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“Shooting Oshkosh”


One air show I always look forward to shooting is EAA AirVenture. Located in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, AirVenture is a massive show to cover. PhotoRecon will have three (3) photojournalists on site this year to provide coverage of this event. It’s a 7-day event that will leave you wanting more!

As a photographer, my best advice is to have a plan. Perhaps you want to photograph a favorite performer and there is always something special to see in the Warbirds area. Check the schedule and make a schedule. The last few years, I have let myself wander without knowing where to go. I simply followed the sounds of the airplanes and shot whatever I saw. I don’t suggest this. This year I’ll plant myself on the flight line Saturday and Sunday shooting the arrivals. Then I’ll make my way to see the exquisite vintage classics, homebuilts, and anything I can find in between. You should spend time in Warbirds, Vintage, Homebuilts, Boeing Plaza for some heavy iron and military planes and don’t forget the Seaplane Base. Take the bus ride to the Seaplane Base and stay for the day! (Tip: Ride a pontoon to get closer to the seaplanes for that perfect shot!) Perhaps you’ll find yourself spending time in Ultralights. (Tip: if you can stake out a place in the back of the campgrounds, the ultralights will fly right over your head making for some awesome sunset shots later in the day.) Make time for it all!

Aviation photographer and friend, Ken Mist, comes from Canada every year to photograph EAA’s AirVenture. His best advice: “Relax. Breathe. You can’t capture it all in two days… Come catch the arrivals on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Catch the Warbirds as they go out early in the morning. Capture your static shots earlier in the week before the crowds get in the way. Bring good shoes and plenty of cards.” (He’s right about the shoes… you’ll find yourself walking for miles!)


So much of the show is centered around Runway 18/36, you sometimes forget about the smaller Runway 9/27. This is on my list of “Things to See” this year at Oshkosh. I want to spend time on the smaller runway and see what takes off from there. Located near Warbirds, there are far less people and the view should be outstanding and make for some wonderful pictures. Also, some photographers participate in what is called “Dawn Patrol” meaning they are up with the sun to get the sunrise photos. I, myself, like to stick around until sunset. By then, most have hunkered down for the night at their camp sites after the daily air shows. That makes for a lot less people and I get some great shots!


Every year, there seems to be that one great thunderstorm that rolls through the AirVenture campgrounds and Oshkosh. Don’t let it keep you inside for long… photograph it, but be safe doing so. A storm behind an airplane always looks amazing in an image! And don’t forget to go out after the storm to photograph the raindrops on the propeller or the rainbow after the storm. How cool is a Stearman under a rainbow? Get the shot! Chances are, there won’t be many people out during or after the storm. Take advantage of it.


However you chose to shoot Oshkosh, know that your photos are always one-of-a-kind and they make for some incredible memories. Use them to create a book or calendar for a loved one. Share them online with your family and friends. Tell stories... after all, 600,000 visitors a year can’t be wrong!



On Friday, May 17th, I went chasing after the Normandy Dakotas of the "D-Day Squadron" that were forming up at Waterbury-Oxford Airport in central Connecticut for a special mission. Ten C-47 Dakotas and Douglas DC-3 restored airliners were gathering up at Oxford for a six-stop trip across the Pond departing on Sunday, May 19th, ultimately for a series of massed flyovers on June 6th over Normandy, France, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the start of the liberation of Europe in World War 2.

The D-Day Squadron, eventually to be made up of fifteen C-47 and DC-3's participating in the "Daks Over Normandy" flyover, departed later on Sunday and traveled together on what was known as the "Blue Spruce Route" over the Atlantic Ocean to get to France. This flight plan traverses the North Atlantic allowing for fuel stops and guidance from ground-based navigational aids on the land masses located along the route. Each site was selected because of its history as an active airfield during World War 2 that would have been a stopping point for these historic aircraft during the actual War in 1944 to ferry aircraft and supplies to England.

