Flying High at 94: Fairbanks WWII Vet Pilots Fighter Plane He Didn’t Fly During the War
Paul Bowen photo. Fairbanks' Urban Rahoi sits behind John Posson inside a dual-control P-51 Mustang during a flight earlier this month, January 2013, with Stallion 51 at Kissimmee, Fla. Rahoi, 94, had never had the chance to pilot a Mustang while serving as an Army Air Corps pilot during World War II.
FAIRBANKS — At 94, Urban Rahoi is still flying airplanes, and he doesn’t plan to quit anytime soon.
Rahoi’s latest exploit is piloting a P-51 Mustang, a World War II fighter plane he never had the chance to fly while serving as an Army Air Corps pilot during the war.
Never one to pass up an opportunity, Rahoi traveled to Stallion 51 Flight Operations in Kissimmee, Fla., earlier this month to pilot one of the aviation company’s modified P-51 Mustangs.
Co-piloting the fighter-bomber with Rahoi was John Posson, a former Wien Air Alaska pilot.
Rahoi learned about Stallion 51 and its vintage planes on a TV program a few months ago, and made an appointment to take up a P-51.
Originally a single seater, the fighter plane has been modified into a two-seater with dual controls.
“Urban did most of the flying,” Posson said. “I did the take-off, and he did the landing.”
Rahoi’s natural ability to maneuver the airplane didn’t surprise Posson, since the longtime Fairbanksan has more than 20,000 hours of flight time.
“He didn’t have any trouble at all,” Posson said. “With his bush flying experience, he’s used to adapting to different airplanes and environments.
“For his age, he’s quite fit, has good vision, and he’s ambulatory and can climb into the airplane.”
Rahoi enjoyed the hour-long flight.
“It felt like I was right at home,” he said. “The plane trimmed out well; I did some maneuvers and came back in. We flew in formation with another P-51 and landed on airstrips.”
Rahoi took to the air as a teenager. A close family friend gave him two hours of instruction and he soloed at age 15, even though it was illegal. He was licensed in 1935 at age 16.
He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 during the early days of the WWII, and initially was a flight instructor in Arkansas.
Later, Rahoi flew B-17 bombers out of Italy and Africa. He had five missions to his credit when a general pulled him out and made him a check pilot.
“From then on, I checked [flight] crews and hauled people to Egypt or places like that,” he said.
Rahoi grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the oldest of five children. After high school, he worked for the state’s department of highways, surveying bridges and building roads.
He met his future wife of 70 years, Vienna, one snowy winter night. She and a girlfriend were walking home in a blizzard after a Friday night movie, and he offered to give them a ride home.
A couple of weeks later, Vienna turned up at Rahoi’s favorite watering hole and inquired, “Do you remember me?”