2019 Planes of Fame Airshow

The 2019 Planes of Fame airshow was held on May 3 – 5 at the Chino Airport. This annual gathering of Warbird aircraft is always impressive and brings out the fighter aircraft heavy iron!

Prior to the show starting, the crowd is allowed to get up close and personal with the aircraft participating in the flying portion of the show on the hot ramp area. This year there were four hot ramp areas to walk. An impressive variety of aircraft were present from the early 1930’s to present day aircraft from the USAF and local police units. It is so neat to walk by these aerial titans and get to see them up close and personal. You get to see the variety of designs, the different paint schemes and the overall size of these airframes. It is a virtual history lesson with each and every aircraft practically since no one model is alike in this day and age. It is amazing to think that in just a short span of time, all of these aircraft will be flying and providing visual and audible bliss to those that enjoy aviation.

The Opening: Thunderbolts and Lightnings

P-47 Thunderbolts

This year, four Jugs participated in the flying, although on Sunday it was reduced to three due to a mechanical problem on “Snafu”. For many years, the P-47 was a rare aircraft. However, there are numerous examples now, with several more currently in restoration. The P-47s included:

  • “Snafu”
  • “Dottie Mae”
  • “Hairless Joe”
  • PoF’s unnamed Razorback

P-47D Thunderbolt
“Dottie Mae”

P-38 Lightnings

Two P-38s were in the air at this event. Planes of Fame’s “23 Skidoo” and Allied Fighter‘s “Honey Bunny”

P-38 Lightning
“Honey Bunny”

Late Morning: WWII ETO Aircraft

The late morning brought out the European Theatre of Operations aircraft. Aircraft from various West Coast museums were prominent, including Yanks Air Museum, Warhawk Air Museum, Palm Springs Air Museum, Commemorative Air Force – SoCal Wing, and of course Planes of Fame.

The demonstration included several C-47s full of paratroopers from the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team that jumped to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of 1944. Several P-40s and numerous P-51 Mustangs participated. Several notable oddities were witnessed (with explanation). PoF’s Pilatus P2-06 was painted in a German Luftwaffe camouflage scheme. Also the rare P-51A Mustang normally marked as “Mrs. Virginia” was painted in RCAF markings to commemorate Hollis Hills, an American serving in the RCAF, and credited with the first aerial victory in a P-51. Both aircraft were temporarily painted for movie use.

Intermisssion: Veteran Panel Discussion

Intermission is a special time at the show. Although traditionally a time that allows for food and restroom breaks or even a stop to a vendor table, this show is different. Every year, PoF brings in a group of veterans to speak about their experiences. The group is a diverse blend of veterans that varies from both sides.

This year, the highlight for me was Colonel Clarence “Bud” Anderson. During WW II, he flew P-51 Mustangs in the 357th Fighter Group and was a triple ace. After the war, he became a test pilot and later commanded a fighter squadron and eventually became a wing commander in Vietnam . Mr. Anderson is also known for being a close friend of Chuck Yeager. Bud Anderson also wrote a memoir of his aviation days, To Fly and Fight: Memoirs of a Triple Ace.

P-51 Mustang triple ace, Clarence “Bud” Anderson speaks during the veteran’s panel. He is America’s last living triple ace.

Early Afternoon: PTO WWII Aircraft

Flying resumed with the aircraft of the Pacific Theatre of Operations, including PoF’s original A6M5 “Zeke” and GossHawk Unlimited‘s PB4Y-2 Privateer. Fans of the radial engine growl were not disappointed. With numerous passes high and low, the audience got a fantastic view of the various types represented: fighters, dive bomber, medium bomber, torpedo bomber and heavy bomber.

Korean War Era

The Korean War era was well represented this year with a variety of aircraft. Korea occured at a time when the various services were transitioning from piston powered aircraft to jets. “Old” types like the P-51 and F4U were still operational and saw service early in the conflict. The US Navy had two newer aircraft on their decks, the AD-4 Skyraider and F7F Tigercat, while the Brits had the Sea Fury. The USAF used the F-80/T-33 Shooting Star and F-86. The Communist forces were also transitioning from piston power to turbines, moving from types like the YAK-3 to MIG-15.

This year, an A-26C Invader “Sweet Eloise” (44-34313/N4313) owned by Black Crow Aviation LLC represented the USAF medium bomber presence. Sadly, PoF’s F-86 was unable to participate due to mechanical issues.

Late Afternoon: Warbird Aerobatics

Stew Dawson F7F Tigercat Aerobatics

Stew Dawson put the F7F Tigercat “Here Kitty Kitty” owned by Lewis Air Legends thru an amazing aerobatic demonstration. The power and sound of the Tigercat is incredible.

Greg Coyler: Ace Makers Airshows T-33 Shooting Star

Greg “Wired” Colyer performed jet warbird acrobatics in his newly restored T-33 Shooting Star “Ace Maker III”. Greg is well known around the airshow industry and puts on a high energy demonstration in the Shooting Star. While not performing, Greg founded the nonprofit (501c-3) T-33 Heritage Foundation to help in the preservation of the type. Look for Greg at an airshow near you at the Ace Maker website.

Greg Colyer’s debuted his newest T-33 “Ace Maker III” at the Planes of Fame show.

Sanders Sea Fury Aerobatics

Frand Sanders performed a fantastic acro routine in the Sea Fury. The Sea Fury has smoke generators on each wing which provide beautiful vortice smoke trails. The climax of the routine is the down low and in close photo pass with the smoke on.

Reno Air Racing Demonstration

Returning in 2019, the Reno Air Racing Unlimited Division demo increased in size and included P-51s included “Voodoo”, “Strega” and “Goldfinger”. The lone Sea Fury was “Dreadnaught”. The demo included several hot laps and even included the opening by the PoF T-33.

Show Closing: USAF Heritage Flight

The close of the show includes the flight display by the USAF’s F-16 Viper demo team. Officially known as the “Fighting Falcon”, the F-16 is perhaps the most successful modern fighter aircraft and is also the aircraft used by the USAF Thunderbirds demonstration team.

After the high energy demo, the pace slows down to pay tribute to the heritage of the USAF. This show included a flight of arguably the service’s two most successful multirole aircraft, the P-47 Thunderbolt and the F-16 Viper.

Perhaps two of the America’s greatest multirole aircraft, the P-47 Thunderbolt and F-16 Fighting Falcon perform the USAF Heritage Flight.

Views around the field…

The Planes of Fame Airshow is a world class event, and certainly one of the best warbird shows in the United States. Sure, some aircraft are there each year, but you just never know what surprises may unfold. Besides the aircraft, it is always welcome to see friends that have become like family that you may only see once or twice a year.

It was refreshing to see politics set aside with the entire airport working together to make an incredible event possible. Cheers to an amazing show and I cannot wait till the next one.

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome – WWI Air Show 2019

In the small town of Red Hook, New York lies one of America’s true aviation treasures, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Founded by Cole Palen in 1958, the museum sought to preserve the flying history of the Pioneer (1900 -1913), WWI (1914 – 1918) and the Golden Age of Aviation (1919 – 1940). Mr. Palen ended up creating the first museum of flying antique aircraft in the United States.

What started out as six WWI aircraft has turned into a collection of over 60 aircraft, some originals and some replicas, spanning the years from 1900-1940. In addition to their collection of flying aircraft, the museum has a number of artifacts, static display aircraft, antique automobiles and motorcycles. They are even restoring a WWI era tank.

Each weekend from mid-June through October the Aerodrome comes alive with two distinct airshows. Saturday shows focus on the “History of Flight” while the Sunday shows focus on the WWI era aircraft.

I attended the WWI show on September 15, 2019.

