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P-38 Lightning Pilot tours F-35A Lightning II for 100th Birthday

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Leandra Garcia
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

What would you do to celebrate your 100th birthday? U.S. Air Force retired Col. Perry J. Dahl celebrated his by making a stop at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, where he was given the opportunity to tour the F-35A Lightning II aircraft visiting from the 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin AFB, Florida. 

Dahl served 33 years in the Air Force. He began his military career as an enlisted member of the 41st Infantry division in 1940. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, he applied for aviation cadet training and never looked back. Once he earned his wings, he flew the P-38 Lightning. He flew for 31 years in the AF and is credited with nine aerial victories. 

February 17th, 2023, the day before his 100th birthday, Dahl and his family were escorted onto the MacDill flight line and given a tour of the F-35A Lightning II, led by the pilots of the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing. 

“It was enjoyable to get around and look at the new airplanes, talk to the pilots, and find out the new features,” he said. “Today was a continuation of my experience in the Air Force; even if it’s all just memories now, it’s really great to see how things have improved.”

Capt. Angelo McCartney, an instructor pilot from the 58th FS, had the privilege of flying a flag for the retiree to present to him during his tour. 

“As someone who has only ever flown an F-35 A Lightning II, it was an honor to fly a flag for someone who has flown the P-38 Lightning, the original namesake of the airplane I hold so dear,” said McCartney. 

The F-35A Lightning II is the Air Force’s newest 5th-generation aircraft. It was given the name ‘Lightning’ in honor of the P-38 Lightning and all of its victories from World War II. 

The flag was flown over the NASA center, Cape Canaveral, down the east coast to Miami, over homestead, over Key West, then back to MacDill. 

“Today, I was honored with a flag for my service. It was my pleasure, and getting that flag from the newest,  fastest airplane was special,” said Dahl. “I will cherish it for sure; it will have the number one place on my counter. I appreciate everything you all have done for me. I feel very modest and undeserving.”