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.
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.
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!
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The 2018 Planes of Fame Airshow was held May 4 – 6, at the airport in Chino, California. This year’s theme aircraft was P-38 Lightnings and had four flyable examples on hand. Another surprise was Yanks Air Museum pulled out their F-5G Lightning, a photo reconnaissance version of the P-38L, and placed it on static display. Unfortunately, P-38 “Lightning 33” had issues with an alternator and was unable to participate in the flying portion of the show. It was still mighty impressive to see three P-38s in formation at one time! A P-38 also participated in the USAF Heritage Flight.
This years event also included a segment on air racing, which featured passes by highly modified P-51 Mustangs air racers named “Strega” and “Voodoo”. Voodoo currently holds world’s record as the fastest piston powered aircraft at 531.64 mph.
A recently restored P-47D Thunderbolt “Dottie Mae” made her airshow debut at PoF, and she was absolutely beautiful. Dottie Mae is a later model bubble top variant of the Thunderbolt. Originally, the Thunderbolt had a razorback style aft of the cockpit. Planes of Fame’s P-47 is a razorback style and flew in formation with Dottie Mae. The bubble top shows the greatly improved reward vision.
THE PLANES OF FAME COLLECTION
Nearly all of the flyable aircraft in the Planes of Fame inventory participate in the annual airshow. Their collection of aircraft is impressive and contains rare birds like the P-47 razorback variant of the Thunderbolt, P-51A Mustang and the only flying examples of the P-26 Peashooter and N9M Flying Wing. The diverse collection contains US Navy aircraft from WWII such as the SBD Dauntless and TBF Avenger, well as classics such as the P-51 Mustang and P-40. Planes of Fame also has flying examples from the Korean War era such as the Yak-9, F-86 and MiG-15. The collection also includes a Vietnam era A-1 Skyraider.
COLLABORATIONS WITH OTHER MUSEUMS
Another reason why this show is special is that many of the nearby Museums share their aircraft which allows for many other aircraft variants to be viewed. Museums include:
The Lyon Air Museum CAF – SoCal Wing Palm Springs Air Museum Warhawk Air Museum Lewis Air Legends GossHawk Unlimted, Inc. Sanders Family Yanks Air Museum
These museums bring aircraft like the P-51B Mustang, PBY4 Privateer, F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, F8F Bearcat, F7F Tigercat, P-51D Mustangs, Spitfires, P-63 King Cobra, P-40 Warhawks, C-47 Skytains.
Many other individual warbird owners also bring their aircraft, which also adds to the overall aircraft list.
The show also attracts demos from the USAF (this year the A-10 Warthog) and civilians such as Greg Colyer in his T-33 Shooting Star.
The lineup of aircraft below is just one of several, and by this view alone you can tell just how special this show really is. In my opinion, if you are a warbird fanatic like me, this is the ultimate warbird airshow to attend in the United States.