2022 Heritage Flight Training Conference

The 2022 Heritage Flight Training Course took place at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base the first week of March. The aircraft and personnel began to arrive March 1 and flying operations were conducted between March 3 to March 6.

The USAF Heritage Flight is a formation flight of modern military aircraft with aircraft from World War II, Korea or Vietnam. The formations may include two aircraft and may be as large as four aircraft. The formations serve as a salute to our nation’s aerial air power and rich aviation history. Additionally, the formation serves as a living memorial to the men and women who have served – or are currently serving in our armed forces.

Although the formations look pretty simple, training for the crews, both USAF and civilian, is absolutely necessary. Training includes formations, timing and safety.

The Warbirds

This year saw a much smaller variety of aircraft attend, with only P-51s and a lone F-86 Sabre. Although this may seem disappointing to some, the collection of aircraft was still impressive.

A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog) Demo Team

Major Hayden “Gator” Fullam is the A-10 demo team pilot and commanding officer of the team. The demo is part of the 354th Fighter Squadron “Bulldogs” and is based at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona. The A-10 is the USAF’s dedicated close air support aircraft and still unrivaled in the world despite being designed in the early 1970s. Although its official name is Thunderbolt II, the nickname “Warthog” is universally accepted and used by the pilots and maintainers.

The team usually brings two jets to an airshow, a specially painted “demo” jet and a spare from the available pool of squadron aircraft. The demo jet is currently painted in a Southeast Asia camouflage scheme, a tribute to the close air support aircraft of the Vietnam era. Sadly, the demo jet was not used either day I visited the conference.

2-Ship Heritage Flight with P-51 Mustang

In this session, Maj. Fullam flies with Bruce “Doc” Winter in his P-51D Mustang “Happy Jack’s Go Buggy”. The routine was flown twice, allowing each pilot the opportunity to lead the formation.

The practice also included a variation of the final break, which includes a turn into the opposite aircraft, which appears to be a cross-over, or a turn away (split break) from the opposite aircraft.

F-16 Fighting Falcon (Viper) Demo Team

Captain Aimee “Rebel” Fiedler is the newly appointed demo pilot for the Viper Demo Team. The demo is part of the 55th Fighter Squadron, located at Shaw AFB in Sumter, South Carolina.

Since 2020, the demo jet has been affectionately known as Venom, with the USAF applying special snake markings on the jet. Many other countries have applied special paint schemes to their demo aircraft, and this has been a welcomed addition by the USAF.

2-Ship Heritage Flight with F-86 Sabre

This session is an example of a multiple jet formation, two very successful USAF aircraft, the F-16 Viper and F-86 Sabre. The F-86 Sabre “HELL-ER Bust X” is owned by Comanche Fighters, and is piloted by Dan Friedkin. Mr. Friedkin is the founder and chairman of the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, the nonprofit organization that funds and supports the USAF Heritage Flight.

Like the A-10 demo, the routine was performed twice, with each respective jet taking turns leading the formation.

F-35A Lightning II Demo Team

Major Kristin “Beo” Wolfe is the demo pilot and commanding officer of the F-35A demo team. The team is part of the 421st Fighter Squadron, based at Hill AFB, Utah.

4-Ship Heritage Flight with 3 P-51 Mustangs

TF-51 Mustang “Bum Steer”
P-51D Mustang “Fragile But Agile” – owned by Comanche Fighters
P-51D Mustang “Double Trouble Two” – owned by Tom Friedkin

Like the other demos, the formations focused on the three respective P-51s each sharing a turn leading the formation. The others would assume left and right wing.

I have to admit that of all four demo teams, the F-35 team seems to be having the most fun. Maj. Wolfe got out of the cockpit with a smile on her face and congratulated the entire team planeside after each performance. I like seeing that kind of mutual respect and a close team.

F-22 Raptor Demo Team

Major Joshua “Cabo” Gunderson is the demo pilot and commanding officer of the F-22 demo team. The team is part of the 1st Fighter Wing, based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. The Raptor is the USAF’s air superiority fighter, and is widely considered the most capable fighter plane in the world.

3-Ship Heritage Flight with 2 P-51 Mustangs

P-51D Mustang “Val-Halla” owned by the Heritage Flight Museum and piloted by Greg Anders.
P-51D Mustang “Dolly/Spam Can” owned by Planes of Fame and piloted by Steven Hinton Jr.

The formation flew the routine three times. Each Mustang led the formation, with the final time having the F-22 lead.

“Practice Makes Perfect”

Some of the formations above may seem distant and out of place. However, these practice flights provide the training and experience necessary to master the formations seen at airshows and events across the country. By the end of the training syllabus, the formations are sharp and what you come to expect of the Heritage Flight. It was very neat to see the process and progress during the time at Davis-Monthan.

Thank You

I have to give a shout out to my friend Craig for suggesting this adventure (and the Blue Angels Winter Training trip). I also wish to thank his friend and now my new friend, Brad Bowen, for sponsoring us onto the base. Without it, the coverage and our experience of the ACC Heritage Flight Conference would be much different. Thanks fellas for a couple of great days and a memorable experience!

2021 Thunder Over Michigan Airshow

The 2021 Thunder Over Michigan Airshow took place on August 6-8 at the historic Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The theme for the event was a gathering of B-25 Mitchells, with the headlining performance of the USAF Thunderbirds. This was also a year for firsts for the show.

Many airshows cancelled due to Covid-19. However, the crew at Thunder Over Michigan elected to try a 2-show per day, drive-in style format show to be socially responsible yet provide an airshow to the airplane fanatics that craved the rumble of round engines and jet noise. The show morphed into one of the largest in the country when the US Navy’s Blue Angels announced that they would also appear at the show. Thunder Over Michigan was one of only several shows that would host both US jet teams at the same show. The lineup of warbird aircraft, military demos and the TWO jet teams made this one of the best airshows I have ever attended.

Jim Tobul – F4U Corsair “Korean War Hero” Aerobatics

The F4U-4 Corsair “Korean War Hero” (BuNo. 97143/N713JT) owned by Jim Tobul has a combat history aboard two aircraft carriers and two squadrons. The aircraft flew with VF-884 aboard the USS Boxer, and then later with VF-653 aboard the USS Valley Forge. In total the aircraft flew 200 sorties during the Korean War. In 1960, the aircraft was sold to and used by the Honduran Air Force until approximately 1970. In 1981, the Tobul family purchased the aircraft and began a 10-year restoration of the aircraft.

