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Role of Longboat Key in WWII

by Roger Pettingell

Area played a vital role in training pilots

Munitions from military training exercises continue to be found on island

Plaque to commemorate World War II training exercises
WWI Training Commemorative Plaque - The plaque at 4250 Gulf of Mexico Drive recognizes Longboat Key for its pilot training services in World War II.

Longboat Key played a vital role in training fighter pilots during World War II, a fact many longtime residents of the island have known for years. In the 1940s Longboat Key was more desolate and Florida had ideal weather for training. Along the Sarasota and Manatee county line, the attraction wasn’t tourism, it was warfare preparation. What started as construction of a civilian airport under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the current Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) was transformed as one of three landing strips in the area used to launch the U.S. Army P-40s and P-51s fighter planes.

From different bases including the Sarasota Army Air Base, they would practice their bombing runs over Longboat Key with powder-filled bombs that a made more visual impact than explosion. Spotters could gage the accuracy of the pilots with the flurry of smoke the bombs made on impact.

The Venice Army Air Base, now the Venice Municipal Airport (VNC), was the second training ground for fighter pilots of four different planes who also practiced bombing runs over Fruitville Road area and Osprey locations. The third was MacDill Air Force Base (MCF) located in Tampa, still in use today as a military base of operations. The training was treacherous and pilots lost their lives with skip bombing practice runs. Skip bombing was used to attack ships by dropping the bombs at low altitude and have it skip across the water into the hull. The town and the Longboat Key Historical Society have commemorated its role in the war with one of seven historical markers at the Town Water Plant located at 4250 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

World War II artifacts are continually unearthed to this day. Occasionally 50-caliber shell casings have been found on the beaches. A P-40 canopy washed up on the shore in 1985. Contractors that sift through the sand during dredging and renourishment projects regularly find shell casings and rounds. Even live rounds have been reported. The Department of Defense has scheduled a munitions cleansing project for Longboat Key in 2047 after labeling the area a low-risk for hazardous rounds of ammo. Two years ago the U.S. Coast Guard was dispatched to waters off the northern tip of Anna Maria Island on reports of an unexploded ordnance.

The famed Lido Key Casino was also built starting in 1938 as a WPA project and opened in May of 1940. During WWII the casino was host to many military personnel relaxing from the rigors of training at nearby military bases. The casino was used as a lookout post for German U-Boat submarines during the war and reports of U-boats in Charlotte Harbor have been recorded. The casino lasted a scant 29 years before its demolition in 1969.

Last week I listed an exclusive direct bayfront residence within walking distance to Sarasota’s downtown. This 3BR/31/2BA contemporary residence in the sought-after Golden Gate Point neighborhood is a move-in ready dream at 188 Golden Gate Pt, #201. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.

Address List Price Media Slideshow
188 Golden Gate Pt, #201 $2,995,000   Photo Slideshow


Call us at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing


Where were you on September 11, 2001?

by Roger Pettingell

What were you doing on 9/11/2001?

Sarasota will have its place in history on that day

Commemorative flags on Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key
9/11 Commemorative flags - This past weekend the Longboat Key public works department placed 3,000 American flags along Gulf of Mexico Drive as an annual commemoration to September 11, 2001.

Yesterday was a day to reflect back 15 years to the events of the day. It was on that sunny September morning that four flights left east coast airports with passengers intent on destroying our way of life. Instead, our country responded as our ancestors did. We put away our petty differences and united with patriotism. New York and Washington D.C. provided courageous first responders to save citizen’s lives at the World Trade Center and Pentagon. With what I can imagine was a battle cry, passengers on United Airlines flight 93 heroically “rolled” to the cockpit in order to prevent possibly a greater national tragedy. World leaders offered their condolences and military support. And the nation watched, many contacting their local military enlistment office to offer their support. I remember that day as vividly as millions of other Americans do.

Sarasota had a special connection to the events that unfolded on September 11, 2001. The city was celebrating a visit from a sitting President, George W. Bush. That morning he left the Colony and Beach Tennis Resort on Longboat Key to jog four miles of our white sand beaches and likely gazed over the beautiful azure colors of the Gulf. It may have been a wondrous site for Bush, a reporter friend and the secret service crew.

By 9 AM the President was having an enjoyable visit with second grade students at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota. Reading from “The Pet Goat” was on the student curriculum for the day, but “No Child Left Behind” was on the President’s agenda. It was then that the tragic events were starting to unfold. Once the attacks were confirmed Bush made a famous announcement from the media center of this Sarasota school. The photos of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispering the initial news into the ear of a seated President and the press gathering in the media center of the Sarasota school appear on nearly every timetable picture account of the day.

It was then that he was transported to the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport where Air Force One was fueled and ready for a hasty departure. After a wave to the crowd the plane taxied and took off from SRQ. Members of the press later remarked that the plane took off and then immediately went vertical to reach maximum altitude in the shortest period of time. Those on board said they had never expected to experience a plane take off like that.

