The 2016 TBM Avenger Gathering was held on April 16 at the Illinois Valley Regional Airport in Peru, Illinois. The event was organized by Brad Deckert, a local Avenger owner.
The gathering was developed to bring the various Avenger owners/operators together to discuss maintenance, safety and other matters involved with owning an Avenger. Practice flying was also planned, including flight demonstrations and formation flying.
The gathering of Avengers also brings together a significant group of historical warbirds in one spot. Fighters and bombers have had numerous events, but no event has really featured or celebrated the TBM Avenger quite like this.
Several of the TBMs formed up and made several nice formation passes to open the event. Several TBMs were airborne and made solo passes. What a sound to hear all of those Curtiss-Wright R-2600-20 radial engines!
Other Warbirds in Attendance
Two P-51D Mustangs were in attendance. Each Mustang did several solo passes and the two aircraft formed up for a formation break to landing.
Anthony Buechler P-51D Mustang “Petie 2nd” – N5427V
East Iowa Airshows brought their A-1 Skyraider to display and participate in the flying portion of the show. The Skyraider was designed to replace the Avenger on the American aircraft carriers. However, the aircraft was too late to see service in World War II. However, the type did see significant service in both Korea and Vietnam.
Naked Fanny is painted to represent the USAF version of the “Spad”.
Several Texans were on hand and flew solo and formation demonstrations. Several operators also offered rides. The Texan is widely known as “the pilot maker” and an argument can be made that it is the most important trainer aircraft developed to date. It has been said that the Texan is difficult to fly, it requires the pilot’s attention at all times. Once mastered, a pilot was able to handle any of the “heavy iron” in the piston fighter community.
Many other trainers were on hand as well such as a T-28 Trojan, T-34 Mentor, a PT-19 and several Stearmans (PT-17)
Several different types of acrobatic aircraft were also on hand including several Sukhoi SU-26s, a Christian Eagle, several YAK-52s and highly modified Stearman formerly of the Red Baron Pizza Squadron.
T-33 Shooting Stars
Two beautifully restored T-33 Shooting Stars were on hand. Mig-Alley Airshows brought their Canadair CT-133 Shooting Star. The aircraft has an authentic RCAF camo scheme. The second T-33 is operated by Whirpool Inc and is also a CT-133. The aircraft is painted in the livery of the Texas Air National Guard. Both are beautiful aircraft.
Also on hand was a L-39 Albatross
Fly-in events are always special because you never really know what will show up. This event was no different, with several surprise arrivals.
Around the field…
This event was nothing short of spectacular. The atmosphere and excitement surrounding the display were amazing. If I had to sum up why the event was special in one image, it would be this one:
The intimacy was what was special to me. The ability to see history up close and to be able to hear the machines tingle and pop while running or cooling down is just something you do not get at a museum…or most normal airshows. The diverse blend of people and aircraft was also such a fresh feeling. I am thankful that I decided to get up early and head over to Peru. I’ll definitely be back to support this event if it continues.
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 third annual TBM Avenger Reunion took place on May 19, 2018 at the Illinois Valley Regional Airport in Peru, Illinois. The event is hosted and organized by TBM owner, Brad Deckert. What started out in 2016 as an Avenger fly-in and workshop has morphed into a first class warbird airshow that retains a fly-in style vibe.
On the surface, it seems as though the name would suggest strictly TBM Avengers, but that is not the case. The show includes numerous other aircraft from World War II, Korea and Vietnam wars. The ramp area is wide open allowing spectators to get up close and personal with the aircraft. The aircraft owners and support crew are usually right alongside to answer questions about the aircraft or the type’s history.
All throughout the day, aircraft of all types arrive for the fly-in or to participate in the flying portion of the show. While not looking skyward, reasonably priced vendors are available for meals and souvenirs. Fixed wing aircraft and helicopter rides are available onsite as well.
Housekeeping: The Avenger is a Grumman plane, and is known as a “TBF.” Why is this a “TBM” Reunion?