The Squadron was to have departed from Oxford Airport Connecticut (KOXC) on Sunday morning; then stop to refuel at Goose Bay Airport (CYYR) in Newfoundland, Canada; next refuel at Narsarsuaq Airport (BGBW) in southern Greenland; then refuel at Reykjavik Airport (BIRK); next refuel for a final time at Prestwick Airport (EPIK) on the western coast of Scotland. The fleet was scheduled to make the next leg of this epic trip with a jaunt to Duxford Airfield (EGSU) north of London, where they would have positioned themselves with the entire International Fleet of 12 more C-47's for the final leg to Caen-Carpiquet Airport (LFRK) in Normandy, France, as part of the "Daks Over Normandy" event scheduled to be on June 6th, 2019, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. As of this writing, the final results of that mission are not known. An interesting exercise was tracking the progress of each of the 15 participating aircraft on "Flight Tracker" by means of their individual "N" numbers. Initial investigation showed some minor changes enroute.


The information package presented by the primary sponsor, The Tunison Foundation, a non-profit 501(3)(c) charitable organization, as well as almost 30 corporate sponsors, noted that "these warbird aircraft - actually flown in WW2 at home and abroad - are all meticulously maintained by their ground crews per aircraft by certified aircraft mechanics that follow strict FAA standards. Pilots in command must also have the "Specialty Type Rating" for that particular aircraft type to fly these vintage planes. They are safely operated and flown on a regular basis for pleasure, sport, entertainment, revenue, and remembrance at air shows and events around the world". The total cost of the voyage is estimated to be about $3 million including fuel costs of about $2 million according to Eric Zipkin, head of the Tunison Foundation

Each of the airplanes was to depart on Sunday with extras of everything that could break or need replacement, from tiny gaskets to large tires. Extra time was also built into the schedule too. While most of the planes flight controls are 1930's era technology, Zipkin noted that the latest navigation and communication equipment with its colorful displays are included with the older circular analog dials on the flight deck control consoles. Every aircraft was equipped with life rafters and survival suits.

Ten C-47's and DC-3's were based at Oxford Airport since Sunday, May 12th, for a week of mechanical preparation and a series of practice hops to test out formation flying and spacing coordination. These 10 from Oxford went up on Saturday for a flyover down the Hudson and a lap around the Statue of Liberty, to show themselves off to the New York City folks prior to the Sunday departure. Other Dakotas joined up on Sunday for what was to have been a 15-ship full Squadron flight across the Atlantic.

Of the ten Daks based at Oxford, two were at different locations on Friday. Eight were on the line at Oxford on Friday. I got to the Oxford Airport about 1030 on Friday morning and just missed the taxi roll out of eight Dakotas and a C-45 Twin Beech Expeditor for a formation practice hop. One C-47 in Invasion stripes and in olive drab had to abort on the taxi run and had to back taxi to the north ramp for some minor engine repairs. Seven finally launched with the C-45 Expeditor in trail which might have been a photo ship for this hop. On the return about 40 minutes later a terrific cross wind had developed in front of a squall line ahead of a weather front coming in from the northwest that made it very difficult for the Daks to land.

One literally got blown off the runway of the south end of his landing roll-out and into the grass and mud. We heard that the wing tip scrapped and Fire and Crash went out as as a caution. It took about 90 minutes to pull him out. The gear might have been damaged. The Daks are sturdy birds so no one was too worried. When the touch-downs were completed, four Dakotas and the C-45 stayed on the opposite side of the field at the Atlantic FBO for servicing and three came back to the east ramp to park near the Tradewinds Hanger where we were standing. The fourth Dak that broke beforehand never made it up that day and stayed at the north end of the east taxiway making it a total of four Daks on our side.

A small crowd of 30 stayed to walk around the four DC-3's now at the east ramp. It was still impressive to see the seven Dakotas come back after their practice hop and do a tactical low left break to line up for a downwind approach. Three were in a tight angle line abreast and four were tight behind in trail with the C-45 at the tail end. The heavy rains came about 1200 after all had safely parked. With the rain now getting harder, it was time for a nice lunch at the the new "121 Restaurant" at the south end of the runway. That Saturday New York City flyover with the full 10-ship Oxford-based "D-Day Squadron" must have been impressive to see. The Oxford flight of 10 left for their long journey to Normandy early on Sunday morning. The other five Daks were to join up enroute on Sunday to bring the American Squadron up to its full published compliment of 15 Dakotas for the long trip.