Air Force One was on its way to an undisclosed location. Reporters on the plane were instructed to turn off all phones to prevent a press leak and cell-phone tracking by terrorists. As news media is for an important story, a Shreveport, Louisiana television station still appeared and was at the airport to record the landing. That day Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport was participating in Global Guardian, an annual exercise to test the military in a time of nuclear war. He would later fly to Nebraska and return to Washington, D.C. 10 hours later.

The Sarasota connection will be etched into the memories of anyone who was here that day and recorded in the national archives for all of humanity to review in the future. But the connection to the events of 9/11 started one year before that. As the FBI tracked the previous whereabouts of the hijackers, they were drawn back to Sarasota and Longboat Key.

Here they learned that three of the hijackers were at Huffman Aviation for international flight training at Venice Municipal Airport in the year 2000. While here the hijackers lived in a home near the TPC Prestancia golf course community of Sarasota. The home was abandoned around the time of the attacks, later sold in 2003 and once again in August of last year.

We’ve all returned to our lives, a little less innocent. We’ve commemorated those who lost their lives that day such as that held at the National Cemetery in Sarasota on Monday. Some of us have emotional scars, some of us carry physical scars. On that Tuesday morning, terrorists unknowingly brought together a nation far quicker than I imagine any diplomat could. Sarasota was, and still is a great place to live, with a vast amount of history. We strive for greatness in the arts and the pleasures of the Gulf beaches. We thrive in fine dining and boutique retail stores. It is our home.

Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.

Transportation Options in Sarasota

by Roger Pettingell

Sarasota Thrives with Travel options

SCAT, MCAT, SRQ and taxis are prevalent

Ford Tri-Motor, the Tin Goose, tours at Sarasota Bradenton Airport on February 2, 2014
Tin Goose - The Ford Tri-Motor vintage plane only occasionally is in Sarasota with a flyover of SRQ.

We have a great transportation system in Sarasota, especially for the size of the city. We don’t have an “L” train as in the Chicago elevated system, nor do we have the type of subway systems as in New York city or Washington, DC. We do have a public transportation that reaches into most areas of Sarasota County and we have an airport that is large enough to serve our needs, but small enough for more personal service.

Getting in and out of Sarasota by air is easy when in comparison to other cities. The runway at SRQ is large enough to accompany Air Force One and did so on September 11, 2001. Press accounts of that takeoff described it more as a liftoff, leaving vertically as the nation was under a terrorist attack that day. In 2014 the airport reported 596,341 enplanements, or passengers that board a plane in a fiscal year. Delta, JetBlue, American Eagle, United and Delta service the airport. Destinations vary, but you can fly non-stop to Charlotte in just under two hours, or fly to Atlanta in just over 1.5 hours, to connect to just about any destination in the world. Then of course there is Venice airport to the south and Tampa International with its direct flights to more cities.

SCAT and MCAT bus systems
SCAT and MCAT bus systems have a far reach.

Public transportation by bus is unique in that Manatee and Sarasota counties cooperate to extend the reach of their services. The MCAT service in Manatee makes it possible to travel as far north as Palmetto, or North Port to the south through the SCAT system in Sarasota County. The Chamber of Commerce on Anna Maria Island supports their trolley system with no fares from Coquina Beach to the upper tip of the island. SCAT plus, MCAT handy bus and ITN Suncoast for residents over 60 years of age offer more personal service. Reservations should be arranged up to two weeks in advance for some services.

For even more personal service consider a limousine or taxi service. Longboat Key and Sarasota has a number of limousines to choose from. There are a few taxis as well, with most companies originating in Sarasota.

One of the more intriguing alternatives are the ride sharing programs offered by Uber and Lyft. Available through a smartphone app you can request a ride through these independent contractors who are available for low fares. I checked Uber today for a trip from our office in the Chart House to Sarasota Airport and was quoted a fare of $14 to $19. With the app you can see the proximity of the closest driver and had seen one entering St. Armands Circle at the time. The fares vary by environmental factors such as weather and traffic conditions, or peak times such as New Year’s Eve. Learning the system can save you even more money. After the first ride and the uneasy feeling of the unknown is over, you may be hooked. Drivers and riders are rated to help with security and they carry insurance for your protection. I have found the drivers to be friendly and very open to questions, they may offer suggestions on how to save on fares. I have heard Uber is experimenting with helicopter ride sharing in overseas market. I suggest they look at Sarasota with boat service across the bay.

Ringling Bridge on February 19, 2016
Travel by car or boat - Beat the Traffic, there is an iPhone or Android app for that. Websites compete with free ad supported or subscription services.