German Luftwaffe A400M Atlas Demo

Thunder Over Michigan has had a fantastic relationship with the German Luftwaffe over the past several years, hosting several different types of aircraft. The A400M demo at Thunder Over Michigan was the first in North America for the type. The Atlas is roughly the equivalent to the USAF C-17 Globemaster III. Although the Atlas is a turboprop, it has very good performance and handling for an aircraft of its size. Very impressive demo!

B-17G Flying Fortress “Yankee Lady” and the Little Friends

The Yankee Air Museum’s flagship aircraft, “Yankee Lady” performed in the show making several passes with P-51 Mustangs. Arguably, the B-17 and P-51 are the two most iconic aircraft associated with the USAAF 8th Air Force and the Americans participation in the ETO.

USAF F-35A Lightning II Demo Team

The most impressive single-ship demonstration of the event in my opinion was the USAF F-35 demo. Major Kristen “Beo” Wolfe absolutely shredded the skies in the F-35A Lightning II, the USAF’s newest “lightweight” strike-fighter. The F-35 Demo Team comes from the 388th Fighter Wing, based at Hill AFB, Utah. The skies were challenging, but the crowd was rewarded with amazing photo opportunities of this amazing aircraft and pilot. The aircraft and demo profile bring everything airshow fans want…lots of jet noise, vapes and burner!

USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II Demo Team

Maj. Hayden “Gator” Fullam piloted the USAF A-10 Warthog Demo. The team is based at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ. The aircraft continues to be the premier close air support aircraft in the world. Although I have seen this demo many times, it is still one of my favorites! HOOOGGG!!

USAF Heritage Flight

The USAF Heritage Flight was 3-ship performance, consisting of a P-51D Mustang “Moonbeam McSwine”, and the A-10 and F-35 demo teams.

US Navy Blue Angels

As I said in the intro, this was a solid airshow. With the announcement that the Blues would be in attendance as well propelled this show into the stratosphere. This was the 75th Anniversary of the team, as well as, the team’s first year in the F/A-18 Super Hornets. The team was the morning headliner, and for Sunday’s performance, the team wore yellow flightsuits. Yellow flightsuits are now seen very often and are reserved for special occasions.

Gathering of B-25 Mitchells

The warbird headlining act was the gathering of B-25 Mitchells. In attendance were 14 of the medium bombers. On static display was another, “Sandbar Mitchell”, which is currently being restored. There were several others scheduled to attend, but mechanical issues, Covid-19 travel restrictions or weather prevented the aircraft from attended. Regardless, this was a very impressive collection of B-25s.

The only one I was unable to photograph in the air was “Georgia Mae.” She did not participate in Sunday’s performance.

“Champaign Gal”

Champaign Aviation Museum’s B-25 is “J” model with USAAF serial number 44-28866, and wears civilian registration of N744CG. The airframe was used by the Air Force until 1957. It was retired to the boneyard, and then sold for use as an aerial firefighter until the late 1980s. She was acquired by the museum in 2008, and regularly takes her to airshows around the Midwest.

“Devil Dog”

Devil Dog is part of the Commemorative Air Force, and is the lone aircraft of the “Devil Dog” Squadron. The Devil Dog represents a PBJ-1J in the markings of VMB 612 squadron. The airframe is a B-25J-30-NC and has the serial number is 44-86758. Civilian registration is N9643C.

“Georgie’s Gal”

Liberty Aviation Museum’s B-25 is also a “J” model, with USAAF serial number 44-86777, and wears civilian registration N345BG. She continued with USAF service until 1958. After that she was bought and sold several times and used for various task including executive transport and cargo. Liberty Aviation Museum acquired the aircraft in 2011 and underwent an extensive restoration.

“Killer B”

Tom Reilly owns Killer B, a “J” model, with USAAF serial number44-86697, and wears civilian registration N62163. The aircraft was basically surplus upon completion at the factory. She was shipped for storage and then eventually transferred to the RCAF. After RCAF duties, she was owned by serval civilians and subsequently used by several Latin American air forces. Reilly restored the aircraft and made the first flight as Killer B in 1995. The aircraft is now home in Titusville, Florida.

“Lady Luck”

C&P Aviation services brought Lady Luck, a “J” model, with USAAF serial number45-8884, and wears civilian registration N5833B. She served with the USAF until 1958, wherein she was sold to numerous civilian owners, including the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. She was acquired by C&P in 1993, and the aircraft is located in Minnesota.

“Maid in the Shade”

Commemorative Air Force owns “Maid in the Shade” a “J” model, with USAAF serial number43-35972, and wears civilian registration N125AZ. She is part of the Air Base Arizona squadron. The airframe has combat history in the Mediterranean Theatre of operations based in Corsica. She ended service with the USAF in 1950. After that she was used as an aerial sprayer. She was obtained by the CAF in 1981.

“Miss Mitchell”

Commemorative Air Force owns “Miss Mitchell” a “J” model, with USAAF serial number44-29869, and wears civilian registration N27493. She is part of the Minnesota Wing of the CAF. The aircraft pays tribute to the original aircraft that served with the 310th Bomb Group, 380th Bomb Squadron during 1944-45 in the Mediterranean. The current nose art was painted by the same artist that painted the original “Miss Mitchell” nose art on the original aircraft in 1944.

“Rosie’s Reply”

Yankee Air Museum owns Rosie’s Reply. Unlike most other Mitchells in attendance, she is an early “D” model, with USAAF serial number43-3634, and wears civilian registration N3774. Like “Maid in the Shade”, Rosie has combat history in the Mediterranean, having flown at least eight combat missions. The airframe was initially meant for the RAF, but was forced into USAAF service temporarily. She did return to North America in 1944 and was transferred to the RCAF for use as a training aircraft. She left RCAF service in 1968 and was eventually purchased by Glen Lamont and flown as “Gallant Warrior”. In 1988 she was acquired by the Yankee Air Museum and renamed “Yankee Warrior.” In early 2021, she was repainted into the current scheme, and is representative of the original look during her combat service in the MTO.