Fifteen C-47 / DC-3's were listed in the Program for the D-Day Squadron trip to Normandy for the Sunday departure. Eight were at Oxford on Friday morning, Two were at nearby airports practicing and the remaining five were still at their home bases on Friday ready to join up enroute on Sunday to complete the full 15-ship "American Contingent" for the D-Day Squadron. The four Daks that we got to see up close had the following Program Data:

1) C-53-DD Skytrooper 42-68830 (N45366), "D-Day Doll", olive drab camo, invasion stripes, "R" tail, "CU" nose, built by Douglas Santa Monica 7/43, assigned to the 454th Troop Carrier Group, 77th Troop Carrier Squadron, based at RAF Aldermaston, veteran of Operations: Overlord (Normandy); Market Garden (Holland); Repulse (Bastogne); Varsity (Crossing the Rhine). Now owned by CAF Inland Empire Wing out of Riverside, Calif. since 2001.

2) C-53-DD Skytrooper, 42-47371 (N8336C), "The Spirit of Benovia", Civil Air Transport, grey with white window band, Chinese lettering, Dragon, Lion on rear, Douglas Santa Monica, Army accepted 6/29/42, designed for paratroopers and to tow gliders, lighter strength floor, no double cargo door, flew out of Karachi India (Pakistan) in 1942, was RAF, transferred to 1st Troop Carrier Squadron, later had civilian ownership in India and China, owned by Gen. Claire Chennault and reportedly later owned by Chaing Kai-shek as a Civil Air Transport out of Taipei Formosa (Taiwan), in 50's received luxurious VIP interior, then to Kalamazoo Air Museum in the 80's, now owned by Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane, owners of the Benovia Winery in California!

3) C-47-60-DL, 43-30665 (N47E), "Miss Virginia / Maddie Shinaberry", gloss silver with a white top, "USAF" nose, national insignia, tail 0-30665, Douglas Long Beach 8/43, based in USA until 70's for: troop transport; special weapons center; R&D and USAF-ANG, to D-M Boneyard 12/74, in 1975 sold to Columbia to "Wycliffe Bible Transport" and later "Jungle Aviation and Radio Service" (JARRS), 1990 sold to Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater Virginia as a mosquito sprayer, 2010 fully restored by DA back to USAF silver-grey colors as is now for the air show circuit.

4) C-47B-DL, 43-16340 (N877MG), early 50's Pan Am color scheme; "Pan American Airways System" fuselage, silver with blue double band under windows, built by Douglas Long Beach as one of 300 C-47's specifically for the China-Burma-India Theatre with long range tanks and super charged engines for high altitudes, delivered to China National Aviation in Calcutta in WW2 in 1943, Pan American Airways partnered with CNAC, pilots were then from the Flying Tigers Squadron, planes flew "The Hump" over the Himalayan Mountains, Claire Chennault later formed the Taiwan-based Civil Air Transport (CAT) in 1948 to keep the DC-3's out of Communist Mainland hands, China sued CAT in 1948 to return this and 71 other aircraft back to China, this plane was embargoed in British Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport for 3 years, this British court case ended favorably and this aircraft was returned to CAT in 1952, plane shipped to USA in 1954 to Grand Central Aircraft in Glendale Calif and there converted to a "Super DC-3" as a VIP aircraft and as a VIP for over 50 years, The Historic Flight Foundation acquired N877MG in 2006 and based her at Paine Field near Seattle and restored her to the current Pan American color scheme from 1949 and preserved the VIP luxury interior.

5) There was also a visiting 1944 North American AT-6D Texan in USAF trainer colors with a silver fuselage, red band and a red tail, 84992 (N757LF), from Hardy Virginia, parked right near the Daks.

