Tag Archives: USAF Heritage Flight

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!

2019 Planes of Fame Airshow

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

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

The Opening: Thunderbolts and Lightnings

P-47 Thunderbolts

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

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

P-47D Thunderbolt
“Dottie Mae”

P-38 Lightnings

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

P-38 Lightning
“Honey Bunny”

Late Morning: WWII ETO Aircraft

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

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

Intermisssion: Veteran Panel Discussion

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

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

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

Early Afternoon: PTO WWII Aircraft

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

Korean War Era

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

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

Late Afternoon: Warbird Aerobatics

Stew Dawson F7F Tigercat Aerobatics

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

Greg Coyler: Ace Makers Airshows T-33 Shooting Star

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

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

Sanders Sea Fury Aerobatics

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

Reno Air Racing Demonstration

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

Show Closing: USAF Heritage Flight

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

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

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

Views around the field…

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

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

2018 Planes of Fame Airshow

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.

P-38 LIGHTNINGS

AIR RACING

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.

P-47 THUNDERBOLTS

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.