The Avenger was originally designed and manufactured by Grumman. Grumman built Avengers were designated the TBF. When the successor fighter to the F4F Wildcat was designed by Grumman, the F6F Hellcat, the Navy immediately placed an order for them. Since Grumman could not produce both the Avenger and Hellcat simultaneously, General Motors Eastern Division began production of the Avengers. These GM-built Avengers were designated “TBM”. General Motors went on to produce 7,546 Avengers, with the most prominent version being the TBM-3E variant.
All of the aircraft that participated in the reunion were TBM built aircraft, and I believe all of the flying Avengers world wide are also currently TBM versions. Hence the logical connection to call the event a TBM Reunion/Gathering.
The Main Event: Eleven Avengers!
Brad Deckert has devoted his passion and resources into his TBM. Brad started the annual “gathering” (now known as the “reunion”)as a way for the Avenger community to come together. The owners can swap information and knowledge with each other, and the airshow allows them to show off their aircraft. The show is also a fantastic tribute to all of the local veterans.
Any event that gathers eleven of the same type of warbird aircraft is going to be impressive! The event brought together TBMs that are frequently seen on the airshow circuit and several that are more uncommon at public events.
I have done my best to list the owner’s name and somehow identify each individual participating TBM. If I have something wrong, please send me a note and I will correct it!
Perhaps one of the most under represented contributions of WWII is the role of the escort carriers. These smaller carriers traveled with the convoys to protect them from air, surface and submarine threats.
The Avenger played a huge role in the large and small naval battles, including the incredibly important battle for the North Atlantic. Convoys of allied ships shuttled supplies and troops from North America to allied ports in England and continental Europe. These convoys were targeted by German U-Boat submarines and losses were running up quickly due to the wolf pack hunting style of the subs. If the convoys could not get supplies to Europe, the fate of the ETO may have been different. The escort carriers equipped with Avengers played a vital role in the success of the battle for the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic.
Tim Savage’s TBM is painted in the scheme worn by allied aircraft used in the North Atlantic region. The effectiveness of the paint scheme is easy to appreciate and see. Ultimately, the Avenger dropped more tonnage than any other naval aircraft, and sank numerous surface ships and is credited with 30 enemy submarines.
Brad & Jane Deckert’s “T83” – NL81865
The Deckert’s TBM saw combat in World War II during the Okinawa campaign with the Marines of VMTB-34, flying off the carrier USS Vella Gulf. She served with the Navy until 1956 and was subsequently used to fight forest fires in Canada. More information, including flights and appearances can be found on their website.
Charlie Cartledge’s “Delta 95” – NL436GM
Lake Erie Warbirds‘s TBM-3E rolled off the assembly line in Trenton, NJ in August, 1945. However, the aircraft never saw service during WWII. She was stricken from the Navy’s records in 1956 and subsequently used as a fire bomber until the 1960s. Her original flying career ended for awhile, being used for spare parts and as a wind machine for product testing. Thankfully, she was spared additional “abuse” and flying restoration began in 1985.
Tom Buck’s “George Bush” – NL683G
Tom Buck, a member of EAA Warbird Squadron 4, brought his TBM painted in the livery of President George HW Bush’s Avenger. Then Lt. Bush was flying for VT-51. On September 2, 1944, Lt. Bush’s Avenger was badly damaged while on a mission, and was forced to bailout near Chichi Jima. He was rescued and went on to received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Michael Kopp’s “Ida Red” – NL9584Z
Ida Red is another example of a North Atlantic paint scheme. Ida is a TBM-3E variant and was number 2701 off of the assembly line. After her US Navy service, she was sold and used on the west coast as a fire bomber. Around 1996 she was purchased by David Tinker and relocated to Michigan where she frequently participated in airshows around the Midwest. Ida had been absent from events for several years, and it was great to see this familiar air frame back in the air.
Commemorative Air Force – Missouri Wing’s “VT-87”- N5264V
Commemorative Air Force Missouri Wing‘s TBM was received by the Navy in May, 1945. She later served as a trainer during the Korean War with VS-27. After she was declared surplus, she was used as a fire bomber until 1977. The Missouri Wing obtained the aircraft in 2000 from a private owner in Florida.