Stepping back in time…

Once you park and cross the street, you enter into the Aerodrome area. You pay for your admission and the fun begins. The Aerodrome is set up like a small airfield in the early days of flight. Hangars of various size are placed around the field. These hangars house the museum’s flying aircraft. Usually the vacant hangars have their aircraft on the field for the day’s flight. The hangars with aircraft inside are usually from the opposite day’s show, but are open for your visual inspection. The restoration area is a fun place to go to have a look. The hanagars also have a theme to them, the early era flight companies like Curtiss, Fokker and Ryan Flying Company for example.

The flying aircraft are usually towed out first and placed on the flight line. After those machines are out, the vintage automobiles and motorcycles are brought out for a little ride around the field. After you get through looking into the hangars, the announcement is made that the show is about to start.

The Show Opens…

The Air Show begins in traditional barnstorming fashion…some fancy stick work resulting in some razzle and dazzle of the aircraft. This time was the De Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth, an original aircraft and built in 1934.

The aircraft takes off and climbs up a few hundred feet. Then at show center, a roll of toilet paper is thrown overboard. The goal is for the aircraft to cut the paper ribbon numerous times before getting too low to the ground to be safe. This shows just how nimble the aircraft is and the skill set of the pilot.

After the Tiger Moth came down, a second aircraft went up to beat the previous pilot’s TP Banner score. This show, the second aircraft was the 1942 Fleet Finch 16-B, another of the museum’s aircraft that is an original version. Sadly, I did not make note of which aircraft was more successful.

A Brief Glimpse into Aircraft Development: 1910 Hanriot

Although the theme of the Sunday show is WWI, the museum brings out their 1910 Hanriot (a reproduction) to show just how fast the airplane developed in the short span of time.

The aircraft looks fragile and dangerous, and it turns out to be true. Take a close look and you see the infancy of aircraft design and the lack of pilot safety features. The plane taxied by for a close look, then lined up for take off. The plane did indeed get airborne, but only to an altitude of about 10-15 feet. Although capable of higher flight, safety is paramount and simply to show it is indeed capable of flying.

The Fokkers: D.VII and D.VIII

The collection of WWI aircraft come out shortly after the aerobatics. This visit brought out the Fokker D.VII biplane and the improved D.VIII monoplane. Both aircraft came into service with the German Air Force in 1918.

The D.VII came into service in April, 1918 and was vastly underestimated as an adversary due to the square look and thick wings. The aircraft quickly became respected and earned the reputation as a serious fighter aircraft. It turned out to be fast and highly maneuverable, both important attributes in a fighter aircraft. Herman Goring, the head of the German Luftwaffe in WWII, flew the type and claimed many of his victories in the D.7. The aircraft was so respected at the end of WW I that the Armistice Treaty included a provision that all of the remaining D.VII airframes be turned over to the Allies.

The D.VIII monoplane came into service in July, 1918. It was nicknamed the “Flying Razor” by allied pilots. The aircraft had a number of issues early on in development, but eventually became known as an agile aircraft and easy to handle. The type has the place in history as the last type to score an aerial victory in WWI. The D.8 has a truly unique sound due to the rotary engine powering it.

The Sopwith Scout

I was pleasantly surprised to see this aircraft on the flight line when I arrived. The aircraft was still being restored during my previous visits. The official name of the aircraft is listed above, but it is more commonly known as the “Pup”. The type entered service in 1916 and was considered a good airplane to fly, but not an exceptional fighter design. It was outclassed by the larger and more powerful German aircraft.

The SPAD VII

The SPAD VII came into service in late 1916 and early 1917. It was hoped to be the aircraft to end the dominance of the German Albatross over the skies of the battlefront. The type was replacing the nimble and popular Nieuport 11 and Nieuport 16 designs. However, German designs were also rapidly improving. The Spad 7 held the aerial lines and gave the pilots time to develop new tactics with the heavier and more structurally sound airframe. The type was later replaced by the Spad 8 on the front lines. However, the type was well respected and used as a trainer by various countries for many years after the war.

The Fokker Dr.1 and the Black Baron

Likely the most recognized aircraft of WWI is the Fokker Dr. 1 triplane and is synonymous with the German Ace, Manfred Von Richthofen. The type entered service in 1917 and was considerably more maneuverable than existing German designs at the time and was well armed.

Playing the part, the Baron of the Aerodrome is the Black Baron.

The Showdown…

The Black Baron challenged Sir Percy to an aerial duel for the right to the hand of the lovely maiden, Trudy Truelove. The Baron chose the Fokker Dr.1 while Sir Percy chose the Sopwith. In the end, Sir Percy prevailed and married his lady.

The Cast

Take a flight!

Not only do you get to see history while at the Aerodrome, you can also experience history first hand. Prior to the formal air show, and for a short time after, you can purchase a flight aboard the Museum’s 1929 New Standard D-25. The aircraft has seating for up to four passengers and the flight lasts for about 15 minutes.

Around the Aerodrome

The field is full of fun things to look at and enjoy. The day passes quickly, too quickly for my tastes. The day is so action packed that all of sudden the sun is getting low and it is time to go.

If you have never had the chance to experience this fantastic place, you should make a point to visit. The atmosphere is fun and inviting with an equally friendly staff. It is an affordable and entertaining family event. Some times the aircraft lineup changes due to maintenance or other reason. You just never know what exactly will be in the air that day. And that is part of the fun.

I only briefly described the air show and the contents. This time I focused on the aircraft primarily. There is so much more for you to see and do. Come out and see it for yourself!

Next time I plan to see the History of Flight show to change things up. I cannot wait till that day! I will probably enjoy it so much that I may just have to go back the next day!

2019 National Cherry Festival Air Show

The 2019 National Cherry Festival Air Show was held over the scenic Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City, Michigan on June 28-29. This year, the show featured the USAF Thunderbirds, F-22 Raptor Demo, USAF Heritage Flight, USMC AV-8 Harrier II Demo and the USCG Search And Rescue (SAR) Demo featuring two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters from Air Station Traverse City.

USAF Thunderbirds

The USAF Thunderbirds were the featured performer of the National Cherry Festival Air Show. This was the first time I have seen the Thunderbirds perform here and the first time over the water. Some of the maneuvers were still as close as a traditional show, while others seemed to be farther. Regardless, it was a beautiful performance and well executed. The Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay served as the show center line.

USMC AV-8B Harrier II Demo

The AV-8B demo is becoming a rare occurrence with the aircraft type nearing retirement. Although the jet is being replaced in the fleet by the F-35B, the Harrier is still an impressive machine and will be around for a few more years. The Harrier is known for being a loud aircraft while hovering, and over the water was no exception. The high pitch shrill of the air is mind numbing. The aircraft is not known for its overall speed, but it is truly amazing to see the jet go from a standstill hover to just shy of the speed of sound in a matter of less than a minute. It is also amazing to see it slow down to a hover. This ability to take off and land vertically allows it to be deployed by the USMC near the front lines or off of assault carriers to be available for air support in a matter of minutes. This ability to be close to the action is why the Marines insisted on a VTOL variant of the F-35 when replacement of the Harrier was discussed. I am hoping that this was not my last view of this legendary aircraft.

USAF F-22 Raptor Demo

The USAF sent their premier air superiority fighter, the F-22 to perform for the large Cherry Festival audience. The F-22 is now over ten years old, but still amazes me every time it is flying. The aircraft is capable of things that a traditional fighter jet are unable to do. Saturday’s performance was scrubbed after a few maneuvers due to a technical glitch with the aircraft. For the safety of the crew and the thousands of onlookers, it was decided to scratch the rest of the demo, including the Heritage Flight. What we did get to see was still impressive.

