Matthew Walker, a Corning native who earned his pilot’s certificate years ago at Costa’s Airport, is taking part in a paratrooper drop at Normandy today to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
Walker is a pilot with the crew of a DC-3, the Flabob Express, a plane that was used in World War II.
“It’s a really interesting story,” Walker said Wednesday, moments before beginning the flight from England toward Normandy on the coast of France. “We are going to fly right now with a group of 22 aircraft and put out about 100 jumpers. We will do it again (today) on the official date of D-Day.”
Daks over Normandy, the U.K.-based group that is holding the event, has worked for nearly two years to fly dozens of original planes and paratroopers to Normandy for the 75th anniversary.
The Normandy landings in France on June 6, 1944 -- D-Day -- in which American soldiers joined Allied forces to find a foothold in Nazi-occupied Europe, marked a turning point in the war. Nearly 160,000 Allied troops stormed the Normandy beaches during the invasion.
The assault was preceded by 24,000 troops who parachuted in or came by glider. Daks Over Normandy officials said the most important aircraft in the airborne assault were 800 C-47 Skytrains -- a military version of the Douglas DC-3, a passenger airliner.
It's the same aircraft Walker will be flying today as part of the commemoration.
“It’s a fantastic event. It will likely be the last time something like this is ever done,” Walker said. “This happened 75 years ago, and most of the people involved in D-Day and the Battle of Normandy are gone, even most of the planes involved at D-Day are gone.”