“Semper Fi”

Commemorative Air Force owns “Semper Fi”, a  PBJ-1J (the only known flying example). The PBJ is the Navy variant of the B-25 and is manufactured as a B-25J-30-NC. Her serial number is 44-30988 and wears civilian registration N5865V. Semper Fi is part of the Southern California Wing of the CAF. Semper Fi was produced too late in the war to see service, was eventually sold as surplus in 1947. CAF acquired her after numerous civilian owners in 1988 and began a lengthy restoration that was completed in 2016.

“Show Me”

Commemorative Air Force owns “Show Me”, a a “J” model, with USAAF serial number44-31385, and wears civilian registration N345TH. She is part of the Missouri Wing of the CAF. The airframe served as a trainer with the USAF until 1959. She was subsequently sold as surplus. After several private owners, she was purchased by the CAF in 1982.

“Take-Off Time”

Tom Duffy owns Take-Off Time, a “J” model, with USAAF serial number44-30832, and wears civilian registration N3155G. The aircraft is frequently seen at many Mid West. Little other details appear to be available about the aircraft.

“Wild Cargo”

The Military Air Museum owns Wild Cargo, a “J” model, with USAAF serial number44-30129, and wears civilian registration N7947C. The airframe served with the USAF as a trainer until 1958. It was subsequently sold as surplus. After a handful of other owners, the Military Air Museum acquired the airframe in 1997 and was restored to flight status in 2005. In addition to the B-25, the Military Air Museum has a large number of flyable WWI and WWII aircraft. It is well worth the trip to Virginia Beach, VA to check this collection out!

“Yankee Doodle” aka “Axis Nightmare”

The Tri-State Warbird Museum owns “Yankee Doodle”, a “J” model, with USAAF serial number45-8898, and wears civilian registration N898BW. The airframe was produced too late in the war to see service. She was immediately placed into storage. Eventually, she served as a trainer with the USAF until 1959. After being purchased as surplus, the aircraft was only flown for a handful of years before sitting derelict. She was recovered in 1983 and began flight again after a restoration in 1985. Tri-State Warbird Museum acquired the aircraft in 2004 and was flown in the markings of the RAF with nose art of “Axis Nightmare.” The aircraft is now a “star”, having been one of the two B-25s used to Hulu remake of the film “Catch-22.” It currently wears the nose art of “Yankee Doodle.” It is uncertain if the current scheme will remain or if the museum will revert it back to “Axis Nightmare.”

“Georgia Mae”

Wiley Sanders from Alabama owns Georgia Mae, a “J” model, with USAAF serial number44-86785, and wears civilian registration N5262V. Like several others in attendance, this airframe was produced too late in the war to see service and was immediately placed into storage. It was eventually used by the USAF as a trainer and sold as surplus in 1958. The current owner purchased it in 1983 and completed restoration in 1985. Little else is known about the aircraft.

US Navy EA-18G Growler Demo Team

The USN Growler team made their first Michigan appearance. The EA-18G Growler is the Navy’s electronic warfare and countermeasures aircraft. The Growler is a variant of the F/A-18F Super Hornet, with modifications to the aircraft for the specifics of electronics warfare. The most notable difference from the Super Hornet is the addition of the electronic pods on the wingtips instead of the usual missile rails.

The team does not perform a full aerobatic demonstration of the aircraft, but does provide several nice high-performance passes and climbs.

“Mad Max” P-51 Mustang Aerobatics

Lou Horschel performed an aerobatic routine in his TP-51D Mustang. The airframe is USAAF serial number 45-11559 and wears civilian registration of N51MX.

US Navy Legacy Flight

The Legacy flight returned to the Michigan skies in the form of the EA-18 Growler along with Jim Tobul’s F4U-4 Corsair. The formation was done fantastically.

USAF Thunderbirds

The featured jet team for the afternoon performance was the USAF Thunderbirds. The ceiling for Sunday’s performance was not ideal, but the team still pulled off a fantastic show and capped a memorable airshow.

Closing

The 2021 show certainly set the bar high for future Thunder Over Michigan airshows. Whether this is a blessing or a curse is yet to be determined. Regardless, the event was a huge success, and it was wonderful to see all of the aircraft in the sky above Michigan. I wish to thank Yankee Air Museum’s Executive Director, Kevin Walsh, for his continued support of my airshow photography.

Blue Angels Winter Training 2022

The United States Navy Blue Angels deploy to NAF El Centro annually to transition the new members of the team and train for the upcoming airshow season. 

While at El Centro, the team performs twice daily, six days a week. This rigorous flight schedule allows the team members to learn and eventually perfect the flight demonstration. The team’s training is not limited to just the flight activity. The team’s narrator is memorizing his performance, and the ground crew is practicing the pre-flight checks and movements. Each flight is taped and debriefed. Maintenance is performed. Basically, each function of the team is honed while deployed.

NAF El Centro is in the heart of California’s Imperial Valley. Locally, the base is surrounded by farm land and nearby is a vast desert. The team performs over the base two days a week, with the remainder of the practice flights taking place over the desert range. It may seem odd to some since most airshows are performed at bases or airports. The desert flights allow the team to sharpen their skills with little danger to civilians as well as practice routines remotely for beach type airshows. The days at base are adored by the Blue Angel fans that flock to the watch the practice demos.

On March 3, 2022 I had the opportunity to attend one of the practice days at El Centro. This has been an aviation “bucket list” item for many years. Let me tell you that the experience was everything I had hoped it would be! A close friend of mine (also an aviation photographer) met me in Arizona to share the adventure.

We arrived early at El Centro, hoping to get a good spot to experience the take-off “blast.” Numerous other people had the same idea. However, people were kind and let us set up around them. The basic rules of aviation photography were expected – do not get in my way and we are good! After a brief wait, we noticed the team taxiing out for the first practice hop.

The excitement was building in my body. I did what seemed to be the thousandth check of my gear. I looked around to make sure I was not in my neighbor’s way and no one was in mine. The hand-held scanner I brought was tuned to the team. Meanwhile the four-ship diamond was at one end of the runway while jets Five and Six were now less than 100 yards away from us. And just like that we heard Boss announce “let’s go, brakes off…burners NOW!”