Classic Warbirds Aviation Magazine wishes to thank Moreno "Mo" Aguiari, Director of Marketing and Media Relations, and Stephen Lashley, Director of Communications, of the D-Day Squadron, Tunison Foundation, for their excellent access and cooperation for the week of events at the Oxford Airport in Connecticut, in preparation for the May 19th departure for Normandy, France. Best wishes to the D-Day Squadron for the eventual full 27-ship Normandy Flyover on June 6th, 2019

Warbirds Over The Beach 2019

Cover Photo

On May 18th and 19th, The Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, VA held their annual Warbirds Over The Beach Airshow. If you love Warbirds, this is a special place. A private air force resides here thanks to Mr. Jerry Yagen. His commitment to preservation and education has grown the museum and the flying artifacts. Every year there is a new aircraft, building or display on site. Jerry's newest Warbird is a P-39 Airacobra fresh out of the crate from New Zealand. Work was in progress putting it together during the airshow.

When you enter the ramp area on Airshow weekend, you will see over ten Warbirds parked at the edge of the grass ready to fly. The runway here at Virginia Beach Airport (42VA) is a turf strip. This adds to the charm of a World War II event. They also typically have a World War I Airshow in the Fall. In years past, weather has been a factor and there is no flying off a turf strip if it is soft. This year, the weather could not have been better and the crowds came to a festive event. Inside one of the hangars, multiple musical performers entertained and big band music played. The reenactor area seems to grow every year too. In the morning, aircraft rides are conducted and any transient or visiting aircraft will arrive. The actual airshow begins at 1 PM. A Hangar Dance would take place after the airshow and carry into the night.

For the photographer, the sun moves from left to right and directly over Runway 11/29. I would swear that it moved in a semi circle but that is heliographically impossible (Wink! Big word). The high sun creates a backlit condition for the flying but the treeline aids in shielding the light. One change for this year was that the aircraft flew in front of the crowdline rather than an orbit to airshow right. They were a bit high in the sky but maybe the FAA will lower the minimums for next year.

The airshow began with a departure of four T-6 Texans who performed formation flybys leading up to the National Anthem. The flag was presented by a small group of reenactors. The group of pilots for the museum fly multiple airframes so the sequence of flights depends on the schedule of the pilots.

The first sequence are Liaison aircraft like the Stinson L-5 and Piper Super Cub and transports like a rare visiting Beech AT-11, a Junkers JU-52, and the enormous winged PBY-5A Catalina.

A DeHavilland Chipmunk and Tiger Moth flew as well as a Messerschmitt 108.

Then the airshow started to get into the strong fighters and bombers of the Navy. A Grumman FM-2 Wildcat and an FG-1 Corsair launched followed by the visiting Grumman TBM Avenger "Doris Mae" and the Museum's Douglas AD-4 Skyraider. The crowdline is fairly close to the turf strip so the power of these takeoffs can be heard and felt. When they return to the ramp, the wings are folded prior to parking.

The next sequence is the air war in Europe. The B-25 "Wild Cargo" launched and was joined by the P-51D Mustang "Double Trouble Two". Later, the P-40 Warhawk joined up with the Mustang. The British fighters launched next with a Spitfire and a Hurricane. Normally, the DeHavilland Mosquito would fly here but she had an engine problem. The final grouping was the German fighters.

A Focke Wulf 190 and a Messerschmitt BF-109 launched and flew together and a single Russian Yak 3 flew in this group.

At some point, the ME-262 replica jet fighter would have flown with one of the groups but it also had a mechanical problem and was scrubbed for the show.

Judging from the crowd size, I am hoping that the Museum raised a lot of money to keep those Warbirds flying. I look forward to my next trip down there. Maybe as soon as June 15th for their Flying Proms Event.

My thanks to the Museum volunteers who park cars, collect tickets, direct patrons and ensure their safety.  

Wings Over Wayne 2019


Seymour Johnson Air Force Base hosted their bi-annual airshow, Wings Over Wayne (WOW) on April 27th and 28th. The 4th Fighter Wing and the 916th Air Refueling Wing were the hosts and the show was located on the 916th ramp.

Seymour Johnson is unique in that it is the only Air Force Base named for a Naval Aviator. Navy Lt. Seymour A. Johnson was a test pilot from Goldsboro, North Carolina who died in an airplane crash in 1941.