Heritage Flight Foundation’s “IBM” – N85650
The Heritage Flight Foundation operates out of Westerly, Rhode Island and operates a distinct model of the TBM compared to the others in attendance. Their Avenger has the tail configured for radar operations.
“What is that Turkey all about?”
The Avenger is affectionately known in the Navy as the “Turkey”! Like all nicknames, the true origin is never completely known. Here are the two that I have found:
On carriers that operated both the F4F Wildcat and TBF Avenger, the performance difference between these two aircraft is quite significant. Some say the nickname comes from the size and maneuverability difference of the Avenger while landing. When the gear and flaps were down to land, an Avenger was much like a real life flying turkey, ungainly and awkward.
The second explanation is much simpler. The Avenger is powered by a Curtiss-Wright R-2600, a very large 14-cylinder radial engine. A radial engine is cooled via airflow of the engine while in flight. However, when on the ground, the engine cowling has large flaps that can be extended to help vent some of the hot air. When open, these flaps look like a turkey’s tail feathers.
Both origin stories seem accurate. I will leave it to you to decide which is correct!
Commemorative Air Force – Rocky Mountain Wing’s “309” – NL53503
Paul Keppler and Jeff Kaney displayed their aircraft and performed a short dogfight demo. Paul’s F-86 Sabre is painted in the livery of James Jabara, the first Korean War ace and first USAF ace.
Jeff Kaney’s MIG-17 is painted in an artic splinter type scheme and is quite distinctive.
Wings of the North’s F4U-4 Corsair
Wings of the North brought their beautiful F4U-4 down to the event and made several notable photo passes. Arguably, the Corsair is one of the most iconic American fighter aircraft of the WWII era, and is beloved in the warbird community. The display also included some aerobatic maneuvers. There is just something special about the sound of the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engine!
Tim Savage’s A-26 Invader “Silver Dragon” – NL99420
Tim Savage brought two of his aircraft to the event. Certainly the most colorful aircraft on the field, his beautiful A-26B Invader, “Silver Dragon”. This particular A-26 is configured with six .50 caliber machine guns in the nose for assault/strafing missions.
Although not as immediately recognized as the B-25, a similar mission aircraft, the Invader continued to serve the USAF in the Korean and Vietnam wars. The A-26 is starting to become more popular in the warbird collector community with greater numbers of flyable air frames returning to flight status.
Tim, and now his son Job, are well known in the warbird community and their passion for warbirds is contagious.
John O’Connors AU-1 Corsair – N965CV
John O’Connor surprised the crowd with several passes of his newly restored AU-1 Corsair (actually an F4U-7). The AU-1 variant of the Corsair was designed to serve as a low-level fighter-bomber, and had additional weapons hard-points added. A fully loaded AU-1 weighed approximately 20% more than an F4U-4 variant!
Sadly, the aircraft is now back in the repair shop after an accident on takeoff a few months after this event. Fingers are crossed to see her in the air again soon.
Michael Gillian’s FM-2 Wildcat – N909WJ
Mike Gillian’s FM-2 (a GM built version of the Grumman designed Wildcat) is an example of an aircraft that attends many smaller airshows and fly-in style gatherings. His aircraft is in beautiful condition and is a prime example of the early US Navy and Marine fighter aircraft of early WWII.
The Wildcat was considered inferior to the Japanese Zero at the start of the war. However, aerial tactics improved as did the skill of the Aviators and soon there after, the Wildcat could effectively fly and defeat the Zero. Grumman later improved the design and the mighty F6F Hellcat was born. The Wildcat held the line while American designers and manufacturers made fighters that could meet or exceed the performance of the Zero. The Wildcat is a a fairly rare breed these days, and it is a treat to see this Naval Aviation icon.
T-6 Texan & SNJs
Around the field
Usually, general aviation aircraft do not interest me much unless I am going flying. However, this Cessna 195 is one sharp bird!
You just never know what will show up…!
