Flyover honors World War II hero on 80th anniversary of his death

story by Allison Sylte
photos and video by John Eisele and Ron Bend
published Jan. 26, 2022

Bert Christman with plane
Christman joined the American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, better known as the Flying Tigers, to fight against Japan for the Allied cause before U.S. involvement in World War II. Photo courtesy of David Armstrong

Bert Christman died 80 years ago, but his memory lives on at an airfield tucked beneath the foothills just west of Colorado State University.

Dozens of people braved muddy and icy conditions at Christman Airfield Sunday afternoon to remember the World War II aviator who was killed in the line of duty on Jan. 23, 1942.

Local pilots conducted low flyovers in honor of the Fort Collins-born pilot and cartoonist, who was 26 years old when he died flying a mission over what was then Burma.

“Just to see my uncle honored after 80 years in Fort Collins as a hero to our country, it’s amazing,” said Janis Bunchman, Bert Christman’s niece who came to Colorado from Arizona for the memorial.

She and multiple other members of Christman’s family waved American flags at the pilots who flew overhead.

The flyover incorporated Christman Airfield’s past and future. The planes overhead included everything from a World War II-era P-51 Mustang to three modern load-bearing drones piloted by members of the CSU Drone Center, which now works out of the airfield and offered demos to members of the public after Sunday’s event.

See photos and videos of the flyover below.

For a longer look at Bert Christman’s life and legacy, visit

A video tribute to Bert Christman

Photos of the flyover

Christman Field flyover flags

(Photo: John Eisele, CSU)

Christman Field flyover plane
Fixed wing aircraft lands

(Photos: John Eisele, CSU)

Christman Field flyover plane

(Photo: John Eisele, CSU)

Watching the flyover
Crowd at Christman Field flyover

(Photos: John Eisele, CSU)

Flyover World War II plane

(Photo: John Eisele, CSU)

CSU Drone Center demo

(Photo: John Eisele, CSU)

Christman Field runway

(Photo: Ron Bend, CSU)