The diamond formation was headed straight at us on centerline of the runway” As the team lifted off, the slot pilot immediately moves into position. Just as he gets into position, they clear the fence and fly right over you in FULL MAXIMUM POWER! The coolest thing a jet nut can experience. However, it was the loudest thing I have ever experienced in my life. I was not prepared and did not have hearing protection, so I had to immediately cover my ears. The rush of the jets is exhilarating and amazing. You felt the air pressure change and the wind of the jets passing. Jet exhaust smells were also afoot. They flew over us at about 30 yards above our heads! 

As the diamond pulled up and into their show opening loop, the two solo jets moved into take-off position. As the diamond roared back over the runway, the solos went to full burner and took off. A second deafening blast of jet noise!

Squirrel Cage Loop on Take-Off

After the solos departed, the team went through the show demo. The end of field perspective is a completely different visual experience than being at show center or even on the show line. The benefit is that you get to see the team at different angles and how they position themselves to make the maneuvers happen at show center. 

Coming at us head on on the downside of the “Dirty Loop”

After the entire show is performed, the team sets up to land. It was really amazing how quickly the flight demo was over. The team performed the traditional pitch break to land and came down. After all six jets were down, the team taxied back in Blue Angel formation style.

Pitch Break to Land

The bonus for our trip was the USAF Thunderbirds were also at El Centro. Recently, the two teams have been doing combined training for a week each year. This year, the Thunderbirds were visiting the Blue Angels. We had just missed out on a dual training day. The Thunderbirds were only set to depart. Eventually the Thunderbirds fired up the jets and taxied to the long runway and took off individually. We were very disappointed, as we were hoping for another jet blast off. The team did form up and did a delta pass and a delta break. While not exactly what I was hoping for, it was fantastic to see both teams.

After the Thunderbirds departed, it was some downtime before the second flight demo. It was not quiet the entire time. Two C-2 Greyhounds from VRC-30 worked the pattern for almost an hour. They made several landings and take-offs or did simulated touch-n-go landings. a UH-1N also came in. Meanwhile, Thunderbird 14 came in, a C-17 Globemaster III arrived to pick up the team’s communications trailers and tools.

As the C-17 was loaded, the C-2s continued their pattern work. Suddenly, we noticed a fire truck racing up the runway. The lead C-2 abruptly lined up for landing and we noticed engine two was off with props feathered. It executed and emergency landing and was met by the fire trucks. Eventually, it taxied back to the hangar on one engine. Meanwhile, the second C-2 needed a place to land and the long runway was fouled by the emergency landing earlier. The C-2 lined up on the other runway and came in on approach from behind us! What a great experience being buzzed by the COD at a little over 30 yards above our heads. Also, during this time, a T-34C Turbo Mentor also came in, flying approach from behind us.

After the pattern excitement wore down, the Blues were back in the jets and ready to do the day’s second practice. I had checked my bag and found a pair of ear plugs to use for the second jet blast take-off. Identical to earlier, the jets moved into position. Boss made the call to go into burners and the jets came roaring at us. The diamond formation roared overhead. This time, I was able to photograph the entire process. The noise was still at extreme levels but the ear plugs made it bearable for the seconds the jets were above us. Max adrenaline was again flowing!

The afternoon practice was modified in several ways. The cloud cover changed from the morning to afternoon, so Boss made several changes to work in some low-show maneuvers. Additionally, the delta break was performed three times, with a different variation each time. During this portion, the flight surgeon was radioing the team to announce visual imperfections to help improve the formation. This is not uncommon and she also serves as one of the team’s safety observers. I thought it was neat to hear the improvements required since visually the maneuver looked flawless. 

As the six jets landed and went back in for the day, we moved back to the car. Although the jets were down the excitement and adrenaline were still freshly pumping. We had a long drive ahead of us to get back to Arizona for the next chapter of our aviation adventure. 

Reflecting back on the experience, I can say it was one of the most exhilarating and unique experiences of my aviation life. There is no way to really explain the feeing or the sheer noise of the take-off. Winter training was an experience that I do not regret and highly recommend as an aviation enthusiast (just make sure to bring hearing protection)!! 

Your 2022 United States Navy BLUE ANGELS!!!

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome – “History of Flight” Show – Grand Opening 2021

After a year long hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, airshows have returned at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. June 20th and 21st was opening weekend, and thankfully the weather provided for excellent flying conditions.

The weekend airshows are what make this museum something truly unique. Each day of the weekend has a different theme to the airshow. Saturday’s theme is “History of Flight”, which showcases the museum’s aircraft throughout the full spectrum of the early years of flight. Sunday’s theme is specific to aircraft from World War I, however some of the museum’s other aircraft also fly to provide some variety.

I had previously attended the WWI shows in the past, so it was a double treat for me this trip to see the Saturday show and to be there for the opening day. The aerodrome is nestled away from the normal travel routes. The field is just visible from the road right before pulling into the parking area. As I caught a quick glimpse, I could see that many of the aircraft were outside getting prepped for flight. Instant excitement ran through my body. I was glad I made the trip, and one aircraft had yet to fly.

Rides in the New Standard D25

For those visitors that wish to feel apart of the era, a ride can be purchased in the New Standard D25.

The above photos followed a specific couple. I watched the woman while waiting for the plane and her male companion talk to her to “ease her nerves”. When they took off, you can see her covering her eyes and the “I cannot believe I am doing this look” on her face. When they land you can see the relief and smile on her face.

Show Opening: Parachutes

The official show opening was two parachute jumpers. They took off in the D25. They can be seen in the front cockpit.

Aerobatics in the Fleet Finch and Tiger Moth

The flying portion opened with aerobatics performed in the yellow Fleet Finch 16-B and the red De Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth. A competition was set up to see which aircraft and pilot combination could cut a ribbon of paper tossed out of the cockpit the most number of times.

1910 Hanriot

The early “Pioneer Era” aircraft display started with a replica of the 1910 Hanriot. A very complicated flying machine for the time and simply amazing to see take to the skies. The aircraft took off and obtained a height of approximately 15 feet and landed. Although it performed a limited flight, the airframe is capable of heights of over 1,000 feet!

Curtiss Pusher Model D

Another “Pioneer Era” display was performed in the Curtiss Pusher Model D. This was one of the aircraft I was very interested in seeing perform. Again, like the the Hanriot, a brief flight was demonstrated with a quick landing. This aircraft was originally designed in 1911 and shows the difference between American design theory and that of the European monoplane designs like the Hanriot.