I like technology to make my work and personal life easier. I read that the time traveling to work in Sarasota is 25% less than the national average. There are times when traffic is heavier and I found some good online programs to gage your trip time. Beat the Traffic is used by television stations in the United States. It offers desktop views of traffic congestion and has apps for iPhones and Android devices. There are others but you may be satisfied with the free website. Most offer color coding with green for easy travel to shading and red for high congestion. The data is provided from a variety of sources and drivers can report accidents and congestion through the app. I will always remember that congestion is a sign of community or city prosperity. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.

Historic Tin Goose Flies over Longboat Key

by Roger Pettingell

Historic Tin Goose Flies over Longboat Key

Ford Tri-Motor Followed a Week of Historic Military Aircraft

Ford Tri-Motor, the Tin Goose, tours at Sarasota Bradenton Airport on February 2, 2014
Tin Goose - Ford Tri-Motor tours at Sarasota Bradenton Airport on February 2, 2014. Click on the image above for a flight video.

For the past couple weeks Sarasota Bradenton Airport has been a good venue for vintage aircraft. Last weekend continued the trend as the historic Ford Tri-motor was in town for short trips over Sarasota and Longboat Key.

Labeled as the Tin Goose for its structure, this plane and its fleet made history. These planes were manufactured by a Henry Ford assembly plant and sold to Eastern Air Transport for use as the first commercial passenger planes. If you missed a chance to ride on this historic airplane you may have seen it fly over-head, with its rumbling engine and seemingly slow flight over the area. Watch the video now.

The plane cruised at 90 mph and reached an altitude of 1,000 feet on Sunday as it left Sarasota Bradenton Airport, flew over the John Ringling Bridge to St. Armand’s Circle, then went up the coast along Longboat Key to Bradenton when it came full circle to the airport 35 minutes later. February 2 was a clear day to see all of the keys with the only cloud casting its shadow on the western point of Sarasota. With a crew of one, pilot Larry Harminski, the plane taxied 10 passengers over the area on each of its trips.

This visit followed a week where two heavy bombers from the Collings Foundation, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Consolidated B-24 Liberator, plus a P-51 Mustang fighter were on display at our local airport.

Ford Tri-motor flies over St. Armand's Circle with a port side view of Lido Key and Siesta Key
Flying over St. Armand's Circle with a port side view of Lido Key and Siesta Key

The Ford Tri-motor was brought in from its home in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, by its current owner, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).

Just 199 Ford Tri-motors were originally built from 1925 to 1933 at a cost of $42,000 each with the three famous aircraft engines manufactured by a Henry Ford crew. Later models were manufactured with more powerful Pratt & Whitney engines, this particular Tin Goose received its retrofit of new engines in 1950. Although most of the fleet was manufactured for passenger use, several were purchased by the U.S. Army Air Corp. Of those built, 18 still remain and eight are certified for flight by the FAA. In 2013 the value of these planes increased to $736,000. With a length of 50 feet and a wingspan of 78 feet, it could reach a maximum speed of 150 mph.

This particular plane, the 4-AT-E-NC8407, had a history of its own:

  • This plane was number 146 off the assembly line and first flew on August 21, 1929. It is painted with its original markings, that of Eastern Air Transport. Eastern Air Transport later became Eastern Airlines.
  • Through a lease in 1930 it became the first air service between Havana and Santiago de Cuba.
  • It then was sold to the government of the Dominican Republic.
  • In 1950 it was moved to Phoenix, Arizona for use as a crop duster.
  • Five years later it served in aerial fire-fighting in Idaho following a retrofit of two 275 gallon tanks.
  • In 1958 it was modified to accommodate smoke jumpers.
  • It started flying as a barnstorming tour plane in 1964.
  • This plane was used for the first of two movies starting in 1965 “The Family Jewels” which starred Jerry Lewis an inept owner, mechanic and pilot.
  • This Tin Goose was in restoration for 12 years following storm damage in 1973, when it was purchased by EAA founder Paul Poberezny.
  • Following restoration it debuted for display in Oshkosh in 1985 at the EAA Convention.
  • In 1991 it returned as a short tour passenger service.
  • This plane appeared in its second movie in 2009 "Public Enemies" with Johnny Depp who was filmed sitting in the last seat of the plane.

Sarasota is proud of its culture and arts background. This is one more reason to live in this area of rich heritage. Please feel free to contact me to buy real estate here or to sell your property. Contact me at (941) 387-1840.

Special thanks to Kyle Voltz of the EAA for supplying some of the information for this blog.


Displaying blog entries 1-4 of 4




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About Roger Pettingell

Roger Pettingell of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate is your Longboat Key, Florida Luxury Real Estate Specialist. Roger provides his real estate expertise to sellers, investors, developers, and buyers in the Sarasota area including Anna Maria, Bird Key, Bradenton Beach, Casey Key, Cortez, Grand Bay, Holmes Beach, Longboat Key, Marina Bay, Osprey and Siesta Key. Search for homes, luxury homes, condominiums, investment property, development property, and vacant land and lots on the Longboat Key, Florida and the surrounding area.