USCG SAR Demo

For me, the highlight of the show was the USCG Search and Rescue (SAR) demo. Primarily because it was my first time seeing it performed with the MH-60T Jayhawks. This is an important role that the Coast Guard is responsible for and covers a vast area of space. Air Station Traverse City is responsible for all of Lake Michigan, most of Lake Superior and all of Lake Huron. In total, Air Station Traverse City is responsible for air operations over eight states.

If you have never experienced the National Cherry Festival or the Grand Traverse Bay area of Michigan, you are missing out. The event is a fantastic family affair with a number of attractions that appeal to everyone. Thanks for a great time and I look forward to returning.

A special shout out of gratitude to Susan Wilcox Olson (Media Consultant) and Wayne Moody (Air Show Event Director) for the last second media accommodations which resulted in a fantastic vantage point.

2019 National Warplane Museum Airshow – “The Greatest Show on Turf”

The 2019 National Warplane Museum Airshow took place on July 12 – 14th and brought in a nice selection of warbird aircraft . Featured performers included the USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II demo, Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team and the Alabama Boys comedy routine by the talented Greg Koontz.

B-17 Flying Fortress “Movie Memphis Belle”

The National Warplane Museum leased the B-17 Flying Fortress “Movie Memphis Belle” to take to events and for riders to purchase flight experiences. She is a replica copy of the first 8th AF Bomber crew to complete their tour of 25 missions. The aircraft starred in the movie “The Memphis Belle” and has been a huge hit on the airshow scene for a number of years. She looks “rough” but that is part of her appeal. She looks like a B-17 used almost daily during the 8th AF bombing campaign. The Movie Belle is nearly a visual replica of the original, but there are two main differences. Can you spot the differences? If so, drop me a note…I know ’em!

Canadian Harvard Formation Team

The Canadian Harvard Formation Team performed their routine. Looking as sharp as ever, the yellow Harvard aircraft put on a routine that is impressive considering how demanding the aircraft is to fly. Pilots always said that if you can handle a Harvard (Texan in America), you can handle any of the fighter aircraft of the era.

C-47 Skytrains / C-53 Skytrooper

The National Warplane Museum’s own C-47 “Whiskey 7” led a handful of C-47s and a C-53 in a tribute to the 75th Anniversary of the D-day Invasion. Several of the aircraft were on the return leg of their trip back from recent festivities at Normandy Beach in France. Several on display were nice to see and a total surprise to see them.

B-25 Mitchells “Champaign Gal” and “Miss Hap”

Two B-25s were in attendance, “Champaign Gal” from the Champaign Aviation Museum and “Miss Hap” from the American Airpower Museum. Miss Hap was the fourth B-25 off of the assembly line and is the oldest surviving B-25. Another notable is that the airframe was the personal transport of General Hap Arnold.

P-40 Warhawk “American Dream”

The TP-40N Warhawk “American Dream” from Warbird Adventures was the lone P-40 present. The P-40 has a strong history in the western New York area since they were designed and built by Curtiss-Wright, with the factory located in Buffalo, NY. “American Dream” has been modified with dual controls, which allows for a passenger and the ability for the passenger to pilot the aircraft. This configuration is extremely rare and is the only commercially available P-40 for dual instruction.

F4U/FG-1D Corsair “GodSpeed”

Goodyear built Corsair “GodSpeed” is painted in tribute to Marine Aviator, John Glenn. Charlie Lynch was at the controls both days and performed an excellent aerobatic demonstration of the Corsair’s abilities.

P-40 & Corsair Formation

Charlie Lynch and Thom Richards joined up for several fantastic photo passes in the P-40 & Corsair.

P-51 Mustangs “Swamp Fox” and “Mad Max”

Two P-51 Mustangs were on hand for Geneseo 2019. P-51D “Swamp Fox” owned and operated by RT Dickson and TF-51D “Mad Max” owned and operated by Louis Horschel.

Around the field

If you have never experienced the Geneseo show, it is a must for Warbird enthusiasts and is an amazing experience. To see aircraft on the grass as they would have been in the 1930s and 1940s is just special. Geneseo also seems to be full of surprises and acts you would not expect at a Warbird show. Pictured below are a Beech Staggerwing, TBM Avenger, Stearman, A-10C from the USAF A-10 Demo Team, and the ever entertaining Greg Koontz.

Thanks for a great time Geneseo, hopefully see you in 2020!

2019 Thunder Over Michigan

The 2019 Thunder Over Michigan Airshow took place on August 3-4, 2019 at the Willow Run Airport and hosted by the Yankee Air Museum. This year’s theme was “Corsair Crazy” and was billed as the largest gathering of Corsairs since active duty use of the aircraft in WWII.

Many of my colleagues and friends were skeptical of the show. Sadly, several years were disappointing due to poor weather or mechanical issues that prevented attendance of some of the featured aircraft. However, 2019 was NOT that year. The weather was good and the Corsairs showed up to perform! The magic sound of the mighty Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radial engines flooded our ears and the blue “bent wing birds” thrilled our eyes. In total, 11 Corsairs of different varieties appeared. Only several cancelled due to maintenance and/or landing mishaps prior to the event. Still, having eleven machines in one spot was simply amazing and a sight to behold. And that does not include the other “heavy iron” brought in for the show!

Corsairs on the ground…

10 of the 11 Corsairs in attendance run up prior to the aerial display on Sunday

Corsair photo passes…

Corsair flat passes…

Corsair landing passes…

Pinups

One of the fun things about Thunder Over Michigan is the abundance of reenactors and pinups that play along and let people to photograph them. Two of my favorites returned for 2019, Miss Blonde Ambition, and Miss Yankee Belle. Check out their Instagram pages for more shots!

P-51 Mustangs

A handful of P-51 Mustangs attended and several flew over the weekend. Merlin music to the ears!

B-25 Mitchells

Several B-25 Mitchells attended, including Yankee Air Museum’s own B-25, “Yankee Warrior” and “Georgie’s Gal” owned by the Liberty Aviation Museum.

The Class of ’45

The Class of ’45 demo is flown by Scott Yoak and Jim Tobul. Scott flies the P-51D Mustang “Quick Silver” and Jim Tobul flies the F4U-4 Corsair “Korean War Hero”. Arguably, these two aircraft are the most popular American fighter airframes from WWII and are subject to endless debates over which was superior. It is incredible to see these icons in the air and in their element.

Interestingly, the pilots both have a similar experience – restoring their aircraft with their fathers. Jim restored the F4U with his father Joe and the airframe is a combat veteran with over 200 missions over Korea. Scott restored his Mustang with his father Bill, and is an airframe made up of parts from over 200 other Mustangs. Full details of the aircraft are on their website: Class of ’45.

The demo includes solo aerobatics in each aircraft and wonderfully close and low photo passes. Then the two join and make several tight photo passes. The finale includes a show center crossover maneuver that is similar to those of the military jet teams.

Military Heavy Iron

Although primarily a warbird show, Thunder Over Michigan also usually produces an abundance of interest from the military. This year was no exception. The USAF sent the F-16 Viper demo team which tore up the skies. The RCAF brought the CC-130 Hercules for a demo and several F-15E Eagles came from Mountain Home AFB in Montana. The F-15 crews were both all female. Those ladies were enjoying their time in the air and provided some nice burner and vapes! I certainly miss the F-15 and F-15E demo teams. The Air Force also brought four AT-6 Texan IIs and they did several wonderful formation passes. The German Luftwaffe also participated again, sending an A400M Atlas cargo plane to participate in the static display.

Sunday we were treated to the departure of two F/A-18-G Growlers and the CH-47 Chinook from the Michigan Army National Guard.

Thunder Over Michigan was fun and enjoyed by my friends and family. I am eager to see what 2020 brings. Check out the Yankee Air Museum for details about the museum, purchasing rides on one of their aircraft and the Thunder Over Michigan Airshow.

