On December 29.1997 the SOCIETY OF AIRCRAFT RESTORATION hosted an impressive group of vistors to hanger 21, Brookhaven Airport. They came together to inspect the Messerschmitt ME-109 replica and exchange World War 2 experiences. The group included (pictured left to right) Col. Francis Gabreski, one of the leading aces of WW 2 and Korea, Gottried Dulias, a Luftwaffe ace who flew the ME-109, Al Rubenbauer, project director of SOAR, and Rudy Opitz the Luftwaffe test pilot for the Messerschmitt ME-163 Komet, the rocket powered fighter.
Rudy and Gottfried inspect the cockpit of the 109.
Gottfried Dulias was a ME-109 pilot of JG-53 of the Luftwaffe, and was first assigned to the western front in the fall of 1944, during that time he was credited with downing two Spitfires which were escorting Allied bombers. Later that year the Geschwader was transfered to Hungary on the eastern front. He was credited with downing 3 Soviet Yak fighters. After a short time there he was shot down by ground fire, and was captured and spent 3 years as a prisoner of war, he was repatriated in 1948. Like his counterparts with the Allied Air Forces in WW2, Gottfried has maintained an active interest in the warbirds of that era. He has provided first hand information on German military aviation. He is also a member of the SOAR team.
For Rudy Opitz this was his first visted to the ME-109 project. Col. Opitz was a glider pilot before the war and also in the early stages of the conflict. As a Luftwaffe pilot , he was selected as a test pilot fot the ME-163 fighter. The ME163 was a rocket powered aircraft and when the fuel was used up it turned into a glider. Mr Opitz is still flying gliders at the age of 87.