A pleasant and unexpected surprise to see was this lovely F-86 on static display. Having two F-86s at a show is amazing these days, and this one is extra special. This is the oldest flying F-86 in the world, and may be the oldest jet currently flying in the world (this is always debated, hence the emphasis on “may be”).
This is an early F-86A Sabre, and was the 5th off North American’s Inglewood, California assembly line. The aircraft, formerly serial number 48-178, served with the US Air Force and was destined to become a “gate guard” to end her flying days. Instead, she was sold in 1970 and made airworthy again using parts from several other F-86A air frames. She was a regular on the US airshow circuit until 1990, when the aircraft was again sold and exported to England. There, she continued airshow flight demonstrations until around 2015 when she was sold again and returned to the United States.
Recently, the jet was acquired by Heritage Aero, Inc. and returned to flight worthy status again for a collector client. The first flight back in the US occurred in October, 2015 in Rockford, IL.
What a fantastic, and unexpected treat to see this piece of FLYING history! Sadly, she did not participate in the flying portion of the show, but it was still exhilarating to see an aircraft of some historic magnitude on the ramp. Hopefully the next time is in the air!
This is gathering and reunion a truly unique experience these days. If you are a warbird fan, this is an event you should not miss. Details for the next Avenger Reunion can be found on the web at https://tbmreunion.org/
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
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:
PoF’s unnamed Razorback
P-47D Thunderbolt “Dottie Mae”
Two P-38s were in the air at this event. Planes of Fame’s “23 Skidoo” and Allied Fighter‘s “Honey Bunny”
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the small town of Red Hook, New York lies one of America’s true aviation treasures, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Founded by Cole Palen in 1958, the museum sought to preserve the flying history of the Pioneer (1900 -1913), WWI (1914 – 1918) and the Golden Age of Aviation (1919 – 1940). Mr. Palen ended up creating the first museum of flying antique aircraft in the United States.
What started out as six WWI aircraft has turned into a collection of over 60 aircraft, some originals and some replicas, spanning the years from 1900-1940. In addition to their collection of flying aircraft, the museum has a number of artifacts, static display aircraft, antique automobiles and motorcycles. They are even restoring a WWI era tank.
Each weekend from mid-June through October the Aerodrome comes alive with two distinct airshows. Saturday shows focus on the “History of Flight” while the Sunday shows focus on the WWI era aircraft.
I attended the WWI show on September 15, 2019.
Stepping back in time…
Once you park and cross the street, you enter into the Aerodrome area. You pay for your admission and the fun begins. The Aerodrome is set up like a small airfield in the early days of flight. Hangars of various size are placed around the field. These hangars house the museum’s flying aircraft. Usually the vacant hangars have their aircraft on the field for the day’s flight. The hangars with aircraft inside are usually from the opposite day’s show, but are open for your visual inspection. The restoration area is a fun place to go to have a look. The hanagars also have a theme to them, the early era flight companies like Curtiss, Fokker and Ryan Flying Company for example.
The flying aircraft are usually towed out first and placed on the flight line. After those machines are out, the vintage automobiles and motorcycles are brought out for a little ride around the field. After you get through looking into the hangars, the announcement is made that the show is about to start.
The Show Opens…
The Air Show begins in traditional barnstorming fashion…some fancy stick work resulting in some razzle and dazzle of the aircraft. This time was the De Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth, an original aircraft and built in 1934.
The aircraft takes off and climbs up a few hundred feet. Then at show center, a roll of toilet paper is thrown overboard. The goal is for the aircraft to cut the paper ribbon numerous times before getting too low to the ground to be safe. This shows just how nimble the aircraft is and the skill set of the pilot.
After the Tiger Moth came down, a second aircraft went up to beat the previous pilot’s TP Banner score. This show, the second aircraft was the 1942 Fleet Finch 16-B, another of the museum’s aircraft that is an original version. Sadly, I did not make note of which aircraft was more successful.
A Brief Glimpse into Aircraft Development: 1910 Hanriot
Although the theme of the Sunday show is WWI, the museum brings out their 1910 Hanriot (a reproduction) to show just how fast the airplane developed in the short span of time.
