SoCal’s Mike Manclark Takes on the Ultimate Mission: Bring a Squadron of Storied Vietnam Warbirds Back to Life

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Manclark transforming six retired OV-10 Broncos into flying memorials with massive restoration effort

Each aircraft is a major piece of our history and represents a great number of people who worked on, in or died while flying, in service to our country.

Few aircraft in the world have captured the attention and imagination of aviation aficionados quite like the OV-10 Bronco. Designed to take off in every condition from roads and rice paddies, this versatile light attack and observation aircraft first made a name for itself in the Vietnam War providing critical air support for Navy SEALS, Marines, and Army ground units.

Since then, it has flown just about every mission possible, from combatting cocaine in South America and fighting fires in California to pounding targets in Desert Storm and currently tracking and destroying ISIS targets in the Middle East. With so few still flying, it’s more critical than ever to bring the remaining ones back to life, preserving a fascinating slice of American history along with it.

When SoCal aviation entrepreneur and pilot Mike Manclark heard there were seven out-of-service OV-10 Broncos collecting dust in Texas at the National Vietnam War Museum’s warehouse, he immediately made the trip to inspect them for himself. The historic significance of each aircraft’s rich contribution to America’s military was more than enough to compel him to take action. But after hearing the stories of the veterans that once crewed and supported these aircraft, and the missions they conducted supporting and fighting for the US during their youth, he knew he’d found his calling.

“The Bronco’s are a legendary part of our history to say the least,” said Manclark. “When I found out that there were seven aircraft disassembled and sitting stagnant it concerned me. Each aircraft is a major piece of our history and represents a great number of people who worked on, in or died while flying, in service to our country. Standing amongst the piles of parts and fuselages in silence was a powerful experience for me. Moreover, after learning the Veterans had been been waiting for many years trying to raise funds for a Vietnam Vetrans Musuem, I knew I had to act. I decided that “come hell or high water,” I was going to find a way to purchase these aircraft and bring them back to life. The proceeds from this purchase will have the added benefit of helping fund a brand new beautiful Vietnam War museum.”

Just thinking about all the people that worked on or flew these aircraft, the pieces at one time screaming through the sky, and friends that didn’t come home was a powerful moment that compelled Manclark to honor these people and their families. So he assembled a crew and headed to Texas. Together they began the monumental task of loading eight tractor trailor trucks and flatbeds of OV-10 parts and bringing them back to Chino, California. These aircraft are now in the process of being meticulously restored by some of the best technicians and specialists in the industry along with many of the men that actually served with these aircraft in Vietnam.”

Working alongside a crack team of other OV-10 enthusiasts and with public support, Mike Manclark hopes to see as many of these aircraft as possible flying again, so they can be enjoyed for generations to come at Air Shows, celebrations and other special events. Manclark also sees these Broncos as a flying memorial to the men and women who served dutifully in their presence over the last 50 years.

The aircraft maintenance specialists in Chino are some of the best of the best in the warbird business, practicing dying arts like hand-formed aluminum sheet metal, building customized Plexiglas canopies, and rebuilding engines that have long since been out of service. It’s absolutely incredible what this team can do.

Because of it’s historical significance and the intriguing nature of the Bronco, the project has even drawn the attention of living legends in aviation like Patty Wagstaff, an aerobatic national champion and 2004 inductee to the National Aviation Hall of Fame. Wagstaff flew the Bronco for three years as an Air Attack Pilot at several tanker bases for Cal Fire, and has since committed to be an advisor on the return to flight program.

“I've always been fascinated by the OV-10, it's design and its mission,” says Wagstaff. “The idea of bringing more Broncos back to service is really exciting to me for a lot of reasons, including the mystique of the airplane. Every pilot is fascinated by this airplane… the essential mission it played in the Vietnam War, it's multi-purpose mission, and the fact that the government keeps thinking about bringing it back into service. It’s a testament to how valuable the mission of this aircraft has been.”

“We would like nothing better than to see any of those Vietnam vets get in the air again. There is a legion of people out here pulling for you guys,” says Jim Hodgson, Executive Director of the Fort Worth Aviation Museum.

Harry Gintzer, a former Vietnam vet and OV-10 pilot with the Navy’s famed Black Ponies is just one of many fans of the Bronco return to flight program, and one aircraft in particular – White Lightning. “I actually christened that name while serving in Vietnam,” says Gintzer. “The Bronco’s were white at that time, and my wife was from South Carolina, a place well known for lightning. So it seemed like the perfect name and it stuck. I put in 162 missions in that aircraft and am thrilled that Mike Manclark and his team will be bringing it back to life.”

For more information on this project, or to make donations, please visit http://www.ov10squadron.com.

About the MANGIC FOUNDATION
Launched in 2012 by successful entrepreneur Mike Manclark, the MANGIC Foundation believes in hands-on work that gives people a hand up and making a tangible difference in the lives of those they help. Every year, the MANGIC foundation supports dozens of non-profits and causes that support children, armed forces and first responders, along with families in need. For more information on the MANGIC Foundation and how you can get involved, visit http://www.mangic.com.

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Kathryn Brewer
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