World War II pilot reunited with plane he flew in war

DENVER -- World War II veteran Francis Robert "Frank" Royal made a fateful trip to the National Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs last year.

"Having had a life long interest in flying, I had to come see what they had," Royal said.

Royal served as the squadron commander of the 39th Pursuit Squadron, 5th Army Air Corps in Papua New Guinea.

He flew the P-38 Lockheed Lightening in combat. The Germans called the P-38 the fork tailed devil.

"It was a real godsend. From a pilot's standpoint it was great," Royal said.

So there it was, in the museum, a P-38 just like the one Royal flew in combat.

But then, something very special happened. Against all odds Royal realized that he was once again reunited with the very plane he flew.

The original tail markings, white 33, were the ones he used. This was his plane.

"It was quite a thrill," Royal said.

White 33 has since been fully restored and fit to fly and once again took to the blue. But this time Frank Royal was in a chase plane.

"They won't let me fly this one, for some reason," Royal said.

Man and machine, together once again, on one last mission. And then he was back on the ground.

"The flight went well.  Very well," Royal said.

Now, Royal said he has one more mission.

"I'm going on my last flight.  As of last week I've been put on hospice," he said.

At 101 years old, he says he's at peace. He misses his late wife Noreen and looks forward to once again flying with his mates who are perhaps waiting for him, high in the sunlit silence.