Fokker D. VIII

The World War I era demonstration kicked off with a flight performance in the nimble Fokker D. VIII. This monoplane was developed too late in the war to make a huge impact, but the pilots that did fly it recognized the performance of this aircraft was impressive. It warned the nickname “Flying Razor”. The rotary engine seems to have just two simple settings “Full” and “Idol”. I am positive this is totally inaccurate, but from the ground it sure sounds accurate. This machine wins the award for the neatest sounding beast of the day!

Curtiss JN-4 Jenny

Perhaps no other aircraft is more synonymous with the “barn storming” era than the Jenny. The aircraft allowed fledgling flyers to learn the advanced skills needed to fly the higher performance fighters of the time. After the war, many were sold as surplus. Veteran military pilots, now without a job due to the war ending, purchased them and toured the countryside earing a few dollars thrilling a small audience at each stop. Many of the youngsters that flew and fought in World War II began dreaming of being a pilot after seeing a Jenny fly for the first time nearby their home.

Spad VII

During World War I, the United States was well behind in fighter aircraft design. As a result, our Army Air Force was ill equipped to fight a war. Therefore, the United States purchased and flew designs of the British and French. One such example was the Spad VII, a French design. The Spad was a large improvement over other allied flying machines and was very capable in the hands of the right pilot.

Albatros D. Va

The Albatros may be the second most widely recognizable German aircraft of World War I. Like the Spad above, the design was introduced in 1917 and showed performance increases over other designs of the time. Germany’s Manfred von Richtofen scored many victories in an Albatros.

Dogfight!

The Spad and Albatros flew as adversaries once again over the skies of Old Rhinebeck. Here the Spad moves into a firing position behind the Albatros. I took the liberty of adding some noise (grain) to the photo along with desaturating it to make it look more time specific.

The Spirit of St. Louis

Perhaps no aviator in history has been more celebrated and revered than Charles Lindbergh. His celebrity status was instantaneously set in 1927 when he set out to cross the Atlantic Ocean during a non-stop flight from New York to Paris, France.

The weather conditions did not permit the Spirit from flying, but it did taxi around for the crowd. Before and afterwards, the crowd could look it over closely. It is amazing to look back at the elementary equipment onboard and realize that Lindbergh flew for 33 hours in that cockpit non-stop, navigated across a huge body of water and landed safely.

Comedy Routine: Escaped Convict!

While us folks were enjoying the flying machines, a convict escaped and was said to be in the area attempting to flee. Sure enough, somehow he made it to Rhinebeck and attempted to stowaway onboard the Fleet Finch. The police were in hot pursuit but unable to catch him before takeoff. The convict held onto the wing support during takeoff. Thankfully, a local citizen was able to make a crack shot and the convict returned to the ground unescorted. R.I.P.!!

It looks like he

Aerobatics in other general aviation aircraft of the era

The day’s grand finale of the day were performances by several aircraft of the “Golden Age” including the Fleet Finch, Piper Cub, Taylor Cub, De Havilland Tiger Moth, Curtiss Wright CW-1 and Fleet Model 1.

Until Next Time!!

This will not be my only visit to Old Rhinebeck in 2021. I simply wanted publish what I could to share some of the excitement I have for this great place.

I have some special plans in the works and will share more Rhinebeck adventures as they happen!

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

VFA-105 Gunslingers 2021 Cruise Video

Enjoy the 2021 Cruise Video from VFA-105 “Gunslingers”. The unit is based out of NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia and fly the F/A-18E Super Hornet. The unit is part of Carrier Air Wing Three and sail aboard the USS Eisenhower (CVN-69)

During the six month deployment (February 18 – July 13, 2021) Air Wing Three flew 6,100 sorties amassing 12,401 flight hours. The strike group flew missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) and Operation Freedom Sentinel (OFS).

“Tonight we ride!!!”

The History In An Image: “Betty’s Dream”

With the war in Europe over in May, 1945 the focus shifted to conclude the fighting in the Pacific. The island hoping campaign brought the fight to Okinawa in April, 1945. For two months the battle raged on with the end result being airfields to use to bring the 4-engine B-29 Super Fortress fleet over Japan. If this tactic failed, the Allies were set to invade Japan. Luckily, the B-29s were successful in bringing the Japanese to accept the surrender demands set forth by the Potsdam Conference of “Unconditional Surrender”. On August 15, 1945 the Japanese verbally accepted the terms of surrender, but no formal documents were yet signed.

On August 19, 1945 the Japanese surrender delegation of twelve officials was set to arrive at the airfield at Le Shima, Okinawa. Upon landing they would board a large American transport aircraft for the final flight the Philippines to sign the initial surrender documents. Although the surrender was ordered and announced by the Emperor of Japan, some radical military leaders still sought to fight to the bitter end. These radicals ordered what remained of the Japanese Air Force to shoot down any aircraft attempting to surrender. In light of this, the American’s ordered an escort and fighter protection (twelve P-38 Lightnings) set up for the two Japanese aircraft to ensure their arrival.  The Japanese surrender delegation were sent in two unarmed G4M “Betty” medium bombers. The Japanese aircraft were ordered to be painted all white with green crosses to prevent confusion and signify the party as surrender delegates. The delegates landed at Le Shima and were immediately transferred to two awaiting C-54 transports to take them to the Philippines to sign the documents.

“Betty’s Dream” with an escort B-17 and the two Japanese surrender aircraft. Four of the P-38 fighters can be seen flying top cover. Photo via USAAF

The American escort group was made up of six aircraft, with two being B-25 Mitchells from the “Air Apaches” of the 345th Bombardment Group based at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. The Air Apaches were selected specifically due to the large contributions the unit made to the overall Allied victory. It has been suggested, but unconfirmed, that the B-25 was selected as the main escort aircraft in tribute to the Doolittle Raiders.