A special thanks goes out to the Thunder Over Michigan team for their hard word on this show, and especially to Yankee Air Museum’s Executive Director, Kevin Walsh, for the hospitality and support of my photojournalism work.

2019 MCAS Miramar Airshow

The Original Home of “Top Gun”

I have always wanted to go to Miramar, and in September of 2019, I finally made it happen. The Miramar show has historically been impressive and highly attended. This year the lineup was stacked since the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows Flight Demonstration Team included Miramar as one of the final stops on their 2019 North American Tour along with the other performers that included the US Navy Blue Angels, the USAF F-16 Viper demo, and the Heritage Flight. Not to be outdone, the Marine MAGTF demo is impressive on its own.

Sadly, the weather did not want to cooperate and provided gray skies and rain on and off for the first two days of the event. However, that did not prevent the Marines from Miramar or the other performers from putting on an incredible show. Sunday’s show was the beautiful blue skies I had hoped for and the Marines brought out all the stops for the final day!

MCAS Miramar is a huge facility, and is located just outside of downtown San Diego, California. The static display was well stocked and the Marine Squadrons stationed at Miramar had tables and tents set up near their aircraft to sell their squadron geedunk. The display was so large that I did not even get to see the entire static ramp. Hard to believe, but the flying starts early and there was simply so much to see and do that you cannot hit it all.

I really enjoyed this show and will plan on coming back regularly now. San Diego is a fun city and I plan to post some of the tourist stops I made on this trip in another post.

The US Marines MAGTF Demo

The MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) is a demonstration of the Marine’s air and ground forces across the missions assigned to the Marines. This includes fixed wing assets such as the KC-130 Hercules, F-35B Lightning II, and F/A-18C Hornets, tilt rotor V-22 Ospreys, and rotor assets such as the AH-1W Cobra, UH-1W Huey and massive CH-53 Sea Stallion. Armor and riflemen were also flown in to simulate ground forces.

The demo was impressive and one could not feel anything but patriotic after watching. The crowd cheered and the Marines that participated enjoyed every clap and cheer. Truly the highlight of the event.

F-35B Lightning II

At the conclusion of the MAGTF Demo, the Marines did a brief solo demonstration of the F-35B Lightning II, the STVOL version of the airframe. The F-35 is a loud aircraft, likely the loudest in service today. The “B” is no exception, but does not have the high shrill sound of the AV-8B Harrier it is replacing the in Marine fleet. The aircraft is just incredible and I enjoyed seeing the STOVL capabilities. The squadron performing was the VMFA-211 Wake Island Avengers (stationed at MCAS Yuma) and part of MAG-13 stationed at Miramar.

USAF F-16 Viper Demo and Heritage Flight

The Viper demo performed a solo demonstration of the F-16 Viper as well participated in the Heritage Flight with Planes of Fame’s F-86 Sabre.

Warbirds from Planes of Fame and CAF SoCal

Although the show is billed as a “burner” show (slang for shows that feature modern military aircraft), it also featured some of the aircraft from the Planes of Fame Museum in nearby Chino and a freshly repainted Wildcat from the CAF SoCal Wing.

Southern California Fire Fighting

Another incredible demonstration (and a first for me) was the local aerial firefighting equipment, which included the massive Erickson S-64 Skycrane. and 2 converted UH-1 Hueys. Southern California is very dry and susceptible to large wildfires. Having aerial fire fighting equipment is essential to fighting these large fires.

Royal Air Force Red Arrows

It is always a treat to see one of the European jet teams since North American tours are usually once every 10-15 years. When they announced the tour, I immediately started looking to find a location to see them. I last saw them in 2008, and they performance made a lasting impression on me. Their show is impressive and action packed. Our jet teams are fantastic due to the pure muscle and brawn of their jets. The Red Arrows are graceful and elegant, yet still have some maneuvers that impress. However, one thing that this team has over the North American jet teams is the colored smoke. It is so beautiful to see the red, white and blue trailing behind the aircraft.

One last thing about the Red Arrows. In 2008, I had the opportunity to meet several of the pilots and crew. Once again in 2019 I had the same opportunity. These men and women were nothing but friendly and happy to answer all of the questions being sent their way. They had free things to hand out to the kids and adults to better understand the team and their goodwill mission to North America. The team was under major stress and away from home for a long stretch. You would never know it given the level of professionalism presented by these fine people. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Red Arrows and will follow them again when the opportunity arises!

US Navy Blue Angels

The Navy’s flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels were the headline act and were equally impressive as their RAF colleagues. The team was sharp and performed in some difficult skies. Not too much to say about arguably the world’s most widely recognized and respected jet team other than SIMPLY THE BEST!

US Army Golden Knights

The US Army’s parachute demonstration team performed the parachute demonstrations for the event. Some of their jumps were scrubbed due to low ceilings. However, Sunday was flawless and allowed for jumps. Two notable additions to the 2019 team was the 60th Anniversary canopies and a new jump platform, the DHC-8-300.

Around the Airfield

Sometimes you have to miss the aerial action to catch some of the fun things that happen on the ground. In this instance, I was able to catch several of the squadron vehicles delivering the next rotation of staff to the squadron tents or merchandise tucked away for sale.

More California Tail

A capture of some of the various squadron tails.

2019 NAS LEMOORE AIRSHOW

NAS Lemoore opened its doors to the public September 21-22, 2019 for their first airshow since 2011. This was my first time out to NAS Lemoore and the base was nothing like I expected – especially for a Navy base. The base is located in the heart of California’s Central Valley, and is a huge complex. The base is so large that it has two separate areas. One is the command portion, and the other is the operations section. Unlike the other military bases I have been to, there is no surrounding city. The base is actually in the middle of farm land, literally in the middle of nowhere. NAS Lemoore and “Nowhere” turned out to be an oasis of excitement and an excellent experience.

The show was headlined by the Navy’s Blue Angels and also included performances by the Patriot Jet Team, demos by the F-15 Eagle and F-35C Lightning II, a tactical demonstration by aircraft of the fleet, civilian warbird performances by Skyhawk 518, Greg Colyer in his T-33 “Ace Maker” and CAF SoCal Wing brought their F6F Hellcat, P-51 Mustang, F8F Bearcat, Zero and PBJ-1J Mitchell. The static display was full of aircraft from the base’s squadrons except VFA-25 and VFA-86, which were deployed. The fleet’s newest aircraft, the F-35C Lightning II, was on display both in the air and on static display with aircraft from VFA-125 and VFA-147.

THE FLEET AIR POWER DEMO

The fleet air power demo included aircraft from VFA-2 Bounty Hunters, VFA-151 Vigilantes, VFA-14 Top Hatters, VFA-125 Rough Raiders (Saturday only) and VFA-147 Argonauts (Sunday only).

F-35C LIGHTNING II DEMO

The Navy surprised the crowd with the first public F-35C Lightning II demo. Although not officially a formal demonstration yet, the routine used is the prototype for the 2020 airshow season which is rumored to be the first official year of the Navy’s F-35C Demo Team. The aircraft is powerful and the display was very aggressive with numerous afterburner passes and high-g turns. The F-35 certainly has to be the loudest jet currently flying. No complaints from me though. I love the sound of Freedom’s Thunder.

COMMEMORATIVE AIR FORCE – SOCAL WING

Commemorative Air Force – SoCal Wing brought several of their warbirds to NAS Lemoore for display and participation in the flying portion of the show. The aircraft included the F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat, P-51 Mustang, A6M Zero and PBJ Mitchell. The aircraft flew multiple passes, including solos and several different formations. A top notch collection showcased by pilots that know how to show them off.

