He’s spent thousands of hours in scores of aircraft during his 91 years on Earth, but Jule Lamm has never been as excited for a flight as he is for the one he’ll take Sunday.

A longtime Santa Monica resident and area optometrist, Lamm steered several kinds of transport planes as a pilot during World War II. He flew his own Cessna 182 on numerous service trips to Mexico, where he provided medical care to underserved communities and he was instrumental in the creation of the Emergency Volunteer Air Corps, which organizes aviation assistance during major disasters.

Still, he asserts with audible conviction that none of his previous forays into the skies will compare to what he’s set to experience this weekend.

Thanks to the efforts of a friend and the generosity of a stranger, Lamm will ascend from Van Nuys Airport and soar through the air in an iconic P-51 Mustang fighter plane for the first time.

“I’m looking forward to it like a kid,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve really fantasized about. I’ve really wanted to fly it.”

The origin of Lamm’s upcoming journey is rooted in his friendship with local realtor Michael Winestone, whom he met through his involvement with the Santa Monica Airport Association.

During weekly visits, Winestone listened to Lamm’s detailed stories and discovered a desire that had gone unfulfilled for decades.

Winestone felt he was in a position to help. An aviation enthusiast himself, he reached deep into his extended network and asked others to pass along Lamm’s wish.

There were no guarantees, of course. Winestone estimated that there are only a hundred or so P-51s still in existence worldwide and that just a fraction of them are in flight condition.

But he eventually got in touch with Richard Pack, a P-51 owner who agreed to take Lamm on the ride of his life. Pack will operate the front controls. Lamm will sit behind him and command the stick on some rolls and loops in a rare plane that can handle cruising speeds above 300 knots.

Winestone will cover the cost of fuel and capture Lamm’s landmark excursion on GoPro cameras that will be installed in the cockpit.

“I felt it was really necessary for someone of his vintage to get to do this,” Winestone said. “He gave up a huge chunk of his life in World War II, and he’s been involved in a lot of different things for Santa Monica. He deserves this one dream to come true.”

Lamm, who grew up in Los Angeles at a time when there were many more airports than there are today, became interested in aviation at a young age. He gazed at aircraft in the sky, built and flew model planes and dreamed of becoming a pilot.

It wasn’t a dream for long. In 1944, shortly after graduating from UCLA, Lamm was commissioned as an officer and earned military flight certification. He spent his 21st birthday in New Guinea, sharing a beer with two comrades who didn’t live to see the end of the war.

Indeed, even though Lamm was often piloting transport aircraft, including C-46 Commandos, C-47 Skytrains and DC-3s, he was not immune to the devastation and destruction in the South West Pacific theater.

“There was carnage all around me,” he said. “I didn’t expect to make it to this age.”

Maybe it’s why Lamm has been consistently motivated to be active in the community.

Santa Monica holds a special place in Lamm’s cavernous memory. As a child, he would climb on the cannon in Palisades Park. As a youngster, he would go down to the beach with an umbrella in hand to save a coveted spot for his family. In the early 1960s, he moved from Century City to the city by the sea after a bike ride down Georgina Avenue with his young son.

Lamm has held several positions in the North of Montana Association and has watched the city grow and develop into a hub for businesses. But, from his perspective, it hasn’t been all sunsets and palm trees.

“I’m concerned about this community,” he said. “I think the city is heading in the wrong direction if you’re going to have residents living here. It’s just too crowded. The traffic is so bad, not just for Santa Monica but for all of West L.A.”

Perhaps fittingly, Lamm previously served as Santa Monica airport commissioner and remains intimately involved with the embattled facility in an advisory role.

He said he understands residents’ concerns regarding the airport — two of his children and three of his six grandchildren live in the area — but added there are benefits to its survival. He argued that closure of the facility would dampen the local economy and lift building height restrictions in the area.

“The airport has advantages and disadvantages,” he said, “but everything else does, too.”

As for his forthcoming flight, Lamm said he’s grateful for the opportunity and proud to represent a cohort of World War II pilots that won’t be around much longer.

“I’m tickled to death to be a part of it,” he said.

Contact Jeff Goodman by phone at 310-573-8351, via email at jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.