USAAF Photo of the 499th Bombardment Squadron “Bats Outta Hell” assembled together
The business end of Betty’s Dream

One of those escort B-25s was named “Betty’s Dream”, serial number 44-30934 from the 499th Bombardment Squadron “Bats Outta Hell”. She was a B-25J gunship model with a solid nose that housed eight .50 Caliber machine guns. About 800 of the gunship variants were produced and used to fly missions at tree-top level against shipping, airfields, troop concentrations and fuel dumps. It is believed that the “Bats Outta Hell” were selected as an intimidation tactic due to the fearsome angry bat painted on the nose of all of the squadron’s aircraft in combination with the guns pointing out of the nose. The other B-25 was from the 498th Bombardment Squadron “Falcons” – also part of the Air Apaches.

The current “Betty’s Dream” in the twilight of the 2016 Planes of Fame Friday evening show

Betty was assigned to pilot Capt. Charles “Pop” Rice, the Operations Officer of the 499th and co-pilot Capt. Victor Tatelman in June, 1945. At the time of the surrender escort, she had 22 mission markings and two ship silhouettes, which represented two sunken Japanese ships. However, the surrender escort mission was flown by Maj. Wendell D. Decker. Capt. Tatelman was pilot in command of Betty’s Dream when the Japanese envoys returned to Japan. This return mission was of the utmost importance considering the Japanese only had one copy of the official and executed surrender documents.

The current mission markings simulate those of the original Betty’s Dream

By signing the initial surrender, the formal end to WWII was set. Betty’s Dream flew her last combat missions. It would take several weeks for the occupation and final surrender ceremony to be worked out. The formal Japanese surrender took place on September 2, 1945 onboard the Battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo harbor.

Photo pass of Betty’s Dream from the 2016 Planes of Fame Airshow

The fate of the original Betty’s Dream is unknown. It is highly likely she ended up in a smelter’s pit. Thankfully, history has been kept alive with the current representation of her. The current airframe was produced in August of 1945 as serial 45-8835. It served in Arkansas until written off and sold as surplus in 1946. It served as a civilian testbed until 1972 when it was sold and used as a fire bomber in Canada. In 1993 she returned to the United States and the restoration back to its bomber configuration began. In March, 1999 she returned to the skies as “Betty’s Dream”.

I fell in love with Betty’s Dream at the 2004 Thunder Over Michigan airshow. It was the first time I saw her and she was memorable. What stood out to me was the gunship configuration and the menacing angry bat nose art. At the time, most B-25s flying used the greenhouse bomber nose. I always hoped that the next year would bring her back to the Midwest where I attended most of my airshows at that time.

I had to wait until 2016 to see her again, this time at the Planes of Fame airshow in Chino, California. She is easily one of the most impressive and memorable of the current flying B-25 restorations. I hope the livery continues for years to come – and I do not have to wait as long to see her again!

A simulated bombing pass during the 2016 twilight show at the Planes of Fame museum
The B-25 was one of the most heavily modified USAAF aircraft of WWII. The gunship nose modification was ideal for strafing and put lots of ordinance in place quickly

Although not the original aircraft, the current representation of Betty’s Dream is amazing. As I said, what made her my favorite was the nose art. I did not learn of the historical significance of the markings until I started doing some research. History is literally right in front of you sometimes. Now you know some of the story of Betty’s Dream.

The History In An Image: “Dottie Mae”

“Dotttie Mae” has a story to her with a touch of history to go along with it. She is a P-47D Thunderbolt (P47D-28-RA), serial number 42-29150, and manufactured in 1944 at the Republic factory in Evansville, Indiana. She was assigned to the USAAF’s 9th Air Force on December 16, 1944, and served with the 405th Fighter Group, 511th Fighter Squadron.

Lt. Lawrence Kuhl had 17 combat missions in his log book when he was assigned a new P-47 airframe. To honor his wife, he named the plane “Dottie Mae” and had the Roberto Vargas pin up calendar artwork piece titled “Santa’s Little Helper” painted on the side.

After flying in 90 combat missions, Dottie’s flying career came to an end on May 8, 1945 when she crashed into a lake near Ebensee, Austria. Sadly, the incident was not related to combat, but instead as a celebration. The pilot that day, Lt. Henry Mohr, was flying low over a recently liberated concentration camp to boost the morale of the prisoners. However, he came down too low and the propeller blades clipped the water causing the aircraft to crash into the lake. The airframe sank, but luckily Lt. Mohr survived the incident and exited the aircraft. Dottie remained at the bottom of the lake for over 60 years. With the crash, Dottie Mae made history as the last USAAF aircraft lost “in action” in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) during World War II.

In the summer of 2005, Dottie was raised from the lake in Austria, and in 2010 she brought to Idaho for restoration by Vintage Airframes, LLC. Surprisingly, she was reported to be in good shape considering she was in water for over six decades. Some of her original paint still remained including her name and nose art. The aircraft flipped over when she sank. The depth of the water, combined with the silt that collected over her underside surfaces preserved the aircraft nicely. The preservation is similar to the US Navy aircraft that sank in the Great Lakes during WWII.

The team at Vintage Airframes used original wartime design documents to make repairs and components. The owner spared no expense in restoring the aircraft to a “factory new” condition and the results are easily apparent. The preference was to use original parts if possible, then using new old stock or fabrication as a last resort. Dottie returned to the sky on her first post-restoration flight on June 23, 2017.

The aircraft is now owned by the “Allied Fighters” organization, which is based at the Chino, California airport. An excellent area for warbirds considering Planes of Fame Museum and Yank’s Air Museum are also located at the airport.

The return to flight is not the only bright spot in the story. When the restored Dottie was unveiled, three of her former crew were there to see her. Pilots Larry Kuhl (the one that named her) and Ralph Vanderkove were in the audience as well as one of her armorer’s, Leonard Hitchman.

After the war ended, many of the P-47s were scrapped rather than flown back or transported back to the United States. Of the approximately 15,000 P-47s built, Dottie is the only known combat veteran of either the 8th or 9th Air Force ETO area of operations with a combat history.

Dorie now makes many regular appearances at airshows on the West Coast. The casual person may identify the aircraft as a P-47, but few people know her place in history. She is a beautiful aircraft and it has been fun seeing her in her glory.

