In the air, a squadron can be identified by the type of aircraft being flown and squadron logo or tail codes. On the ground, a squadron’s identity is reflected in their vehicle. For semi-truck drivers, wood in the cab is the decor of choice while chrome is king for most “hot rods”. In a squadron vehicles, anything goes. The more gaudy and outrageous the better! Everything from wild paint schemes to spare aircraft parts can be seen on what has become the squadron’s ultimate alter ego.
The tradition appears to have started with the Navy. According to lore, official transportation was generally unavailable to squadrons that were deployed or on training detachments. Accordingly, the squadron car was born out of necessity. Several members would chip in a few dollars and buy a cheap vehicle to get around. Usually, the junior officers were tasked with driving the senior officers around to the base functions and parties.
The original squadron cars were plain and simple, what my generation would call a “beater” – cheap and usually in need of some sort of repair. Over time, the cars started to get custom paint jobs that reflected persona of the squadron. Standard cars morphed into retired limos. Not to be outdone, limousines transformed into old school buses and RVs. As the type of vehicle changed, so did the exterior details. Modern squadron vehicles are adorned with anything and everything to make their ground transportation match their aerial rides. Retired tails are mounted, maybe a refueling boom or perhaps simulated missiles/guns. Basically, the rule of thumb is this: it has to be bigger, wilder and more flashy than the other squadron’s ride yet, reflect the squadron’s history and culture. The early cars were very politically incorrect and crass. When ladies began to incorporate into the flying units, the crude references were mostly stricken. However, a few may still have a reference or two if you look close enough.
Ultimately, the squadron car is a symbol of pride for the unit. It gives the men and now women a fun diversion from the everyday routine and shows the wild imagination and creativity these people have. While the members of the squadron may rotate, the squadron vehicle passes to each successive generation to modify and carry on the tradition. The legacy builds as more customization or modifications are completed.
The “squadron car” has become such a legend that the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida displays the Lincoln Continental limo formerly of VAQ-134. The automobile was driven all the way from NAS Whidbey Island to NAS Pensacola to be put on display in 2003!
Next time you are at an airshow or open house at the local military base, keep an eye out for the unique and imaginative works of art from the Navy, Marine and USAF/ANG units.
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.