are now available at https://www.wingsovernorthgeorgia.com/guest-information/ticket-options. Tickets must be purchased online and in advance as no tickets will be sold on the day of the air show performances. For additional show information, follow the air show’s Facebook page or visit the Wings Over North Georgia website at https://www.WingsOverNorthGeorgia.com.