US NAVY LEGACY FLIGHT

The Navy’s Legacy Flight was performed by two F/A-18 Super Hornets from VFA-122 Flying Eagles and Rich Sugden flying his FJ-4B Fury. The Fury is the only flying example of the type. The aircraft was damaged after a wheels up landing several weeks later and will require a lengthy repair period.

F-15C EAGLE – CALIFORNIA AIR NATIONAL GUARD

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the F-15 Eagle demo flown on Saturday. California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing presented their specially marked F-15 for the occasion. The paint scheme is a celebration of the unit’s 75th Anniversary. It was AWESOME to see and hear the mighty F-15 again. Once a staple of the US airshow circuit, seeing an F-15 is becoming extremely rare and almost non-existent in the air.

PATRIOT JET TEAM

This was the first time I saw the Patriot Jet Team and was extremely surprised at how much I enjoyed their demo. The team is made up of former USAF Thunderbirds and USN Blue Angels pilots. Accordingly, I expected a show similar to the military teams. However, the show was more like a performance by the European military jet teams and included colored smoke. The flight performances were well executed and had an equally well done narration. I am now a huge fan of the Patriot Jet Team!

US NAVY BLUE ANGELS

What can I write that has not already been said a million times prior about the Blue Angels? Nothing…so check these images out and see a brief glimpse of the talent and skill that make them arguably the most popular military jet team in the world! FLY NAVY!

NAS LEMOORE RESCUE

Besides hosting the Navy’s West Coast fighter jet squadrons, the Navy also has several MH-60 Seahawks based at NAS Lemoore for rescue purposes. These Naval Aviators provide assistance locating and retrieving downed flyers when a tragedy occurs. However, these crews also help the local first responders when necessary. The local area is mountainous and relatively uninhabited. The unit’s skill set is ideal to assist when local resources are limited and time is of the essence.

The NAS Lemoore Seahawk crews provided an example of a search and rescue (SAR) demo, including a narration of why certain techniques are used. Well done Sailors! FLY NAVY!

KENT PIETCH

Kent Pietch is likely my favorite civilian performer on the circuit. Sure, I have seen his act many times, I have photographed for his team, and I have ridden along in the vehicle he lands on when performing the truck top landing. Yet, the talent and execution make this one hell of a performance – every time! Personally, Kent is a class act and after watching what he can do with an aircraft not really designed to be an airshow star, you have no doubt he is a leader in the industry.

CALIFORNIA TAIL

Photos of the F/A-18 tails on hand at the show. Love the CAG Bird colors…hopefully the tradition will continue. If not now, in the near future.

AROUND THE FIELD

2018 Airshow London

The 2018 Airshow London took place on September 7-9 at the London International Airport.

This year’s show was memorable for the number of aircraft participating as well as the weather. As you will see below, the various types of aircraft present were impressive. The total amount of aircraft were around 70, and the show was promoted as the largest display of military aircraft in Canada for 2018. The static display area was well done with aircraft all over the airport, with many of the larger aircraft open for tours and pilots near the fighter aircraft. What made this show impressive was the amount of aircraft participating via fly-bys, both from the RCAF and USAF. These fly-bys made seeing the impressive F-22, A-10 and F/A-18E Super Hornet possible.

The oddity of the weekend was the weather. Friday was beautiful, but clouds began to roll in later in the afternoon. It became cloudy for the Friday evening “Hour of Power” event, which was meant to showcase the arrivals of some of the jet aircraft. Saturday’s weather was partly sunny, with the temperatures dropping off significantly. Sunday’s weather was downright terrible, with no sunshine whatsoever and the temperatures were in high 40s and piercing winds. Certainly not the normal weather cycle for that time of year.

Arrivals and Friday Night’s “Hour of Power”

A USN P-8 Poseidon arrived and put on a nice show with several touch-n-go landings prior to landing.
A-10s from the Michigan Air National Guard opened the Hour of Power event.
CF-18 Hornet in the twilight of the Hour of Power
The afterburners were easy to spot during the RCAF CF-18 demo to conclude the Friday evening Hour of Power
Several F-15E Eagles from Seymour Johnson AFB arrived for the Hour of Power.
Two F/A-18E Super Hornets from VFA-143 “Pukin Dogs” arrived during the Hour of Power. VFA-143 is based out of NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, VA.

107th Fighter Squadron “Red Devils”

Several A-10 Warthogs from the 107th Fighter Squadron participated in all three days of the event. The jets are based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in nearby Mt. Clemens, Michigan. Although the aircraft design is 50 years old, the A-10 remains the premier air-to-ground weapon system in the world.

RCAF CC-130 Hercules SAR Demo

A CC-130 Hercules from the 424 Tiger Squadron performed a search and rescue (SAR) demonstration. The SAR mission is extremely important given the vast open space of Canada. The 424 Squadron is based out of CFB Trenton and are the primary search and rescue squadron for the central and eastern coast of Canada. Their coverage ranges from the Canada/USA border all the way to the North Pole, and goes from Quebec City to the Rocky Mountains – an area that covers over 10 million square kilometers! A SAR team can deploy with 30-minutes notice during the week and up to two hours if an incident occurs during the weekend.

The 424 Squadron flies the CC-130H model of the Hercules. Note the crew dangling their feet off the open ramp!

USAF F-22 Raptor

Two F-22 Raptors from the 325th Fighter Wing based at Tyndall AFB came to London to participate in the fly-by portion of the show. Since this was not an official demonstration of the jet, we were treated to some afterburner passes and some tight vertical pulls, which produced some nice vapor.

RCAF CF-118 Hornets

Two different CF-18s participated in the show making several fly-by passes with nice vapor and burners.

These jets were from 425 Tac (F) Sqn 3 Wing based at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta.

Paul Keppler’s F-86 Sabre

The F-86 Sabre is painted to represent Capt. James Jabbara, the USAF’s first ace. By the end of the Korean War, Jabbara had downed 15 MiGs, making him a triple ace.

Jet Aircraft Museum’s T-133 Shooting Star “Red Knight”

The Jet Aircraft Museum is based at the London International Airport and their mission is to preserve and display aircraft and other artifacts representing the RCAF from the early years of the jet age RCAF.

The beautifully restored “Red Knight” made its first public appearance at the 2018 show. Just days earlier, it made its first post-restoration flight on August 26th. The jet had spent several years in a full restoration with the generous help of numerous private and corporate donations along with approximately 1200 hours of volunteer labor to put the jet back into pristine condition.

The Red Knight started as an RCAF Training Command solo display of the CT-133 back in early 1958. Later that year, the formal Red Knight made its debut at the 1958 Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. The jet was refinished into the overall red scheme by the Trenton air maintainers. The Red Knight performed annually through 1969, and 17 different pilots.

The only difference to the original paint scheme is the Maple Leaf logo on the underside. This was added in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation and inspired by the 2017 CF-118 Hornet Demonstration Team.

Canadian Forces Skyhawks Parachute Demonstration Team

The Skyhawks are Canada’s official parachute demonstration team. With the low ceilings, the team did not get to participate with full demonstrations. However, the team did fly in the respective flags of Canada and the United States.

USAF F-16 Viper Demonstration Team

The USAF brought the F-16 demonstration team to showcase the multi-role lightweight fighter. Although the Viper has been in service for a number of years, it is still one of the most versatile production aircraft the world.

The F-16 Viper Demo team performed the USAF Heritage Flight along with a WWII era P-51 Mustang

RCAF 431 Demonstration Squadron – The Snowbirds

The Snowbirds are the Canadian Forces jet team, performing in the CT-114 Tutor.

RCAF History, one of the original demonstration aircraft and the current RCAF Jet Demonstration Team

Civilian Performers

The civilian performers were represented by Pete McLeod and Mike Tryggvason. Pete McLeod is from the London, Ontario area is is currently a participant in the Red Bull Air Races. Pete flies an Extra 300. Mike flies a Giles 202 is a relative new comer onto the airshow circuit.