Seymour Johnson AFB has a single Runway 08/26. The sun angle for photography is challenging. It moves from left and in front to right and slightly behind at show's end. If I am to be a transparent Photojournalist, I confess to being here solely for the F-15E Strike Eagles. Everything else is a bonus. I became an Eagle Guy in the early 1990s when I saw one for the first time turning final into Pope Air Force Base. It looked like a predator. The shape of the wings, her twin tails and two enormous engines had me hooked. So, now you know.

Back to the story,The 4th Fighter Wing traces its history back to before the United States entered World War II. The American Volunteers fought with the Royal Air Force flying the Supermarine Spitfire from 1940 to 1942 when they were absorbed into the 8th Air Force. Today’s 334th, 335th and 336th Fighter Squadrons were RAF Eagle Squadrons 71, 121 and 133, respectively. In addition to the 333rd Fighter Squadron, the four squadrons of the 4th Fighter Wing fly the F-15E Strike Eagle. The 333rd (“Lancers”, Red Tail flash) and the 334th (“Fighting Eagles”, Blue flash) are the F-15E training squadrons. The 335th (“Chiefs”, Green flash) and the 336th (“Rocketeers”, Yellow flash) are operational squadrons.

A new Reserve squadron has stood up recently to help train and capitalize on already trained reservists. They use aircraft of the Lancers but have a few tail flashes for the 307th Fighter Squadron, the “Stingers”.The 916th Air Refueling Wing is an Air Force Reserve Component flying the KC-135 Stratotanker. Two squadrons fall under the 916th. The 77th Air Refueling Squadron, “The Totin’ Tigers” and the 911th, “The Red Eagles”, which is an operational squadron geographically separated from MacDill AFB. The 916th is scheduled to begin receiving new KC-46 Pegasus tankers within a year. One of these KC-46 tankers flew in for static display.Media events were held on the Thursday prior with the arrival of the F-35A Demonstration Team and the USAF Thunderbirds in addition to other aircraft arriving for static display.

The aforementioned KC-46, an E-3 AWACS, B-52 Bomber, and a Spitfire arrived while we were there. Other statics found at the show were two F-22s from Langley AFB, two F-35As from Eglin AFB, an F-16 from Shaw AFB, a home based KC-135, a C-5 from Dover AFB, a C-130 from Little Rock, the P-51, “Swamp Fox”, a T-6 Texan II, a T-1, North Carolina State Police and Medical Helicopters, and six F-15Es from the hometown team.

The Show Shortly after 10AM, the first aircraft to fly are the home based Strike Eagles. Everyone runs to the show line to spot the Eagles roaring off loudly in afterburner. Six are launched but only four return overhead during the National Anthem. During recovery, the other two, assumed to be spares, reappear with spread formation tactical breaks to land. Some perform a missed approach and enter the pattern again.

Matt Younkin also launched in that time period with the Black Daggers onboard his Beech 18. They would perform the flag drop but were unable on Saturday due to high winds. Matt Younkin would perform later in the Beech 18. He also participated in a night show for military personnel and families of the base.

Other performances included Randy Ball in his Mig 17, Greg Colyer in his T-33, “Ace Maker”, Bill Stein and Kevin Coleman in a formation act and separately as solos, and Gene Soucy in his Grumman Showcat.

Tora, Tora, Tora, “blew up” the airfield and Shockwave brought the heat. Unless I missed it, we did not see Randy Ball perform on Sunday. Sunday also started out cloudy and cool until about 1PM.

Military performances included the C-17 Globemaster III demonstration, the F-35A Demo Team (first time seeing the new demonstration), and the Combined Arms Demonstration. This demonstration featured six Strike Eagles, two A-10 Warthogs, a KC-135 and a C-17 with the Black Daggers onboard. Paratroopers, pyrotechnics, and flares were employed as Strike Eagles and Hogs attacked the airfield and suppressed ground forces. Airborne refueling was also demonstrated. The Thunderbirds then closed the show both days.

I would like to thank the many men and women of 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, a special friend in Protocol, the F-35A Demonstration Team, and the Thunderbirds for their time and polite accessibility. The media privileges afforded me are never taken for granted. The staff and volunteers of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base deserve a thank you for putting on a successful event and the daunting after-action cleanup of those casual, cluttery airshow fans.

This article first appeared in our sister publication .