The USAF Heritage Flight (P-38, P-47 and A-10) flies over Dottie Mae
Dottie Mae, a P-47D, leads the Planes of Fame P-47G, an earlier version known as a “razor back” because of the solid spine behind the canopy
Dottie Mae leads the USAF F-16 Viper Demo Team during the Heritage Flight portion of a flight demonstration in 2019
Dottie Mae looking as beautiful as the day she was painted onto the P-47

2022 Space Coast International Airshow

The 2022 Space Coast International Airshow was held on May 21-22 at the Space Coast Regional Airport. The show had several highlights including the F-22 Raptor demo and the EA-18 Growler demo. The airshow announced that the static display was the largest in the show’s history. Most of the static aircraft were from the Valiant Air Command’s museum. Static highlights for me included the F-14 Tomcat, Canberra and F-4 Phantom II.

SOCOM PARA-COMMANDOS

The show openers were the SOCOM Para-Commandos, a joint unit comprised of active duty Army Special Forces, Navy SEALS, Air Force Combat Controllers and Marine Raiders.

John Black Aerobatics

Local performer, John Black, flies his Super Decathlon in an aerobatic routine. John retired from the US Air Force as a Lt. Colonel and flew F-15 Eagles for the Florida Air National Guard.

Valiant Air Command Warbirds

Three of Valiant Air Command‘s warbirds participated in the show. B-25 Mitchell “Killer Bee”, N2S Stearman, and C-47 Skytrain “Tico Belle”

Marchetti S.211

Doug Matthews piloted his Marchetti S.211 for his final public displays. This was my first time seeing this little trainer jet. Looks like a fun ride!

Army Aviation Heritage Foundation “The Sky Soldiers”

The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation brought three of their Vietnam veteran aircraft to perform. Two UH-1 Hueys and the AH-1 Cobra. Besides performing, rides were also available for purchase. These aircraft can be heard from a long distance and perhaps no other sound is as distinctive as those from these two types of helicopters.

A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog)

Two A-10s from the 76th Fighter Squadron “Vanguards” participated. The 76th is stationed at Moody AFB in Georgia and is part of the 476th Fighter Group. The unit has its origins with the original “Flying Tigers” and the “FT” tail code along with the shark mouth on the nose are a tribute to that legacy. Saturday’s performance featured both jets in flight, while Sunday only one of the jets flew while the other was in the static display area.

USN EA-18 Growler Legacy Demo Team

One of the newer demo teams on the airshow circuit is the EA-18 Growler team. Traditionally the display is a 2-ship performance. However for the entire weekend, the second jet was down due to a mechanical issue. Saturday’s display was flown by Flt. Lt. Tom “Fogo De Chao” Budd (an exchange pilot from the RAAF) and Lt. Brandon “Fat Amy” Baker. Sunday’s performance was flown by Lt. Eddie “Ham” Desch and Lt. Kelsey “DIP” Daucher (a graduate of Florida Institute of Tech, located in nearby Melbourne, FL).

Legacy Flight

Stuart Milson piloted Cavanaugh Flight Museum‘s AD-5W (EA-1E) Skyraider. This Legacy Flight was special since the formation included two electronic warfare aircraft. The museum’s Skyraider was delivered to the Navy in 1955 and served in VAW-12 “Bats” until 1960. The airframe was then transferred to VAW-11 until it was retired from service in 1963. The airframe is painted in the scheme it wore while serving in VAW-12. In addition to the Skyraider, Stuart Milson performs the heritage flight in numerous Navy warbirds including the Corsair, Hellcat and Bearcat.

Buck Roetman – Wild Horse Aviation

Buck Roetman founded Wild Horse Aviation in 2006 and is a modified Pitts S2S aircraft. The routine is a high-energy performance that thrills up high and down low to the surface. Buck has flown for over 35 years and has over 13,500 hours of experience. He began performing at airshows in 1998. In addition to flying, he also serves as an Aerobatic Competency Examiner for the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS).

USAF F-22 Raptor Demo

Maj. Joshua “Cabo” Gunderson shredded the skies in the F-22 Raptor. With the area’s high humidity, the jet made plenty of vapor clouds. The Raptor demo is simply amazing since the jet is so powerful and utilizes thrust vectoring. Even though I have seen this demo many times now, it continues to amaze me with the level of control and power available at any given second.

Heritage Flight

Stuart Milson also performed the Heritage Flight in P-51D Mustang “Brat III” from Cavanaugh Flight Museum. The museum’s P-51 was manufactured in 1944 and shipped to England. It was assigned to the 9th Air Force, 370th Fighter Group, 401st Fighter Squadron, and was flown by Lt. Hjalmar Johnsen.

2021 Thunder Over New Hampshire

Pease ANGB located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire hosted the 2021 Thunder Over New Hampshire show on September 11-12. This was the base’s first show in ten years and included a historic first flight demo of the KC-46A Pegasus tanker which are stationed at the base.

Show Opener: USSOCOM Para-Commandos, Mike Wiskus and RI ANG C-130

The anthem performance opened the show with the USSOCOM Para-Commandos jumping from a Rhode Island ANG C-130 and Mike Wiskus providing the traditional airshow opening.

F-35A Lightning II – Vermont ANG

“The Green Mountain Boys” of the Vermont Air National Guard’s 134th Fighter Squadron provided the “sound of freedom” as the anthem concluded. They are the first Air National Guard unit to fly the F-35A and operate out of the Burlington ANGB.

Greg “Wired” Colyer – T-33 Shooting Star

Greg Colyer of Ace Maker Airshows brought his beautiful T-33 Shooting Star “Ace Maker” (N933GC). The T-33 is the trainer variant of the F-80 Shooting Star, and went on to serve for many years as the advanced trainer for the United States and many other allied nations.

Rob Holland

Nashua, New Hampshire native Rob Holland performed in his MXS-RH. Rob is the current US National Aerobatic Champion (10 consecutive years). Learn more about Rob Holland and his amazing custom MRX aircraft at Ultimate Airshows.

USAF F-22 Raptor

Major Joshua “Cabo” Gunderson piloted the F-22 Raptor. The F-22 Raptor demo is part of the 1st Fighter Wing, operating from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

Scott Yoak P-51 Mustang “Quick Silver” aerobatics

Scott Yoak performed an aerobatic display in his P-51 Mustang known as “Quick Silver” (NL51HY). Quick Silver was restored over several years by his father, Bill Yoak, whom brought the aircraft to better than factory new when the restoration was complete. More information about the aircraft and its story can be found at the Quick Silver Website.