RCAF CF-118 Hornet Demonstration Team and Heritage Flight

The theme to the 2018 Demonstration Team is a tribute to commemorating the 60th anniversary of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). 

CF-188 Hornet demo pilot Capt. Stefan Porteous waves to the crowd as he taxis after his performance.

The Hornet demo team joined up with the JAM Museum’s CT-133 Shooting Star and performed an all jet Heritage Flight. Two stunning paint schemes in the sky at the same time!

Jet Air Museum’s recently restored T-33 leads the RCAF CF-188 Hornet during the Heritage Flight.
Jet Air Museum’s debuted its newly restored T-33 “Red Knight” leads the Capt. Stefan Porteous in the CF-188 Hornet for the RCAF Heritage Flight.

Around the field

Just a few of the fighter tails on static display at 2018 Airshow London. Tails include F-15E, F-16, F-35C and F-35A.

VFA-41 Black Aces 2018-2019 Cruise Video

Enjoy the 2018-2019 cruise video from VFA-41 Black Aces. The Black Aces currently fly the F/A-18F Super Hornet out of NAS Lemoore, and are one of the more iconic squadrons in the US Navy.

VFA-41 CAG Jet

I was able to see the VFA-41 CAG jet while attending the 2019 NAS Lemoore airshow. It was impossible to get a quality photo of the jet due to the placement, but I was able to capture both sides of the tails, which was the only deviation from the standard USN gray paint scheme.

Unlike some squadrons who keep the CAG jet painted similarly for several years, the VFA-41 CAG jet paint scheme has already been redone for 2020. I am eager to see it in person or at least in their next cruise video.

My Ride In Yankee Air Museum’s B-25D Mitchell “Yankee Warrior”

In August, 2018 I had the opportunity to take a ride on the Yankee Air Museum’s B-25D Mitchell. This ride was special in several ways, and it was something I had been dreaming about doing since I was a kid. This specific aircraft was likely the first flying “warbird” I ever encountered. I first saw “Yankee Warrior” back in the mid-1980s at the local Muskegon Air Fair, the main airshow near my home town. Although at the time it was known as “Gallant Warrior”. Every year it seemed to be there, and it was always one I snapped a quick photo of the nose art using my Kodak 110 camera.  As my knowledge of WWII history and the B-25’s importance to the war effort increased, so did my desire to fly in one. The dream has finally come true.

B-25D Mitchell “Yankee Warrior” at the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s WWII Weekend Airshow

Aircraft History

Unlike many of the other flying B-25s, this is an early D model. The difference between the early and late models is easily distinguished. On the earlier models, like “Yankee Warrior”, the top turret is located in the rear third of the fuselage, and the tail gun station is merely an observation bubble with a single machine gun. On later models, the turret was moved to just behind the cockpit to allow for waist gunners, and a formal tail gunner’s position was created.

The B-25 was made famous by the “Doolittle Raid” of April, 1942. Sixteen B-25s took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and made the first strikes against mainland Japan. Although the strikes did minimal damage, the impact to the Japanese defense strategy was immense. Additionally, the raid provided a much-needed boost to the morale of the American public.

Yankee Warrior was produced by the North American plant on December 15, 1943 as serial number 43-3634 and was originally destined to be a part of the Royal Air Force (RAF) lend-lease program. Instead the USAAF took possession and assigned it to the 12th Air Force in Corsica, Italy. The aircraft was assigned to the 57th Bomber Wing, 340th Bomber Group, and flew eight combat missions between April and May 1944. The journey to the RAF began on May 12, 1944 when the aircraft was flown back to the United States. The RAF took possession of the aircraft in October 1944 and assigned the airframe to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Vancouver, British Columbia as a multi-engine trainer. The airframe remained in RCAF service until 1962, and was sold as surplus. After briefly flying in Canadian civil registry, the aircraft was sold to an American and brought to Ohio. Glen Lamont purchased the aircraft from the owner in Ohio in July of 1968 and the registered the aircraft as N3774 with the FAA, the code which remains today. Mr. Gallant had the nose art painted and the aircraft became known as “Gallant Warrior”. In 1988, the fledgling Yankee Air Force (now known as the Yankee Air Museum) purchased the B-25 to add to the museum’s flying collection. The aircraft was later renamed to “Yankee Warrior”.

Flight

The day of my flight was warm with minimal overcast skies. My partner for the ride was my daughter, Samantha, along with three other passengers. We were shuttled out to the active side of the airport and given a planeside safety briefing. The briefing was short yet provided all of the safety needs for the aircraft. Me, Samantha and one other passenger were assigned to start the flight in the aft section of the aircraft. Sammy and I took position near the waist windows while the other fella took the tail gunners seat in the very aft of the aircraft behind the top turret.  The other two riders started out in the radio operator and bombardier positions in the front of the aircraft.

Safety Briefing under the wing. Photo by Kerry J. Newstead

Once everyone was seated and the safety belts were inspected, the all clear signal was given and the two large R-2600 Double Cyclone radial engines coughed to life. As the engines warmed up, the loud backfires could be heard and felt. The B-25 has a reputation as being a very loud aircraft inside, and it is one I can confirm! The engines are mounted close to the fuselage and have a “short stack” exhaust system. The minimal sound muffling of the engine exhaust lead to many of the aircrews having some degree of hearing loss after numerous flights on the aircraft.  Although loud, I loved it. Reluctantly, we placed the ear protection over our ears and waited to taxi for takeoff. After a brief taxi, we were ready to go. The engines were run up to full power and the brakes were released. The Mitchell began to climb as the wheels retracted into the gear nacelles behind the engines. We leveled off and were cleared to explore the other aircrew positions. The fuselage in the Mitchell is narrow, with little room to move easily about.

Samantha is ready to go!

The real challenge was to move into the forward compartments or stay put. Between the forward cabin and the rear is the bomb bay. The only way between is a small rectangular tunnel that can only be traversed while on your back. I am a big guy, so there was no way I was going to risk getting stuck. However, Sammy swallowed deep and decided to go for it. She climbed up and a few seconds later was into the forward crew compartments. She climbed down into the cockpit area and between the pilot and co-pilot into the bombardier’s position in the glass nose. Also known as the best seat in the house! Meanwhile, I checked out the top turret and went as far as I could to check out the tail gunner area. The other passenger from the front came back and checked out the gunners’ positions while Sammy was up front.

The B-25’s fuselage is very narrow, and is obstructed inside by the Top Turret gunner’s position.
The bomb bay tunnel. The pull bars are on the ceiling and the narrow size is obvious. The tunnel looks short, but is actually about 10 feet long.

After a few amazing minutes, I got the signal that Sammy was coming back. She arrived fine and had an enormous smile on her face. “Dad is was awesome” she exclaimed with an equally satisfying smile. We tried to talk about her experience, but the interior noise just did not allow for easy conversation.

View from the Bombardier’s position in the B-25. Photo by Samantha Yost

The signal was sent to get back into our seats and buckle in for landing. A few brief moments later, we touched back down at Willow Run Airport. We pulled back into our parking position and the engines were shut down. A brief calm encapsulated the aircraft. The crew door was opened and we climbed down. There was no doubt that all five passengers were in awe of our experience. Handshakes were exchanged between passengers and crew. Our time with a living piece of history was nearly over.

We took a quick walk around the aircraft for an up-close final inspection. The engines pinged and popped as they cooled. Traces of oil were evident on the engine cowlings, a normal event with radial style engines. We got back on the golf cart and were driven to the inactive area of the airport.

