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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Sad End to a World War II Plane

FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) - A Texan claims in court that he was defrauded of $900,000 by an aircraft mechanic who "thoroughly destroyed" a World War II plane flown by the Texan's late father.

Seth Washburne and his company Thirsty 13th LLC sued James Terry and Terry's entities Pacific Prowler LLC, Pacific Prowler Nonprofit and the nonprofit Greatest Generation Aircraft, in Tarrant County Court.

It all began, Washburne says in the lawsuit, when he "found a large round patch from a flyer's jacket, depicting a beer bottle with wings, and the name 'Thirsty 13'" while looking through a box of his father's keepsakes.

Washburne did some research and found a picture of the Thirsty 13th squadron, including his father, from 1946.

"Since there was limited information on the Thirsty 13th squadron, Washburne decided to write a book to memorialize and preserve the history of the squadron in which his father proudly served," the complaint states. "For almost two years, Washburne traveled around the country visiting members of the squadron and their families, the Air Force Historical Research Agency in Montgomery, Alabama, and the National Archives, gathering stories, data and World War II photographs."

While writing his book, Washburne says, he found that one of the planes the Thirsty 13th flew in World War II was still in use as a cargo plane in Puerto Rico.

"The plane originally was a model C-47, the military version of the popular DC-3," the complaint states. "In the Thirsty 13th squadron, the plane's nickname was 'Billie.'

"Billie was quite special for other reasons, too. It was one of four lead planes in the squadron marked with a special white tail stripe; it was flown overseas by the most senior pilot who became the next commanding officer; and it was the first sign of help for 25 men stranded on a remote coral reef for 8 days until food was dropped from Billie to aid them. Billie was particularly important to Washburne, because he had a photo of Billie in New Hebrides, and standing beside it was his father."

Washburne contacted Billie's owner, learned it was for sale for $75,000, and wanted to buy it and donate it to a museum. But a relative of a member of the Thirsty 13th told Washburne about the Vintage Flying Museum at Fort Worth's Meacham Airport, which preserves WWII planes.

At the airport, Washburne says, he met defendant James Terry.

"Terry convinced Washburne to change his plan of donating the plane to a museum, and instead to keep it for himself as a flying airplane," the complaint states. "Through a series of representations, Terry convinced Washburne that Terry could restore Billie to resemble its original condition, and thereafter, Washburne could personally own Billie for little or no continuing upkeep and maintenance costs. Terry represented that after he restored Billie, he would store and maintain Billie for Washburne, and that he would take Billie to air shows, where it would be viewed by people all over the country."

Washburne says he bought Billie based on Terry's claims. He says Terry promised to have Billie fully restored and airworthy by July 2010 so Washburne could show it off at a Thirsty 13th reunion.

"However, after two and one half years of deceit, misrepresentations, outright lies, theft and faulty advice by the defendants, Billie was a thoroughly dismantled wreck: its wings had been removed and had new holes punched in them ... Billie's fuselage, which is the heart of Billie, was stripped of parts with no record of what went where, and was thoroughly destroyed, being broken in half, with almost every rib broken and the skin torn to shreds" Washburne says in the complaint.

Washburne says he planned to spend $75,000 for Billie, but Terry spent nearly $900,000 of his money on the restoration job, including the purchase of two "donor planes" to be parted out and used to restore Billie.

Washburne claims he "was led down the primrose path to ultimately be taken for almost $900,000, had his plane destroyed, had parts stolen, and was subject to unending lies and humiliations."

He seeks punitive damages for breach of contract, breach of warranty, fraud, deceptive trade, conversion, breach of bailment, negligence and conspiracy.

He is represented by Kevin Vice with Mayo Mendolia & Vice of Royse City, Texas.

Also named as defendants are Patrick Mahaffey, Terry Rogers and Perrin Warbirds Inc.

James Terry's public relations director declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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