The aircraft looks fragile and dangerous, and it turns out to be true. Take a close look and you see the infancy of aircraft design and the lack of pilot safety features. The plane taxied by for a close look, then lined up for take off. The plane did indeed get airborne, but only to an altitude of about 10-15 feet. Although capable of higher flight, safety is paramount and simply to show it is indeed capable of flying.
The Fokkers: D.VII and D.VIII
The collection of WWI aircraft come out shortly after the aerobatics. This visit brought out the Fokker D.VII biplane and the improved D.VIII monoplane. Both aircraft came into service with the German Air Force in 1918.
The D.VII came into service in April, 1918 and was vastly underestimated as an adversary due to the square look and thick wings. The aircraft quickly became respected and earned the reputation as a serious fighter aircraft. It turned out to be fast and highly maneuverable, both important attributes in a fighter aircraft. Herman Goring, the head of the German Luftwaffe in WWII, flew the type and claimed many of his victories in the D.7. The aircraft was so respected at the end of WW I that the Armistice Treaty included a provision that all of the remaining D.VII airframes be turned over to the Allies.
The D.VIII monoplane came into service in July, 1918. It was nicknamed the “Flying Razor” by allied pilots. The aircraft had a number of issues early on in development, but eventually became known as an agile aircraft and easy to handle. The type has the place in history as the last type to score an aerial victory in WWI. The D.8 has a truly unique sound due to the rotary engine powering it.
The Sopwith Scout
I was pleasantly surprised to see this aircraft on the flight line when I arrived. The aircraft was still being restored during my previous visits. The official name of the aircraft is listed above, but it is more commonly known as the “Pup”. The type entered service in 1916 and was considered a good airplane to fly, but not an exceptional fighter design. It was outclassed by the larger and more powerful German aircraft.
The SPAD VII
The SPAD VII came into service in late 1916 and early 1917. It was hoped to be the aircraft to end the dominance of the German Albatross over the skies of the battlefront. The type was replacing the nimble and popular Nieuport 11 and Nieuport 16 designs. However, German designs were also rapidly improving. The Spad 7 held the aerial lines and gave the pilots time to develop new tactics with the heavier and more structurally sound airframe. The type was later replaced by the Spad 8 on the front lines. However, the type was well respected and used as a trainer by various countries for many years after the war.
The Fokker Dr.1 and the Black Baron
Likely the most recognized aircraft of WWI is the Fokker Dr. 1 triplane and is synonymous with the German Ace, Manfred Von Richthofen. The type entered service in 1917 and was considerably more maneuverable than existing German designs at the time and was well armed.
Playing the part, the Baron of the Aerodrome is the Black Baron.
The Black Baron challenged Sir Percy to an aerial duel for the right to the hand of the lovely maiden, Trudy Truelove. The Baron chose the Fokker Dr.1 while Sir Percy chose the Sopwith. In the end, Sir Percy prevailed and married his lady.
Take a flight!
Not only do you get to see history while at the Aerodrome, you can also experience history first hand. Prior to the formal air show, and for a short time after, you can purchase a flight aboard the Museum’s 1929 New Standard D-25. The aircraft has seating for up to four passengers and the flight lasts for about 15 minutes.
Around the Aerodrome
The field is full of fun things to look at and enjoy. The day passes quickly, too quickly for my tastes. The day is so action packed that all of sudden the sun is getting low and it is time to go.
If you have never had the chance to experience this fantastic place, you should make a point to visit. The atmosphere is fun and inviting with an equally friendly staff. It is an affordable and entertaining family event. Some times the aircraft lineup changes due to maintenance or other reason. You just never know what exactly will be in the air that day. And that is part of the fun.
I only briefly described the air show and the contents. This time I focused on the aircraft primarily. There is so much more for you to see and do. Come out and see it for yourself!
Next time I plan to see the History of Flight show to change things up. I cannot wait till that day! I will probably enjoy it so much that I may just have to go back the next day!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.