I was quiet. I wanted to listen to Samantha as she told me all about her experience up front. This was her first time in a warbird. It was our first time doing something like this together. It was a special occurrence we shared. We had different experiences. She was awed by the flight and the view. I was transported in time to the 1940s, imagining myself being flown on an important mission. Did I have the guts to do my job, or was this my final flight? Would I get back okay or would I be hurt by enemy gunfire or flak? It is surreal for me to think that these were daily occurrences during the Second World War.

Our ride was arranged by our dear friend and colleague, Kerry J. Newstead, the Canadian Editor of World Airshow News. Although he was originally supposed to be my ride companion, he sacrificed his spot to allow Samantha to experience it with me. Her ride experience ultimately resulted in a published article in World Airshow News. A huge debt of gratitude must also go out to Kevin Walsh, the Executive Director of the Yankee Air Museum, for the amazing support and generous opportunity. I had to wait a number of years to live my dream in a B-25. It was an experience that I will cherish my entire life, and it thrills me that I shared it with my daughter. It was drastically different than I envisioned as a kid, but it was such a fantastic experience. Of the approximately 10,000 B-25s produced, there are only about 100 airframes left, and of those remaining, about 45 are capable of flying. If you’d like to experience a flight in the Yankee Warrior (or one of their other aircraft), check out the Yankee Air Museum’s website for details on how to book a ride for yourself. Take the opportunity if you can, it is an experience that does not disappoint.

Author with daughter, Samantha. Photo by Kerry J. Newstead

VFA-14 Tophatters 2018-2019 Centennial Cruise Video

Enjoy the 2019 cruise video footage from the oldest squadron in the US Navy, the VFA-14 Tophatters. This video also celebrates the squadron’s 100th anniversary. The “Lids” are based out of NAS Lemoore.

My interaction with the Lids Centennial Jet

I was fortunate to see the Centennial CAG and XO jets while at NAS Lemoore open house/airshow. Both of the “color” jets have some great footage in the video. The squadron also had some great geedunk for sale!

The awesome VFA-14 Tophatters CAG jet tail!

Centennial Geedunk…Money went QUICK!

VFA-14 Tophatters XO jet on the ramp at NAS Lemoore

2018 TBM Avenger Reunion

The third annual TBM Avenger Reunion took place on May 19, 2018 at the Illinois Valley Regional Airport in Peru, Illinois. The event is hosted and organized by TBM owner, Brad Deckert. What started out in 2016 as an Avenger fly-in and workshop has morphed into a first class warbird airshow that retains a fly-in style vibe.

On the surface, it seems as though the name would suggest strictly TBM Avengers, but that is not the case. The show includes numerous other aircraft from World War II, Korea and Vietnam wars. The ramp area is wide open allowing spectators to get up close and personal with the aircraft. The aircraft owners and support crew are usually right alongside to answer questions about the aircraft or the type’s history.

All throughout the day, aircraft of all types arrive for the fly-in or to participate in the flying portion of the show. While not looking skyward, reasonably priced vendors are available for meals and souvenirs. Fixed wing aircraft and helicopter rides are available onsite as well.

Housekeeping: The Avenger is a Grumman plane, and is known as a “TBF.” Why is this a “TBM” Reunion?

The Avenger was originally designed and manufactured by Grumman. Grumman built Avengers were designated the TBF. When the successor fighter to the F4F Wildcat was designed by Grumman, the F6F Hellcat, the Navy immediately placed an order for them. Since Grumman could not produce both the Avenger and Hellcat simultaneously, General Motors Eastern Division began production of the Avengers. These GM-built Avengers were designated “TBM”. General Motors went on to produce 7,546 Avengers, with the most prominent version being the TBM-3E variant.

All of the aircraft that participated in the reunion were TBM built aircraft, and I believe all of the flying Avengers world wide are also currently TBM versions. Hence the logical connection to call the event a TBM Reunion/Gathering.

The Main Event: Eleven Avengers!

Brad Deckert has devoted his passion and resources into his TBM. Brad started the annual “gathering” (now known as the “reunion”)as a way for the Avenger community to come together. The owners can swap information and knowledge with each other, and the airshow allows them to show off their aircraft. The show is also a fantastic tribute to all of the local veterans.

Any event that gathers eleven of the same type of warbird aircraft is going to be impressive! The event brought together TBMs that are frequently seen on the airshow circuit and several that are more uncommon at public events.

I have done my best to list the owner’s name and somehow identify each individual participating TBM. If I have something wrong, please send me a note and I will correct it!

Darrel Berry’s “Tennessee Ridge Runner II” – NL325GT

“CC” – NL293E

“96” – N5260V

Tim Savage’s North Atlantic Scheme – N4171A

Perhaps one of the most under represented contributions of WWII is the role of the escort carriers. These smaller carriers traveled with the convoys to protect them from air, surface and submarine threats.

The Avenger played a huge role in the large and small naval battles, including the incredibly important battle for the North Atlantic. Convoys of allied ships shuttled supplies and troops from North America to allied ports in England and continental Europe. These convoys were targeted by German U-Boat submarines and losses were running up quickly due to the wolf pack hunting style of the subs. If the convoys could not get supplies to Europe, the fate of the ETO may have been different. The escort carriers equipped with Avengers played a vital role in the success of the battle for the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic.

Tim Savage’s TBM is painted in the scheme worn by allied aircraft used in the North Atlantic region. The effectiveness of the paint scheme is easy to appreciate and see. Ultimately, the Avenger dropped more tonnage than any other naval aircraft, and sank numerous surface ships and is credited with 30 enemy submarines.

Brad & Jane Deckert’s “T83” – NL81865

The Deckert’s TBM saw combat in World War II during the Okinawa campaign with the Marines of VMTB-34, flying off the carrier USS Vella Gulf. She served with the Navy until 1956 and was subsequently used to fight forest fires in Canada. More information, including flights and appearances can be found on their website.

Charlie Cartledge’s “Delta 95” – NL436GM

Lake Erie Warbirds‘s TBM-3E rolled off the assembly line in Trenton, NJ in August, 1945. However, the aircraft never saw service during WWII. She was stricken from the Navy’s records in 1956 and subsequently used as a fire bomber until the 1960s. Her original flying career ended for awhile, being used for spare parts and as a wind machine for product testing. Thankfully, she was spared additional “abuse” and flying restoration began in 1985.

Tom Buck’s “George Bush” – NL683G

Tom Buck, a member of EAA Warbird Squadron 4, brought his TBM painted in the livery of President George HW Bush’s Avenger. Then Lt. Bush was flying for VT-51. On September 2, 1944, Lt. Bush’s Avenger was badly damaged while on a mission, and was forced to bailout near Chichi Jima. He was rescued and went on to received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Michael Kopp’s “Ida Red” – NL9584Z

Ida Red is another example of a North Atlantic paint scheme. Ida is a TBM-3E variant and was number 2701 off of the assembly line. After her US Navy service, she was sold and used on the west coast as a fire bomber. Around 1996 she was purchased by David Tinker and relocated to Michigan where she frequently participated in airshows around the Midwest. Ida had been absent from events for several years, and it was great to see this familiar air frame back in the air.

Commemorative Air Force – Missouri Wing’s “VT-87”- N5264V

Commemorative Air Force Missouri Wing‘s TBM was received by the Navy in May, 1945. She later served as a trainer during the Korean War with VS-27. After she was declared surplus, she was used as a fire bomber until 1977. The Missouri Wing obtained the aircraft in 2000 from a private owner in Florida.

Heritage Flight Foundation’s “IBM” – N85650

The Heritage Flight Foundation operates out of Westerly, Rhode Island and operates a distinct model of the TBM compared to the others in attendance. Their Avenger has the tail configured for radar operations.

“What is that Turkey all about?”

