An aerial archive for military buffs

Valencia residents, Sun Air Parts owner Dennis Noble, left, and Jim Hackett, Project Coordinator for The Greatest Generations Foundation discuss a copy of a 240 pound bronze statue of the U.S. Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi on the Japanese held island of Iwo Jima, February 23, 1945. The bronze was commissioned by Noble and created by sculptor Dave Venell in 2015. Sun Air Parts donated a copy of the bronze to the Greatest Generations Foundation which four U.S. Marine survivors of the 55 day battle for Iwo Jima will present to President Donald Trump at the White House, date to be determined. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Dennis Nobile, owner of the world-renowned supplier of vintage aircraft engines and parts, Sun Air Parts in Valencia, is a guy who likes to show people his cool stuff. And he’s got cool stuff.

Nobile isn’t braggadocious about it, he just owns things like jet engines, historical memorabilia and even whole biplanes, and wants to share with those around him — from his two grandsons who are regularly spotted working at the shop, to the members of the Southwest Chapter of the Company of Military Historians who came out to Nobile’s airplane parts shop in Valencia, to an 84-year-old former Air Force pilot who wanted to look at the jet engine block that was in the very same aircrafts he used to fly many years ago.

Even the president took a keen eye to his collection recently.

D-Day & Historical Society

A former Marine veteran who hires veterans, as well as an invested history buff, Nobile built his business from the floor up, literally.

“I started (learning about plane engines) pushing a broom on a factory floor,” Nobile said. “And I just started to learn more and more.”

Sun Air now regularly ships both replacement parts and custom fix jobs to clients all over the world.

For instance, when the planes used during the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the June 6, 1944, landing of Allied forces on Normandy beach in northern France, fly over the crowd of world leaders and veterans gathered on the beach once again this June, Dennis will look up and know what role he played in the historic commemoration.

Sun Air Parts owner Dennis Noble, right, stands with his grandsons, Jake, 17, left, and John, 20 next to a completely refurbished, vintage, DC-6 radial engine at Sun Air Parts in Valencia. Dan Watson/The Signal

“I’ll be in France for the ceremony… and a third of Douglas C-47 Skytrains used during the ceremony will have engine parts from us,” said Nobile.

Last month, Nobile had invited the Southwest Chapter of the Company of Military Historians to come and visit his vintage aircraft engines and view his rare variety of historical memorabilia, firearms and accoutrements.

Several of those in attendance said many of them had had seen vintage WWII aircraft at airshows, but Noble gave them the opportunity to see many of the rotary engines partly or entirely on display — because he likely built parts of the engines they saw at the air shows.

Nobile also shared with them a B-36 airplane, the largest mass-produced piston-engined aircraft ever built, which was capable of dropping a nuclear payload.

Donald Trump & Larry Rebman

In 2013, Nobile had statues commissioned that each be exactly identical to one another, and in the detailed likeness of the Iwo Jima Flag Raising.

“It took 18 months to create, cast, assemble and finish, and as you can tell, this is a beautiful bronze,” said Nobile. “I think the artist is a genius.”

The top of the last Marine’s helmet is 20 inches from the base, his arm is 24 inches high, the flag is 36 inches high and it is two feet in length.

Valencia residents, Sun Air Parts owner Dennis Noble, left, and Jim Hackett, Project Coordinator for The Greatest Generations Foundation prepare to ship a 240 pound bronze statue of the U.S. Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi on the Japanese held island of Iwo Jima, February 23, 1945. The bronze was commissioned by Noble and created by sculptor Dave Venell in 2015. Sun Air Parts donated the bronze to The Greatest Generations Foundation and four U.S. Marine survivors of the 55 day battle for Iwo Jima will present the statue to President Donald Trump at the White House on a date to be determined. Dan Watson/The Signal

“It weighs about 90 pounds,” he said.

He had five of them commissioned and he has two in his building, and he gave the other two away.

The fifth, six years after it was cast, will be presented to  President Donald Trump at the White House by 95-year-old Iwo Jima Veteran Jim Blane on behalf of Nobile and the Greatest Generation Foundation. The statue has already been packed up and shipped.

“They’re going to give it to him any day now,” said Nobile, who noted he wouldn’t be present when Trump is given the statue, but six Iwo Jima survivors will be. “Jim Hackett, a former captain in the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station and a Marine Corps. veteran will also be there.”

The president isn’t the only person who has received a gift from the vintage plane collector and manufacturer. Following the publication of a Signal portfolio done on him in honor of his time as an American pilot back during the 50’s, Santa Clarita resident 1st. Lt. Lawrence Rebman.

Spencer Hoglund, President Lock Stock & Barrel Investments describes the history of a painted WWII leather flight jacket that he brought to a meeting of the Southwest Chapter of the Company of Military Historians held at Sun Air Parts in Valencia on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

It had been decades since the last time Rebman had seen the engine of the R-1340 or Lockheed T-33 trainer, but only a few blocks from where he lived, he was invited by Nobile to come see one at Sun Air Parts.

As they walked around and exchanged jargon only the mechanics or pilots of these planes would understand, Rebman was visibly touched by the gesture.

“I always wanted to be independent, to have control over my situation. That’s what it felt like … that’s how I would describe flying,” Rebman said while describing his past life as a pilot.

The grandsons

Although John is 20 and a student at College of the Canyons and his younger brother Jake is only 17 and a student at Bowman High School, Nobile says he hopes to one day share his business with his grandsons.

Since they were kids, they have come to visit with their grandfather and see what he and his employees were making that day, learning the tricks of the trade from a very young age.

“I’m about the propellers right now,” said John, noting that he hopes to continue to grow in his knowledge of both the engines, and as well as his grandfather’s historical memorabilia collection.

Sun Air Parts owner, left, and Korean War era pilot Larry Rebman discuss fully refurbished R-1340 radial engine at Sun Air Parts in Valencia, the type that Rebman flew as a crop duster after leaving the U.S. Air Force. Dan Watson/The Signal

“It’s got to go to somebody” because my other family members are too busy to take over the Sun Air operation, said Nobile. “Sooner or later I’m going into the box, and if they’re here they can figure it out.”

They can take you on a tour of place, rattling off the various factoids of each historical and/or unique item on the airplane factory floor, with each interesting tidbit coming as fluidly and matter-of-factly as their grandfather had when he first told them as children.

“I work here a couple times a week,” said Jake. When asked what he tells his friends at school what his day job is, he doesn’t go into too much detail because they “wouldn’t believe” him.

Sun Air Parts owner Dennis Noble, left, and warehouse manger Jesus Mora prepare a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial engine for shipping to Finland to be used in the restoration of a vintage WWII C-47, twin engine transport plane which will become part of a flight of 50 C-47’s to fly over the D-Day Normandy beach in France to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944. Dan Watson/The Signal

They’re learning everything about the mechanics of pushing a broom to the inner-workings of a plane that won the Allies World War II. They’re being taught how to find a particular engine part — of which was decommissioned by the United States Air Forces decades before they were born — in the massive catalogue that is the Sun Air Parts storage rooms.

And in the same way they’re acclimating themselves to the minutiae of the family business, the grandsons are modeling themselves after their grandfather’s attitude and personality of having been fortunate to acquire these jaw-dropping things.

“It never gets old to me,” said John. “I mean, because everytime we bring someone back here they get that same look on their face of awe … And I get to experience that with them again, like I did when I was first here.”

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