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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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 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.
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.
“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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 Korea.
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…
Corsair photo passes…
Corsair flat passes…
Corsair landing passes…
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!
A handful of P-51 Mustangs attended and several flew over the weekend. Merlin music to the ears!
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.