The Avenger is affectionately known in the Navy as the “Turkey”! Like all nicknames, the true origin is never completely known. Here are the two that I have found:

  1. On carriers that operated both the F4F Wildcat and TBF Avenger, the performance difference between these two aircraft is quite significant. Some say the nickname comes from the size and maneuverability difference of the Avenger while landing. When the gear and flaps were down to land, an Avenger was much like a real life flying turkey, ungainly and awkward.
  2. The second explanation is much simpler. The Avenger is powered by a Curtiss-Wright R-2600, a very large 14-cylinder radial engine. A radial engine is cooled via airflow of the engine while in flight. However, when on the ground, the engine cowling has large flaps that can be extended to help vent some of the hot air. When open, these flaps look like a turkey’s tail feathers.

    Both origin stories seem accurate. I will leave it to you to decide which is correct!

Commemorative Air Force – Rocky Mountain Wing’s “309” – NL53503

Commemorative Air Force Rocky Mountain Wing brought their TBM-3E

MiG Alley Airshows – F-86 & MIG-17

Paul Keppler and Jeff Kaney displayed their aircraft and performed a short dogfight demo. Paul’s F-86 Sabre is painted in the livery of James Jabara, the first Korean War ace and first USAF ace.

Jeff Kaney’s MIG-17 is painted in an artic splinter type scheme and is quite distinctive.

Wings of the North’s F4U-4 Corsair

Wings of the North brought their beautiful F4U-4 down to the event and made several notable photo passes. Arguably, the Corsair is one of the most iconic American fighter aircraft of the WWII era, and is beloved in the warbird community. The display also included some aerobatic maneuvers. There is just something special about the sound of the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine!

Tim Savage’s A-26 Invader “Silver Dragon” – NL99420

Tim Savage brought two of his aircraft to the event. Certainly the most colorful aircraft on the field, his beautiful A-26B Invader, “Silver Dragon”. This particular A-26 is configured with six .50 caliber machine guns in the nose for assault/strafing missions.

Although not as immediately recognized as the B-25, a similar mission aircraft, the Invader continued to serve the USAF in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The A-26 is starting to become more popular in the warbird collector community with greater numbers of flyable air frames returning to flight status.

Tim, and now his son Job, are well known in the warbird community and their passion for warbirds is contagious.

John O’Connors AU-1 Corsair – N965CV

John O’Connor surprised the crowd with several passes of his newly restored AU-1 Corsair (actually an F4U-7). The AU-1 variant of the Corsair was designed to serve as a low-level fighter-bomber, and had additional weapons hard-points added. A fully loaded AU-1 weighed approximately 20% more than an F4U-4 variant!

Sadly, the aircraft is now back in the repair shop after an accident on takeoff a few months after this event. Fingers are crossed to see her in the air again soon.

Michael Gillian’s FM-2 Wildcat – N909WJ

Mike Gillian’s FM-2 (a GM built version of the Grumman designed Wildcat) is an example of an aircraft that attends many smaller airshows and fly-in style gatherings. His aircraft is in beautiful condition and is a prime example of the early US Navy and Marine fighter aircraft of early WWII.

The Wildcat was considered inferior to the Japanese Zero at the start of the war. However, aerial tactics improved as did the skill of the Aviators and soon there after, the Wildcat could effectively fly and defeat the Zero. Grumman later improved the design and the mighty F6F Hellcat was born. The Wildcat held the line while American designers and manufacturers made fighters that could meet or exceed the performance of the Zero. The Wildcat is a a fairly rare breed these days, and it is a treat to see this Naval Aviation icon.

T-6 Texan & SNJs

T-34 Mentors

Around the field

Usually, general aviation aircraft do not interest me much unless I am going flying. However, this Cessna 195 is one sharp bird!

1952 Cessna 195B

You just never know what will show up…!

A pleasant and unexpected surprise to see was this lovely F-86 on static display. Having two F-86s at a show is amazing these days, and this one is extra special. This is the oldest flying F-86 in the world, and may be the oldest jet currently flying in the world (this is always debated, hence the emphasis on “may be”).

This is an early F-86A Sabre, and was the 5th off North American’s Inglewood, California assembly line. The aircraft, formerly serial number 48-178, served with the US Air Force and was destined to become a “gate guard” to end her flying days. Instead, she was sold in 1970 and made airworthy again using parts from several other F-86A air frames. She was a regular on the US airshow circuit until 1990, when the aircraft was again sold and exported to England. There, she continued airshow flight demonstrations until around 2015 when she was sold again and returned to the United States.

Recently, the jet was acquired by Heritage Aero, Inc. and returned to flight worthy status again for a collector client. The first flight back in the US occurred in October, 2015 in Rockford, IL.

What a fantastic, and unexpected treat to see this piece of FLYING history! Sadly, she did not participate in the flying portion of the show, but it was still exhilarating to see an aircraft of some historic magnitude on the ramp. Hopefully the next time is in the air!

The End!

This is gathering and reunion a truly unique experience these days. If you are a warbird fan, this is an event you should not miss. Details for the next Avenger Reunion can be found on the web at https://tbmreunion.org/

Apollo: The Bois Blanc Eagle

Like most photographers, I have a bucket list of places, things, or opportunities that I would like to photograph sometime. One near the very top was a bald eagle in flight in a natural habitat. My dream became a reality in 2018 while on a family vacation on Bois Blanc Island, Michigan.

I was told ahead of time that several baldies were near the area we would be, and I came prepared with the camera gear. After a few hours staring out over the Mackinac Straits, we caught a glimpse of this beautiful large bird. I grabbed my gear and ran to the water’s edge.

I could not believe my eyes as this magnificent bald eagle flew circles around the area. The whole time he was watching me and also keeping a close scan on the water below. After a few passes, I think he grew comfortable and focused less on me and more on the water. Eventually, he dove into the water and brought out a fish in his talons. Again, something I NEVER thought I would see with my own eyes!

After he swooped down and took his next meal, I watched him fly just a hundred yards or so from me into the top of a tree. Unfortunately, I did not have a good vantage point to photograph any further. My family asked if I had any luck and asked where the eagle went. My response was simple…”the eagle has landed.” And from that point on, my bald eagle “friend” had a name. “Apollo.”

Although my initial experience was only a quick couple of minutes, it brought out a flood of emotion. The visual grace and beauty of this bird was something I cannot articulate. Perhaps it was the excitement of seeing an eagle in the wild and photographing him. Perhaps it was seeing the nation’s symbol and feeling a little pride. Whatever that feeling was, it has not left.

I saw Apollo again in 2019 and plan to return again in 2020. I am excited to see him again, and hope for many more photo opportunities. Maybe some friends will join him on the island.

PHOTOS…OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN!

Apollo seconds after grabbing his next meal outta the Mackinac Straits.

Mackinac Bridge Sunset

I captured this image while on a family vacation in Mackinaw City, Michigan. A variety of weather came through that day, with the end result being a spectacular sunset. While I have witnessed sunsets on the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, I think the ones I have viewed on the Great Lakes are equally as beautiful.

2018 NAS Oceana Airshow

The 2018 NAS Oceana Airshow was held on September 21-23. Friday was open to military family members, and was also an open house for local 5th graders as a STEM laboratory. The event was the largest in several years, and included headline performances by both the US Navy Blue Angels and the RCAF Snowbird jet demonstration teams.

The weather varied all three days, which can be evidenced by the photos. However, flying was able to be completed all three days and provided some wonderful vapor opportunities as well as some nice cloud backdrops. The variety of acts was a good blend of civilian and military performers.

The Aircraft of the Fleet

The Fleet Demo is perhaps the highlight of the airshow each year. This years squadron participants included VFA-105 Gunslingers, VFC-12 Fighting Omars, VFA-131 Wildcats and VFA-106 Gladiators.