Mike Wiskus Aerobatics

Mike Wiskus performed a full display in his Pitts S-1-11B known as the “Super Stinker”. Mike is set to retire from airshows after the 2021 season.

New Hampshire ANG KC-46 Pegasus Demonstration

The 157th Air Refueling Wing located at Pease ANGB in Portsmouth, New Hampshire flew the first public demonstration of the USAF’s newest aerial refueling tanker, the KC-46A Pegasus. The unit currently operates 12 of the aircraft and are the only Air National Guard Unit assigned the aircraft.

USAF Thunderbirds

The USAF Thunderbirds were the feature act of the afternoon. The display was shortened due to an issue with the 5 jet. Maj. Curran landed and immediately went to a ready two-seater, and rejoined the display for the delta maneuvers.

Around the Airfield

2021 World War II Weekend – Reading, PA

The Mid-Atlantic Air Museum hosted their annual “World War II Weekend on June 4-6, 2021. This is likely the largest event of its kind in the entire United States. In addition to the remarkable airshow, the museum hosts numerous reenactors that set up camps for the weekend as well as hundreds of WWII era antique military vehicles. Every theatre of operations is represented in some fashion, as well as many of the Allied and Axis units. It really is a case of visual sensory overload with so many things to see.

The aircraft lineup is impressive, with some aircraft visiting each year while others rotate. This year had several aircraft that I had not seen in person, so it was a real treat. Weather across the United States prevented several aircraft from attending and maintenance issues claimed several other airframes (a usual problem for most airshows).

This was my first airshow of 2021, so I was very pleased that Mother Nature cooperated by providing beautiful skies and pleasant temperatures. My last experience here was quite the opposite, and the mud on the airfield is legendary for making a mess of everything.

Enough of the warm-up, here are the photos!

Navy Bombers & Torpedo Aircraft

TBM-3E Avenger – “Doris Mae”

Commemorative Air Force Capital Wing flew their TBM-3E Avenger “Doris Mae”. She flies with civil registry N40402.

SBD-5 Dauntless

Commemorative Air Force Air Base Georgia brought their SBD-5 Dauntless.

Imperial Japanese Navy Aircraft

Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft were represented by replicas of the B5N “Kate” torpedo bomber and D3A “Val” dive bomber. Both aircraft are movie prop conversions of American aircraft to simulate the Japanese aircraft. The Kate was the Japanese equivalent of the TBF/TBM Avenger, while the Val is similar to the SBD Dauntless.

Commemorative Air Force Air Base Georgia owns the Kate. DUring Saturday’s flight, the right main landing gear would not properly retract. Thankfully, the issue was only a visual problem and did not result in any further problems.

USAAF Medium Bombers

B-25 Mitchell “Rosie’s Reply”

The Yankee Air Museum brought several of their aircraft including their recently repainted B-25D, now named “Rosie’s Reply”. The aircraft was repainted in early 2021 to represent its combat service in Italy in 1944. The nose art is not authentic, but the other markings are accurate to the airframe. Prior to the repainting, the aircraft was polished aluminum and flown as “Yankee Warrior”.

B-25 Mitchell “Take-Off Time”

Tom Duffy/Claire Aviation brought their B-25N. I do not have much other information about this B-25, but it was a pleasant surprise to see her. I had not seen this one out in several years.

B-25 Mitchell “Panchito”

Delaware Aviation Museum brought their beautiful Mitchell named “Panchito”. The aircraft was very active throughout the day with numerous passenger flights. However, on a flight in the early afternoon, it performed an emergency landing with one engine feathered. Thankfully, no injuries were reported. The aircraft remained for several weeks while waiting for an engine replacement.

Fighters

P-51 Mustangs

“Tiger’s Revenge”is a 2018 restoration into a TP-51 configuration. I believe it to be owned by Ron Lauder and flown out of New York. This was my first time seeing this aircraft and it is very sharp looking.

Tom Duffy/Claire Aviation’s spectacular Mustang “Kwitcherbitchin”. This is another Mustang that I had not seen up until this show. This is a really sharp looking aircraft!

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P-63 King Cobra “Miss Betty” – NX191H /42-68941

Commemorative Air Force Air Base Georgia also brought their rare P-63 King Cobra. The aircraft was originally a test bed aircraft, and the markings are authentic to the aircraft.

F4U Corsairs

Commemorative Air Force Air Base Georgia brought their FG-1D Corsair, BuNo 92468 (N9964Z). It is one of the original Commemorative Air Force aircraft, and is painted to in the colors of VMF-312 representing 1st Lt. MO Chance.

Charlie Lynch piloting Mark Murphy’s FG-1 Corsair NX83JC “God Speed” in tribute to John Glenn.

A6M2 Model 21 Zero – NX8280K

Mark Murphy piloted his A6M2

Fighter Formations

Transports

C-46 Commando “The Tinker Belle”

Warriors and Warbirds Museum brought the large C-46.

C-47D Skytrain “Hairless Joe” – N8704/44-76716

Yankee Air Museum also brought their C-47 Skytrain “Hairless Joe”. The museum recently repainted the aircraft in the livery of Captain Richard Cole. If the name sounds familiar, it should be. Cole was the co-pilot of aircraft #1 of the famous Doolittle Raid of B-25s of April, 1942. Afterwards, Cole was reassigned to stay and fly the “hump” over Burma. Cole was recruited by the 1st Air Commando and participated in the invasion of Burma. “Hairless Joe” was the name of his aircraft.

Heavy Bombers

B-17G Flying Fortress “Yankee Lady” N3193G/44-85829

Yankee Air Museum brought their flagship aircraft, their B-17G “Yankee Lady”. The aircraft is painted to represent an aircraft serving in the 8th Air Force, 381st Bomb Group located at Ridgewell, England.

B-29 Super Fortress “FiFi” – N529B

Commemorative Air Force brought their marque aircraft the famous B-29 “FiFi”. For many years, it was the lone flying B-29 in the world. While no longer the only flying example, it is remarkable to see one of the most iconic aircraft of WWII up close and personal, as well as in the air flying.

Around the field

Mid-Atlantic Air Museums current project is restoring the ultra-rare P-61 Black Widow to flyable condition.

Antique Military Vehicle Parade

Trainers and L-Birds

The show featured a wide variety of WWII trainers and Liaison (L-Bird) aircraft.